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International Student Employment

In order to maintain valid F-1 status, a student must not work in the United States unless the employment is specifically authorized under the regulations. This includes on campus employment, CPT, or OPT.

On Campus Employment

Preconditions: You are eligible for on campus student employment as soon as you arrive on campus.

Hours per week: F-1 students can work a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session. During official school breaks students can work full time. All jobs on campus count toward the 20 hour week limit. For example if a student is a teaching assistant working 15 hours a week they can only work 5 more hours per week in another on campus job.

To work on campus, a student must obtain a social security number.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

An F-1 student may be authorized by the DSO to participate in a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculumCurricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. The student must continue to be enrolled for a full course of study during CPT.

F-1 students who engage in an aggregate of 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training, however, become ineligible for optional practical training (OPT).

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

F-1 students studying at colleges, universities, conservatories, or seminaries may qualify for practical training, which allows them to engage in temporary employment to gain practical experience in his or her field of study.  Optional Practical Training is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study."

  • Student must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis at an SEVP-approved school for one full academic year before being eligible for OPT.
  • Available both before and after completion of the educational objective, but different rules apply to pre- and post- completion OPT.
  • 20 hours/week limit for pre-completion OPT done while school is in session and student still has coursework
  • Must be directly related to the student's major field of study.
  • DSO determines student's eligibility to apply for OPT; DSO recommends OPT in SEVIS; Student files I-765 application with USCIS for EAD card; Work can begin only after receiving EAD issued by USCIS, and on or after the start date on the EAD, whichever comes later.
  • A student is limited to an aggregate of 90 days of unemployment during post-completion OPT and 120 days of unemployment if granted the 17-month extension.

Other Off Campus Employment

Casual domestic service in a private home that is sporadic, irregular or intermittent (i.e. babysitting, yard work, house cleaning, etc.) is considered employment for immigration and tax purposes. As this is off campus employment and not considered CPT or OPT we do not endorse this type of work as it does qualify as off campus employment for F-1 students.

Tax Responsibility

All international students (and accompanying dependents) are required to complete an income tax return annually even if you have no income from U.S. sources.

For most of you, this will mean completing the form 1040NR-EZ (U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return) and a form 8843. Contact ISP for more information.