|F-1 Visa Holders
There are two kinds of employment for which an F-1 visa holder is eligible:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- Optional Practical Training (OPT)
The Office of International Students and Scholar Services hosts two workshops per semester to discuss these opportunities in detail. If you are interested in working off-campus or having an internship (paid or unpaid), then we highly encourage you to attend.
Curricular Practical Training
Practical training is temporary employment that is directly related to his or her field of study and is an integral part of the established curriculum. According to Code of Federal Regulations [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)], CPT is defined to be “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.”
The employment opportunity must be a required part of the program. While working, you may be enrolled in a specific internship class within your degree program, and your academic advisor will determine the number of credits you will earn from your internship (if any). You are still required to be enrolled full-time (12 hours for undergraduate, nine hours for graduate) to establish and maintain your status.
Students must have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student for one academic year. This means that you must have completed two semesters and have established good F-1 status (There are exceptions for some graduate students where their program requires immediate participation).
CPT consisting of 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time. Any employment over 20 hours per week is full-time. Students who engage in one year (12 months cumulative) or more of full-time CPT are automatically ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
CPT authorizations are authorized and valid for one semester. If you plan to extend the authorization periods, you must submit new documentation for the next semester. The International Student Advisor MUST note and endorse the third page of your I-20 before authorization of CPT is effective. The advisor will not authorize CPT until all necessary documents have been submitted. Students who engage in even one day of employment without it being noted on their I-20 are considered in violation of their F-1 status.
How to Apply
To apply to CPT, each student will need to submit the following:
- Complete UST Curricular Practical Training Application, available in our office.
- Section A must be completed by the student.
- Section B must be completed by your faculty advisor or dean certifying that the CPT is related to your course of studies.
- Submit Completed form with offer letter to OISSS.
- Official letter from the prospective employer. The letter must be on company letterhead and include the following:
- Detailed description of your job duties.
- Start and end dates of your employment.
- Your direct supervisor’s name, title, address and phone number.
- CPT Waiver Form and Checklist.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) grants an eligible F-1 student an opportunity to work full-time for 12 consecutive months (anywhere in the United States) in a field that is directly related to their degree program at each degree level (bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D). Students remain in F-1 status at the University of St. Thomas even though they may be working elsewhere in the U.S. Students with only their thesis option left to complete should consult with an International Student Advisor.
How do I know if I am eligible?
Eligibility depends on your having maintained your F-1 status throughout your studies in the United States. However, if you have engaged in 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT), then you are not eligible for OPT.
When should I apply for OPT?
An F-1 student may apply for OPT no more than 120 days before the desired start date. This allows enough time for Immigration to review and give a ruling on each application. Our office advises to apply at least 90 days before their desired start date.
USCIS Processing Time
The average processing time is 90 days, therefore we advise that you apply at least 90 days before your desired start date. This countdown starts from the date Immigration receives your OPT application. You are not permitted to begin work until you have received this card. Otherwise, you will be violating your immigration status. If you have not received your card in a timely manner, please contact an International Student Advisor.
Once you’ve received your card and you decide to travel, you must carry: a valid passport and visa, an endorsed I-20 (with a travel signature no more than six months old), an OPT card and an employment verification letter from your employer. Please note that you are not guaranteed re-entry with these items.
Once you have been approved for post-completion OPT, you can have up to 90 days of unemployment from your start date. If you accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment, you will not be in compliance of your F-1 status. If you approach 90 days of unemployment, you should notify your International Student Advisor before nearing this deadline to discuss possible options.
Possibility of Extension
In some instances, students are able to extend their post-completion OPT. An OPT extension requires that a student has received a degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) field in the United States and that the student’s employer participates in E-Verify.
If in doubt, report.
You MUST report when there is a change in the following:
- Employment, including employer’s name, address and/or employment dates. Submit your formal offer letter to your International Student Advisor.
- Name and/or visa status, i.e. H1B, permanent residency, etc.
- A departure from the United States if you do not plan to return.
- Any change in your personal address, within 10 days of the move.
After six months of OPT you must:
- Report to your International Student Advisor your employer’s name and address and your personal address so we can report to Immigration that you are fulfilling your reporting and employment requirements.
J-1 Visa Holders
J-1 students are eligible for part-time employment but must be authorized by the Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO). The following types of employment are accepted:
- It is pursuant to the terms of a scholarship, fellowship or assistantship.
- It occurs on the premises of the college or university the J-1 is attending.
- It occurs off-campus when necessary because of “serious, urgent and unforeseen economic circumstances” that have arisen since acquiring J-1 student status.
- You are in good academic standing.
- You continue to engage in a full course of studies during the main semesters.
- Employment is limited to 20 hours/week, except during the holidays and school breaks.
- For economic necessity authorization, the A/RO must evaluate the student’s economic situation as to whether the situation is “urgent, serious and unforeseen.”
- DS-2019 must be updated to reflect the employment.
Academic training is training/employment that is directly related to one’s degree program and is authorized by the A/RO. This may occur both while enrolled in school and after completion of the program of study.
Training must be directly related to your degree program; therefore, non-degree seeking students are not eligible. Training can include part-time or full-time employment that is paid or unpaid and may not exceed a cumulative of 18 months.
To be eligible, you must maintain a good status with your primary goal being study.
Professors/researchers are permitted to engage in the work that is described on their DS-2019. Unauthorized employment may result in jeopardizing one’s status. Those that are here at UST as a professor, research scholar, short-term scholar or specialist may engage in occasional lectures or consultations but would be required to consult the A/RO beforehand. A letter from the OISSS, sponsoring program and faculty advisor are required to adjudicate such a case.