Working while in F-1 status
Once a person is initially admitted to the U.S. in F-1 status, he may work on-campus only. During the school year, an F-1 student is allowed to work up to 20 hours per week on-campus. He or she may work 20 hours or more per week when school is not in session (e.g. spring break, Christmas vacation, etc.)
A student in good standing, who has been enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year, may ask permission from the Designated School Official (DSO) to work off-campus under certain conditions.
- Severe economic hardship: An F-1 student who qualifies based on economic hardship can work up to 20 hours per week when school is in session and 20 or more hours per week when school is not in session. An application for this type of employment authorization should be discussed with the DSO and must be filed with the USCIS.
- Internship with an international organization: The F-1 student must obtain an internship offer with an approved international organization. After discussing the internship opportunity with his or her DSO, the student must apply to the USCIS for employment authorization.
- Special student relief: An F-1 student from a DHS-designated country that is currently experiencing an emergency may be eligible for off-campus work authorization and course load reduction.
A student in F-1 status who has been enrolled as a full-time student for one academic year may apply for practical training as long as it is directly related to the student's course of study, and its purpose is for practical training, and the training is not for English language proficiency.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is typically in the form of work/study, internships, cooperative education, etc. A job offer and DSO authorization are necessary to pursue CPT. CPT may be available to graduate students as early as their first academic term, depending on the school's curriculum and requirements.
Applications for CPT are submitted to and approved by the DSO. Although completion of a year of full-time CPT disqualifies the student from Optional Practical Training (OPT), part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available to F-1 students during their studies ("pre-completion OPT") or after completing their degree program ("post-completion OPT"). A total of 12 months of full-time OPT is available to F-1 students for each progressive degree level. Applications for OPT must be discussed with the DSO and filed with the USCIS. An EAD will be issued by the USCIS for the requested period of work authorization.
Students who have completed a degree in certain science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields may be eligible an additional 24 months of OPT. For more information, see OPT extension for STEM degree students.