F-1 International Student Employment (CPT/OPT)
A foreign national who is in the United States in F-1 student status may be eligible for employment through on-campus employment, curricular practical training (CPT), and/or optional practical training (OPT), depending on the circumstances.
During an F-1 student’s first academic year (9 months), school officials can allow an F-1 student to engage in limited “on-campus” employment without needing authorization from the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). “On-campus” employment refers to employment on school premises such as working in the library, school cafeteria, campus bookstore, student assistant positions, or employment at an off-campus location that is educationally affiliated with the school. The on-campus employment cannot displace a U. S. worker, and may include employment pursuant to the terms of a scholarship, fellowship or postdoctoral appointment. The F-1 student visa holder may only work part-time (20 hours or less) on-campus during the school year and full time during qualifying breaks and vacations.
After the foreign student’s completion of their first academic year, a designated school official may permit the student to work off-campus, through curricular practical training (CPT), optional practical training (OPT), or under other circumstances.
For schools that have alternate work/study programs as part of their curriculum, where the student is required to take academic courses for one term followed by a term of work experience, the student may participate in “curricular practical training” (CPT). Curricular practical training (CPT) allows a foreign student to work, with authorization from the designated school official who certifies that the work experience is a requirement, or an integral component, of the program of study. Students who receive one year or more of full-time CPT are ineligible for post-graduation optional practical training (OPT).
All other types of off-campus employment require the foreign student to obtain authorization from the designated school official AND an employment authorization document from USCIS, prior to commencing employment. Obtaining USCIS authorization may take 90 days or more. Circumstances in which a foreign student is permitted to work off campus include situations in which the student: 1) has experienced severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances as long as the student remains in good academic standing; 2) works for an international organization; or 3) engages in a qualifying optional practical training (OPT) program. Again, all three of these circumstances for off-campus employment, require obtaining an employment authorization document from USCIS. The same hourly restrictions discussed above apply, i.e., the student can work a maximum of 20 hours during the school year and full time during the summer or academic holidays.
Optional practical training (OPT) is generally available for a total period of 12 months per educational level, which can be performed pre-completion or post-completion of a degree. OPT provides an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge from the academic program to real-world employment situations, provided the employment is directly related to the student’s academic field. Certain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees, and who meet other specified requirements, may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT, in other words, they may be eligible for a total of 36 months of OPT.
Often foreign students working on OPT find long-term employment opportunities
through their employer. The employer may be willing to file an H-1B petition on
behalf of the foreign student, to change their status from student to that of a
specialty occupation worker. If the H1-B petition is approved or pending, there
may be a potential “gap” between the time when the student’s OPT expires and
when the H-1B change of status and employment begins. For those F-1 students
working on OPT who have a pending or approved H-1B petition, their OPT will be
automatically extended until October 1st of the year the H-1B is filed. To be
protected by the “cap-gap,” the F-1 student will need to have a current I-20 and
be working in an authorized OPT time period prior to the filing of the H-1B
The Law Firm of Antone, Casagrande & Adwers, P.C. helps individuals and businesses worldwide with all of their US immigration needs including employment visas, obtaining green cards for business and corporate employees and family members, visas for doctors, nurses, therapists, and other health care workers, together with waivers for physicians under J visa training program, labor certifications (PERM), national interest waivers, marriage-based adjustments and green cards, fiancee visas, family immigration preferences, students, naturalization and citizenship, including medical waivers, asylum, deportation, hardship waivers, voluntary departure and removal. We serve clients in southeast Michigan including the Detroit Metro area, Ann Arbor, and Lansing. With offices in Farmington Hills, MI, we are close to Southfield, Troy, West Bloomfield, Birmingham, Novi, Rochester and Auburn Hills in Oakland County; Canton, Plymouth, Dearborn, and Detroit in Wayne County; Warren, Sterling Heights, and Mount Clemens in Macomb County; Brighton and Howell in Livingston County; Lansing in Ingham County; City of Monroe in Monroe County, Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County; Grand Rapids in Kent County; Battle Creek in Calhoun County; Kalamazoo in Kalamazoo County; Benton Harbor in Berrien County; Holland in Ottawa County; Flint in Genesee County; Ludington in Mason County; Muskegon in Muskegon County; and Traverse City in Grand Traverse County, Michigan. Although many of our clients are located in the tri-county area of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb, we also serve clients in many cities and states in the U.S. including Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin; Indianapolis, Indiana; Buffalo, New York; Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, California; Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona; Dallas, Houston, El Paso and Galveston, Texas; Miami, Florida; Washington D.C.; Virginia, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and many others. In addition to the United States, we also serve Canadian nationals from numerous provinces in Canada, including Toronto and Windsor in Ontario; Montreal in Quebec; Halifax in Nova Scotia; and Vancouver, British Columbia. We also serve cities and countries such as London, England; Scotland and other countries of the United Kingdom (U.K.); Mexico, Paris, France; Frankfurt and Berlin, Germany; Tokyo, Japan; India; Brazil; Rome, Italy; Shanghai and Beijing, China; Belgium; the Philippines, and many other countries in Europe, Asia and South America.