Current F-1 Students: Employment
Curricular Practical Training
Optional Practical Training
OPT STEM Extension
F-1 students are authorized to work on-campus while attending classes. The work does not need to be related to your field of study. You must maintain legal F-1 status while engaging in on-campus employment.
Although there are some limited exceptions, on-campus typically means work performed when Ohio University is the employer (Alden Library, academic, and administrative departments, laboratories, dining halls, and Ohio University recreation facilities) and paid by Ohio University. Please contact ISSS if you have questions about what qualifies as on-campus.
- You must be maintaining valid F-1 status and enrolled in a full course of study during the academic year.
- You may work up to 20-hours per week on-campus during the semester.
- You may work full-time (28 hours) on-campus during vacation periods and official school breaks (winter break, summer break). PLEASE NOTE: For summer 2022, students may work up to 36 hours on-campus.
NOTE: Once you have completed all requirements for your academic program, you are no longer eligible for on-campus employment.
Finding and Applying for On-Campus Jobs
To find positions posted as hourly student employment, visit the Ohio University Jobs site. Alternatively you can call, email, or stop in to the departments you are interested in working for and ask if they are currently seeking student employees. F-1 students are not eligible for Federal Work Study (FWS) positions.
F-1 undergraduate students are eligible for Program to Aid Career Exploration (PACE) positions.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined by U.S. immigration regulations as “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 schools.” [8CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)].
If you are considering an unpaid internship, please read the section below on Unpaid Employment.
You can learn more about CPT by attending one of our CPT workshops. Register for an upcoming workshop in iCats, under “Session Sign-Ups”.
In order for a student to be eligible for CPT, and to receive permission to engage in CPT from the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), the following conditions must be met:
- The student must have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year, and must be maintaining F-1 status. A graduate student whose degree program requires immediate participation in practical training may waive the one year of enrollment requirement.
- The student must complete the CPT prior to completing all the requirements for their program of study. ISSS requires verification from the student’s college or department chair that he/she has not completed all requirements for the degree program.
- The CPT must be an integral part of an established curriculum based on one of the following criteria:
Option 1 : The work is required of all students in the program of study
- The requirement must be stated in the degree catalog
Option 2 : The work is required for a particular course
- The work must be related to the major field of study listed on the I-20 form
- The course credits must be housed under the academic department that also houses the degree
Option 3 - Graduate Students Only : The work is necessary for the successful completion of a graduate thesis or dissertation
- The student’s department will need to provide an explanation of how the experience will contribute directly and substantially to the thesis or dissertation
- The student must register in at least one research credit while on CPT
- CPT will not be granted during the semester the student plans to defend the thesis or dissertation
CPT eligibility is complicated! For this reason, ISSS strongly recommends discussing your eligibility with an ISSS advisor before you apply for a job.
- CPT is granted for a specific job, for specific dates. Students can never begin working until they have received the CPT I-20 form and the start date has arrived.
- CPT can only be granted for one semester at a time. If there is an academic need for additional time, a new request must be made.
- CPT dates should fall within the semester the student is enrolled in the corresponding internship/research course.
- Students must continue to meet the full-time enrollment requirements while on CPT.
- CPT cannot be transferred to another employer or job. Any changes require a new application.
- CPT is granted as part-time (20 hours or less per week) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week).
- A student who uses 12 months or more of full-time CPT will not be eligible to engage in Optional Practical Training (OPT). Anything less than 12 months, or any part-time CPT, has no impact on OPT eligibility.
How To Apply
Please read all information thoroughly. If you have questions, contact an advisor in ISSS.
- Attend a CPT workshop or meet with an ISSS International Student Advisor and review your CPT eligibility worksheet. Obtain a Recommendation for Curricular Practical Training form and (if applicable) a CPT Supplemental Form. (These forms are not available online. They will only be provided when you meet with an advisor or attend a CPT workshop.)
- Meet with the appropriate official in your department to discuss your internship, and ask them to complete the Recommendation for CPT form and (if appropriate) the CPT Supplemental Form.
- Obtain a job offer letter from your prospective employer (a PDF copy is ok). It must be printed on letterhead and must contain the following information:
- Job title
- Start and end date of employment
- Number of hours of work per week
- Place of employment
- Brief description of work
- Register for the internship course indicated on the Recommendation for Curricular Practical Training form for the academic term in which you are pursuing CPT.
- Submit the "CPT: Curricular Practical Training Request" e-form in iCats. You will need to upload PDF versions of the following:
- Job offer letter
- Recommendation for Curricular Practical Training form
- If applicable, CPT Supplemental Form [PDF]
- Wait to receive an I-20 that shows your CPT approval on page. Do not start working until you receive this form!
Pre and Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is one year of employment authorization that is intended to allow students a chance to gain practical experience in their field of study. All work done under OPT must be related to the student’s degree studies. When OPT is approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the student will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) which authorizes employment for a specific time period. OPT may be used during the degree program or after graduation.
- Can be granted for part-time (less than 20 hours per week) employment during the semesters
- Can be granted for part-time or full-time (20 or more hours per week) during the summer
- Each segment requires a separate application with a full application fee
- Students are eligible after completing one year of full-time study
- OPT must end before program end date on I-20 form
- Students must continue to enroll full-time during semesters
- Only full-time (20 or more hours per week) authorization is allowed
- Can be requested to begin anytime between 1-60 days after program completion
- Graduate students who have finished all required coursework and have only thesis/dissertation research credits remaining may choose to begin OPT before program completion
- Any pre-completion OPT that was granted will be subtracted from the year of OPT that is available after completion
- Students may not have more than 90 days of unemployment over the full year of OPT
Additional Eligibility Requirements
- Student must be in valid F-1 immigration status at the time of application
- Student must be present in the U.S. at the time of application
- Employment must be directly related to student’s major area of study
- Student must not have previously been granted OPT at the same, or a higher, degree level
- Student must not have used a full year of full-time CPT in current degree program
Allowable Types of Employment
All OPT employment must be in a job that is related to the student’s degree program. Employment may include:
- Multiple employers: Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program.
- Short-term multiple employers (performing artists): Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short-term employers. The student should maintain a list of all employers, dates of employment, and hours worked. If requested by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of all employment.
- Work for hire: This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
- Self-employed business owner: Students on post-completion OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program. Contact the Ohio University Entrepreneurial Center for guidance on this process. (Self-employment is not allowed while on the STEM OPT extension, which is covered below.) Before starting a business, students should consider what will happen to it when the OPT ends.
- Employment through an agency: Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of over 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
- Unpaid employment: Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns when this does not violate any labor laws. See the Unpaid Employment section below for important details.
- You must attend an OPT Informational Workshop with an ISSS advisor in the semester in which you intend to apply for OPT. You can register for an upcoming workshop in iCats, under "Events".
- Ask your appropriate department contact to complete the OPT Recommendation form [PDF]. Save this completed form in PDF format.
- Log into iCats and submit the "OPT: Optional Practical Training Request" e-form, found under F-1 Practical Training. You will need to upload the OPT Recommendation form referenced in step 2.
- Wait for the email from ISSS that your request has been processed. Your OPT Recommendation I-20 form will be attached. You will need this form before you can proceed.
- Once you have received your new I-20 from ISSS you can complete your online I-765 application by following our OPT Online Application Instructions [PDF]. It is highly recommended that ISSS review your application before you submit it.
- Submit the online I-765
Remember that your OPT recommendation in SEVIS is only valid for 30 days. You must submit your application within those 30 days, or else request a new recommendation from ISSS. The very last date you can file for OPT is 60 days after your graduation date.
Responsibilities on OPT
You must notify ISSS of any changes to certain information within 10 days of the change. ISSS will update your information in the SEVIS system. Below is the data you must keep updated:
- Your name and physical address
- Your employer's name, address and your employment status
- Any change to your immigration status
To report a change in address, you will need to visit your my.ohio.edu student center. Be sure you update the "SEVIS U.S." address type.
To report a change in employment, please complete the "OPT: Report New Employment" and "OPT: Report End of Employment" e-forms in iCats.
- You are expected to be employed in your field of study during OPT, and you are required to submit employer information to ISSS. ISSS will transmit this required information to SEVIS.
- You must have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in your possession, and the start date on the EAD must be reached, before you may engage in employment.
- After your I-20 end-date and before you receive your EAD Card, you may not be employed on campus.
- You must stop your employment when the end date on the EAD card is reached.
- The EAD is not employer specific, so you may change employers.
- It is recommended that you keep documentation (job offer letters, pay slips, or W-2 tax forms) from all of your employers.
Travel Outside of the United States (U.S.) and Reentry
In order to be eligible to reenter the U.S. following travel and while authorized for OPT, you must carry:
- A valid passport (your passport must be valid 6 months into the future at all times)
- A valid U.S. F-1 visa (Except for Canadian citizens)
- A valid EAD card
- A valid form I-20 with international student advisor signature on page 3 (signatures are valid for 6 months )
- If you need a new travel signature, please request it via iCats.
- Evidence of your current employment in the form of a letter from your employer
Port-of-Entry officials sometimes get confused about whether entry is allowed with a pending OPT application. If you travel and return to the U.S. while your application is pending, we recommend that you refer the official to this Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) webpage if you encounter any complications.
Options after Post-Completion OPT
You receive a 60 day grace period at the end of OPT in which you can do the following:
- Depart the United States.
- Transfer your SEVIS record to another school.
- Start a new degree at Ohio University.
- Change to another legal visa status, if you are eligible. Notify ISSS if you have been approved for a new U.S. visa status so that your SEVIS record can be deactivated. Please provide a copy of the USCIS Change of Status Approval notice to ISSS via iCats.
24 Month OPT STEM Extension
Certain F-1 students who are currently authorized for post-completion OPT may qualify to apply for a 24-month extension of that OPT authorization, bringing the total OPT available to 36 months. Students should read the information below thoroughly to determine eligibility and contact ISSS before beginning the STEM application process.
To be eligible for the 24-month extension, a student must have received, or be completing, a degree included in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Designated Degree Program List. (View current list of STEM degrees [PDF]) To determine if your degree is part of this program and be eligible for the extension, you need to see if you CIP code is on the list. You can find your CIP code next to your major on your I-20. If you are unsure if your degree qualifies, please contact ISSS for assistance. Please note that CIP codes are used for many purposes, and are tied to Department of Education filings. They cannot be artificially changed to meet STEM OPT eligibility.
The STEM extension may be requested on the basis of the most recent degree earned from Ohio University, or on a prior STEM degree if the following requirements are met:
- The STEM degree must have been issued within the 10 years preceding the request for the extension
- The STEM degree must have been issued by an educational institution located in the U.S., and with U.S. accreditation
- The job the extension is based on must be related to that STEM degree
Additional eligibility requirements for all applicants:
- The student must have maintained valid F-1 status
- The student must be currently on post-completion OPT
- The employment must be full-time (For immigration purposes, full-time is defined as working more than 20 hours per week)
- The student must be offered a job by an employer currently using the E-Verify program
- The student must not be self-employed
- The student must be paid by the employer (Volunteer work cannot fulfill the STEM OPT work requirements)
- The student must not have been granted more than one STEM extension in the past (The STEM extension is only available twice per lifetime, regardless of the number of STEM degrees earned)
- The STEM application must be received by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) prior to the end of the initial period of post-completion OPT
- The student and employer must complete form I-983 and agree to adhere to it
- If the student is employed by a staffing agency, the student must have a supervisor at that agency who will directly evaluate the student’s work at the placement location. The I-983 must be completed by the staffing agency supervisor, rather than any supervisor at the placement location. If the staffing agency will not provide supervision and evaluation, the job will not qualify for the STEM extension.
The E-Verify Program
The E-Verify program is an internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). E-Verify is a free, easy-to-use web-based system available to employers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Please contact your employer to learn if they are registered with E-Verify and to obtain their E-Verify number.
Application Process for the 24-Month STEM Extension
Step 1: Read all of the information on this page to determine if you qualify for the STEM extension.
Step 2: Ask your employer to complete the I-983 form. Please review the I-983 example when completing page 1 of your form.
Step 3: Log into iCats and find the "OPT: STEM Extension Request" e-form [PDF] under "F-1 Practical Training." Complete the e-form and submit it.
Step 4: Wait for the email from ISSS that confirms your request has been processed. Your STEM Extension recommendation I-20 form will be attached. You will need this form before you can proceed.
Step 5: Once you have received your new I-20 form from ISSS you can complete your online I-765 application by following our STEM OPT Extension Online Application Instructions [PDF]. It is recommended that an ISSS student advisor reviews your I-765 before you submit it.
Step 6: Submit the online I-765 to USCIS
Information about Form I-983
Form I-983 is a form that will be used to define the formal training plan for the remainder of the OPT experience. For help with Section 1, which requires information regarding Ohio University, please see this example.
Please note that the "Start Date of Employment" in Section is for the new period of OPT. Therefore you should use a start date of the day after your current OPT expires.
Because form I-983 is an agreement between the employer and employee, ISSS cannot provide guidance on the content beyond page 1. Students should review the Form 1-983 information on the Study in the States site if they need help. Employers with questions should start by reviewing the information on the Study in the States website. If questions remain, contact the company’s HR department or immigration legal staff, or the Department of Homeland Security.
It is imperative that every section on pages 1-4 of this form be completed. ISSS is required by law to review the form for completion upon receipt. If any part of pages 1-4 of the form is not complete, we are not allowed to process your request for the STEM OPT extension.
Once ISSS creates your new I-20 form for the STEM extension, it is only valid for 60 days. If you find that you must delay the application more than 60 days after the I-20 was signed by an advisor, it is very important that you contact ISSS for assistance. USCIS will reject an application if the OPT request is more than 60 days old on the date it is submitted.
USCIS must receive your extension application no sooner than 90 days before your current OPT end date, but no later than that end date. While USCIS must receive your application before your OPT ends, it is not necessary for your extension application to be approved before the expiration of your current EAD card. If your EAD card expires while your application is pending, your OPT authorization is automatically extended to allow time for processing. You may continue to work while the application is being processed for up to 180 days. It is not necessary to obtain documentation from ISSS for this timeframe.
Student Responsibilities During the STEM Extension
- Continue to report U.S. address changes to ISSS within 10 days of the change by changing your address in your MyOhio Student Center. Be sure to update the “SEVIS U.S.” address.
- Report the name, address, and phone number of your U.S. employer, any changes in name and address of the employer, and any interruptions in the employment to ISSS within 10 days. Report employment changes by completing the "OPT: Report New Employment" and "OPT: Report End of Employment" e-forms in iCats. Remember that all employment must be with an E-Verify company!
- Every six months you must report to ISSS by responding to emails from ISSS regarding your STEM OPT verification, even if no details of your employment or address have changed. This is required by the OPT regulations. Failure to complete this step may result in the termination of your F-1 status and OPT.
- If you change employers, or if there are substantial changes to the I-983 training plan that was submitted earlier, you must submit an updated I-983 to firstname.lastname@example.org within 10 days of the change. Failure to complete this step may result in the termination of your F-1 status and OPT.
- You must complete an official self-evaluation before the 12 and 24 month marks of the STEM extension and submit these to ISSS via email@example.com. These should be completed on page 5 of the I-983 form that is on file with your employer. Failure to complete this step may result in the termination of your F-1 status and OPT.
- Accrue no more than an aggregate total of 150 days of unemployment during the combined 36 months of OPT.
- Notify ISSS immediately if your immigration status changes via iCats.
- Notify ISSS if you permanently depart the U.S. before your OPT ends.
- Notify ISSS if you plan to begin a new full-time academic program before the end of your OPT. The transfer of your SEVIS record to the new school or the beginning of a new full-time program at Ohio University will end your OPT authorization.
Volunteer work with local charitable organizations does not require work authorization. The work must not be compensated in any way. Examples of this type of volunteer work include serving in a soup kitchen, helping take care of animals at a shelter, or providing free tutoring to school children. You can find information about local volunteer opportunities at the Campus Involvement Center.
Unpaid internships are different than volunteer work, and are more complex. Internships, both paid and unpaid, are primarily offered by the private sector and are related to the intern’s major field of study. The U.S. Department of Labor has guidelines for those seeking an unpaid internship.
The following six criteria must be met for an internship to be considered a legitimate unpaid internship (and not employment below minimum wage, in violation of Department of Labor laws):
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation on the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion, its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship
Working Without Compensation
It is never legal for an F-1 student to offer to perform work for free, if that work would normally be paid. This includes work performed on campus, in labs, or for research. Performing work that should be paid, without receiving salary, is a violation of both immigration and Department of Labor requirements.