Employment Information for International Students

International Students at CU
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This page overviews the categories of F-1 Student Employment available to International Students:

On-Campus Employment

Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) authorization is not necessary for on-campus employment. USCIS defines on-campus employment as the following:  Any on-campus work for which you receive a paycheck (or other compensation such as room, board, etc. from Cedarville University.

Internship with an International Organization

If you are offered employment in the form of an internship by a recognized international organization, you may accept such employment upon receipt of authorization from the Immigration Office. Examples of recognized organizations include the United Nations, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc.

Curricular Practical Training

Some work experiences which are an integral part of your program of study may be the basis for curricular practical training (CPT) employment authorization. These experiences may include alternate work/study programs, internships, cooperative education programs and practicum experiences which are either (1) a required part of your academic program, or (2) work for which you receive academic course credit.

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Optional Practical Training

F-1 students are eligible for twelve months of optional practical training (OPT). OPT provides an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge obtained in an academic program to a practical work experience. This employment opportunity must be directly related to your major field of study. It may, in certain circumstances, be full or part time and may take place anywhere in the U.S. You may apply to use OPT during your vacation periods, during the academic year, or when you complete your studies. OPT requires authorization from the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before you can start to work (documents must be sent to Nebraska for approval 3 months prior to beginning an internship.).

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This web page provides an introduction to employment issues and options for MK/International Students in F-1 status.

With regard to employment in the U.S., it is essential to understand and carefully follow guidelines related to legal (or "authorized") versus illegal (or "unauthorized") employment.

To ensure your ability to continue studying in the United States, it is imperative that you engage only in legal employment. Illegal employment — even for just one day and even if you were unaware of it — poses a grave threat to your ability to remain in or return to the United States.

In addition, you must always make sure that you have the necessary employment authorization before you begin work, since starting work without prior authorization, even if you receive authorization later, constitutes illegal employment.

Illegal, or unauthorized, employment renders you illegally present in the U.S. Depending on how recent changes to the immigration regulations are interpreted, it may also immediately void the F-1 visa in your passport and prevent you from obtaining a new visa anywhere except in your country; and it may start the count toward 183 and 365 days of illegal presence which will bar you from re-entering the U.S. for three years and ten years, respectively.

Definition of Employment

Employment is any type of work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food, or any other benefit. If you receive no pay or other benefit for the work performed, this activity is not defined as employment but considered to be volunteer work.

Available Positions

International students are eligible to work on campus in part-time positions. Available positions are listed on the Jobs On Campus page.

Social Security

Students must obtain a social security number from the Social Security Administration in order to work and receive payment. Before applying for a social security number, the student must first secure a job on campus in order to qualify for a Social Security number. The student then must get a letter from the employer describing: the job, the student’s start date, the number of hours per week to be worked, and the supervisor’s name, telephone number and signature. Additionally, the student should have a letter from the DSO identifying them as a Cedarville University student in good standing, their current school status, and include the description of the employer and the job the student will be working.

Eligibility Requirements

Different requirements exist for each type of F-1 employment, but there are basic requirements which must be met for any F-1 employment:

  1. You must be enrolled for a full course of study (or have recently completed study for post-completion optional practical training).
  2. You must be authorized by Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) to attend Cedarville University.
  3. Part-time student employment: on-campus employment is available to all international students in good standing at the university. Off-campus employment is not permitted.
  4. CPT: Curricular Practical Training
  5. OPT: Optional Practical Training 

Once employment is authorized you must maintain your student visa status eligibility or you may lose your right to continue employment, even if it was authorized in writing.

Employment Eligibility Verification

Within the first three days of beginning work, you and your employer must complete a form called the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (CIS Form I-9). This form will be kept on file by your employer and must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission.

Failure to Comply With Employment Regulations

It is your responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to F-1 students, including employment regulations. Working without the proper authorization is a serious violation of your student status. If you fail to comply with your responsibilities, you may not be eligible for benefits normally granted to F-1 students and, in some situations, may be subject to deportation.

Prior to accepting any employment in the U.S., we urge you to consult with the office of international student services.

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The purpose of practical training is to allow F-1 students the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge obtained in academic programs to a practical work experience. There are two different type of practical training: curricular practical training and optional practical training. This document discusses the rules and procedures that govern curricular practical training. For information on F-1 optional practical training, please visit the Optional Practical Training section (Please note that students in English language programs are not eligible for either type of practical training).

Definition of Curricular Practical Training

The Immigration Service defines curricular practical training as employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practice which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.

Approval

The Cedarville Office of International Student Services is the approval authority for curricular practical training.

Part-time vs. Full-time Curricular Practical Training

Part-time Training

Employment for 20 hours or less per week while you are enrolled for classes is considered part-time curricular practical training. The employment authorization written on the back of your I-20 ID copy will specify permission to engage in part-time training and you must limit your work to no more than 20 hours per week. There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in part-time curricular practical training, but you must be simultaneously enrolled in full time courses to maintain lawful F-1 status.

Full-time Training

Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time curricular practical training, and full time class registration is not required during authorized full-time CPT periods. The employment authorization on your I-20 ID copy will specify permission to participate in full-time training. There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in full-time curricular practical training , however if you participate in twelve months or more of curricular practical training you will not be eligible for post completion practical training. Two consecutive full-time CPT periods can only be performed when one of them includes a summer or when it is required as an internship or practicum.

Authorization Procedure

Visit the Office of International Student Services to determine if you are eligible for part-time or full-time curricular practical training.

You may begin curricular practical training only after it is authorized. You must not continue employment beyond the date authorized unless you request and are granted an extension of your permission to work. To continue employment (without authorization) would be a violation of your non-immigrant student status and would render you illegally present in the U.S. and beyond the ability of Cedarville University or the Immigration Office to regularize your status.

Social Security Numbers and Taxes

If you plan to work in the U.S. (including on campus) you will need a Social Security Number. Please visit the Office of International Student Services or view the Getting a Social Security Card section for instruction on how to apply for a Social Security Number. The Social Security Administration will process y our application and a number will be sent to you in about one month.

In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for less than five years are exempt from social security (also known as FICA) and Medicare taxes. You should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws. If you need more information about the F-1 Social Security and Medicare tax exemption, please contact the Office of International Student Services. Students in F-1 status are subject all other taxes that may apply: federal, state and local (but check with the Office of International Student Services to see if your country is one of the few that has a tax treaty with U.S. allowing students to exclude a limited amount of earned income from federal taxation).

Employment Eligibility Verification

Within the first three days of beginning work you and your employer must complete a form called an Employment Eligibility Verification Form (CIS Form I-9). This form will be kept on file by your employer and must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission.

Failure to Comply with Employment Regulations

It is your responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to F-1 students, including employment regulations. Working without the proper authorization is a serious violation of your student status. If you fail to comply with your responsibilities, you may not be eligible for benefits normally granted to F-1 students and, in some situations, may be subject to deportation. Prior to accepting any employment in the U.S., we urge you to consult with the Office of International Student Services.

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Optional Practical Training is designed to provide you with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience in your chosen profession for a maximum of 12 months. Students may apply for optional practical training at the following times:

  1. During the annual vacation period if currently enrolled and intending to resume studies after vacation.
  2. While school is in session, but only part-time.
  3. After completion of course requirements for a degree program.
  4. After completion of study or graduation.

A student is not entitled to 12 months of pre-degree practical training and 12 months of post-degree practical training, nor may the student obtain 12 months of practical training for each degree completed. Every two months of part-time practical training counts as one month of full-time practical training.

Requirements

  1. Students must have been in F-1 status at least one full academic year (9 consecutive months).
  2. Student must currently be in F-1 status.
  3. Student must possess a valid passport.
  4. The employment must be directly related to the student's major field of study and must be appropriate for someone having the student's level of education.
  5. For summer optional practical training, the application must be submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) no earlier than 120 days before the completion of studies, and no later than 60 days after the completion date.
  6. A student does not have to have a job in order to apply for post-degree practical training, but keep in mind that any job search undertaken after the start date of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) counts as part of the 12 month total.
  7. A student may not begin working until the EAD has been issued, the start date noted on the EAD has passed and the student has completed all requirements of the program of study. If a student has obtained an EAD and does not fulfill the program requirements by the expected date, he may not begin employment, and any additional terms of study required to complete those requirements will be subtracted from the 12-month total.
  8. A student may not leave the U.S. after graduation and before applying for Practical Training or he surrenders all rights to post-completion Practical Training.

Application Procedures

Step 1

  1. Obtain CIS Form I-538 and Form I-765 from the Designated Student Officer (DSO).
  2. Request letter from your academic advisor on University letterhead verifying your major, graduation date, and a statement recommending you for this type of experience.
  3. Obtain two 2" X 2" photographs, passport style.
  4. Obtain money order, cashier check or personal check for $340 payable to the USCIS.
  5. Bringing the following to the International Student Advisor no more than 120 days before your completion date. Note that it takes at least 90 days for USCIS to process the paperwork. You cannot apply after you complete your degree requirements:
    • $340 money order, cashier's check, or personal check
    • The two required photographs with your name printed on the back of each photo
    • Completed CIS Form I-538
    • Completed CIS Form I-765
    • Letter from Advisor
    • Current I-20 form
    • Passport and I-94 Card to be photocopied

Step 2

  1. Once your Optional Practical Training is recommended by the DSO, your paperwork will be submitted to the CIS Nebraska Service Center for authorization. Please be advised that processing may take 3 months or more.
  2. The DSO will return to you, your I-20 form and copies of all paperwork submitted.
  3. Checklist of items to send to USCIS in Nebraska:
    • $340 money order, cashier's check, or personal check
    • The two required photographs with your name printed on the back of each photo
    • Letter from PDSO/international student advisor
    • Completed CIS Form I-538
    • Completed CIS Form I-765
    • Letter from Advisor
    • Current I-20 form
    • Passport and I-94 Card to be photocopied

Step 3

After your Optional Practical Training has been authorized by CIS, your EAD will be sent to either the local CIS office or the address you indicated on the I-765. You will be contacted by mail if your EAD goes to CIS. Only the applicant will be allowed to pick up the EAD card after presenting a valid passport.

Points to Remember

  • Once you have been issued an EAD for Practical Training, the authorization cannot be canceled or changed. Even if you do not actually work, CIS counts all Practical Training time against the total allowable. This is particularly important for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training if you do not complete your requirements on time and must delay the start of your employment until you finish the program. You will not be given additional Practical Training to compensate for any time you may lose in additional studies or in a job search.
  • Optional (pre and post) Practical Training is limited to only 12 months. This means that any other Optional Practical Training you do during or after the completion of one degree program is deducted from the remaining Optional Practical Training available for that and future degree programs.
  • Students who have engaged in Part-time Curricular Training are still eligible for 12 months of Post Completion Optional Practical Training.
  • After completion of your studies, Optional Practical Training is available only on a full-time basis.
  • Students doing Post-completion Practical Training may take classes on a part-time basis.
  • You do not need to receive a job offer to receive Optional Practical Training after completion of studies.
  • You may begin to search for employment prior to receiving Practical Training authorization, but you may not begin to work until you receive your EAD.
  • You may travel outside the U.S. and re-enter as a F-1 student on Practical Training once you have received your EAD card and have an I-20 endorsed by the Cedarville University DSO within the last six months of re-entry. Use your valid visa, endorsed I-20 and EAD card for entry.
  • You may obtain employment anywhere in the U.S. However, CIS regulations require that any change in address and/or telephone number be reported to the Cedarville University Office of International Student Services within 10 days of the change. Cedarville University is still responsible for monitoring the status of a student with Practical Training even though the student is not formally registered for classes.

17-Month Stem Extension

You may qualify for an additional 17 months of OPT under the following circumstances:

  • The degree for your current period of post-completion OPT is a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) program listed here.
  • The employer from which you are seeking employment uses the E-Verify program.
  • You have not previously received a 17-month extension of OPT.

Social Security Numbers and Taxes

If you plan to work in the U.S. (including on campus) you will need a Social Security Number. Please visit the Office of International Student Services or view the Getting a Social Security Card section for instruction on how to apply for a Social Security Number. The Social Security Administration will process y our application and a number will be sent to you in about one month.

In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for less than five years are exempt from social security (also known as FICA) and Medicare taxes. You should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws. If you need more information about the F-1 Social Security and Medicare tax exemption, please contact the Office of International Student Services. Students in F-1 status are subject all other taxes that may apply: federal, state and local (but check with the Office of International Programs to see if your country is one of the few that has a tax treaty with U.S. allowing students to exclude a limited amount of earned income from federal taxation).

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Immigration regulations allow an F-1 student who experiences unforeseen financial problems while studying in the U.S. to obtain off-campus employment permission under certain conditions. This document discusses the rquirements and limitations of F-1 economic hardship employment authorization. This off-campus employment permission may provide real help in difficult circumstances by allowing a student to supplement his or her income enough to meet some living expenses. Economic hardship employment authorization will not, however, enable a student to earn enough to bear the cost of the full-time course of study required to maintain F student status. It should not be thought of, then, as a solution for serious financial difficulties.

Eligibility

If you are an F-1 student who is experiencing economic hardship due to an unforeseen change in your financial situation, you may qualify for off-campus employment authorization under relevant immigration regulation. You must, of course, be a full-time student in valid F-1 status to qualify for this, as for any other benefit of F status. If employment authorization is granted, you will be able to work off campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full time during vacation periods. Economic hardship employment authorization allows you to work in any job, related or not related to your studies, and can be granted for one year or for the remainder of your academic program, whichever period is less.

When considering your eligibility for hardship employment authorization, the most important point to keep in mind is that for you to qualify an adverse change in your financial situation must have been unforeseen when you first came to the U.S. to study. Immigration regulations provide that the unforeseen circumstances "may include loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial conditions of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses." Only unforeseen problems can be the basis for hardship employment authorization because, in obtaining their initial I-20 and visa to enter the U.S., students must first demonstrate that all of the financial resources needed for their program of study are available before they are able to obtain F-1 status.

If you believe that your circumstances may qualify you for hardship employment authorization, please meet with the designated school official (DSO). If it appears that you are eligible for hardship employment authorization, the advisor will ask you to (1) write a letter and (2) ask you to provide documentation confirming these circumstances (for example, a letter from your department to document the loss of a scholarship, exchange rate data showing a currency devaluation, or a letter from an accountant confirming unexpected business losses). When the need for hardship employment authorization is well documented, the DSO will help you prepare an employment authorization application to be submitted to the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS).

Employment Authorization Application

For your employment authorization application, you will need to present to the office of international student services:

  • your letter and supporting documentation as described above
  • completed CIS Form I-765 (available from the office of international student services); write "(c)(3)(iii)" in item 16 of Form I-765 and use an address on the form where you can receive mail over the next three or four months.
  • two identical color photographs, in three-quarter right front profile, with your right ear showing (To insure the proper pose, look 45° to the left of the camera).

The photographs must have a white background, be taken less than 30 days ago, be unmounted, printed on thin, glossy paper and be unretouched. Immigration Service regulations also require that you not wear jewelry in the photograph and that your head be uncovered unless you wear a headdress for religious reasons. The photographs should not be larger than 1.5 x 1.5 inches, and the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin should be approximately 1.25 inches.

(Tell the photographer that you need photographs for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or "Green Card"-style photographs.)

You should print your name lightly in pencil on the back of the two photographs (include the number on your previous EAD if you have one from an earlier period of optional practical training.

You will also need:

  • a personal check or money order for $340 payable to "CIS"
  • a photocopy for the front and back of your I-20 Form
  • a photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 card (white card, usually stapled in your passport)
  • a photocopy of your passport information page (and the page including your photograph, if different)
  • a photocopy of the visa page in your passport (except Canadian citizens who have no visa)
  • If you have had a previous period of employment authorized by CIS, a photocopy of your previous EAD (photo ID card)

Your application will then be submitted by mail to the regional office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services in Nebraska for CIS consideration. CIS will first mail a receipt to you (to the address you listed on your Form I-765) and will later mail notice of the CIS decision. If CIS approves your application, they will send you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as evidence of your permission to be employed. Please note that CIS processing usually takes one to three months. You may not begin employment before you receive an EAD from CIS; working before receipt of an EAD constitutes illegal employment that renders you illegally present in the U.S.

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