F-1 Student Employment

employment

Overview

The Immigration and Nationality Act says that F-1 students must be coming to the United States solely to pursue a full-course of academic, language, or other non-vocational study. Nevertheless, F-1 students may work under certain circumstances. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations define "employment" as services or labor for wages or other renumeration. F-1 student employment can be divided into three distinct categories: 

  • on-campus, 
  • off-campus, and
  • practical training.

Practical training is available to F-1 students who have been attending a college, university, conservatory, or seminary full time for at least nine consecutive months. High school and English language program students are ineligible for practical training even if the program is part of a college or university.

Practical training is divided into two types, curricular and optionalCurricular practical training (CPT) allows employment which is an "integral part of the established curriculum" and is usually required or for credit (like co-op or a mandatory internship). Optional practical training (OPT) is for employment "directly related to the student’s major area of study," like an internship in the student's field.

On-Campus Employment

International students on F-1 status can work on campus 20 hours a week while school is in session. There is no hourly limitation during scheduled breaks. Students are eligible to begin employment immediately upon being admitted to the United States in F-1 status.

There is no limit to the total period of on-campus employment. Thus, you may work up to twenty hours a week while schools is in session, and full-time during any vacation periods for as many years as you are pursuing a full course of study (and not working in another employment category, such as OPT).

 

On-Campus Employment at an Off-Campus Location

You may also find on-campus employment which takes place at an off-campus location that is educationally affiliated with the University of Cincinnati. In the case of off-campus locations, the employment must also be associated with the school’s established curriculum or related to contractually-funded research projects at the post-graduate level. If you have questions about whether or not a job would fulfil this criteria, please contact us

 

Job Application Process

Apply for an on-campus job. You can find available jobs at jobs.uc.edu.

  1. Your hiring department adds you to the New Hire Checklist. This will take approximately 2 weeks after you are accepted for a job. Someone from your hiring department will let you know when you are on this list. Do not try to complete the rest of this process until you know that you have been added to the Checklist.
  2. Log-in to iBearcatsGlobal and submit a request for Onboarding Appointment. If you will be working for a UC department (Student Affairs, NightRide, UCIT), then you will fill out the "Receiving a UC Paycheck" form. If you will be working for a campus restaurant (Starbucks, Subway, the Bearcat Lounge), then you will fill out the "Non-UC Employee" form. If you unsure about which category your job falls under, contact us.
  3. Receive email confirmation of your request.
  4. Call UC International Services at 513-556-4278 and make an appointment for onboarding.
  5. Read your email carefully and follow the instructions:
    1. Complete the online I-9 form.
    2. Print the onboarding forms and complete them.
    3. Gather your passport, visa, DS-2019, and printed I-94.
  6. Arrive for your appointment on time!

 

What happens at the Onboarding Appointment?

 

  • You will fill out your application for your Social Security Card
  • You will receive an authorization letter to present to the Social Security Office
  • You will receive directions to the Social Security Office
  • You will receive instructions on how to activate Direct Deposit (to get paid for your work)
  • You will receive information on how to do your taxes

 

 

 

 

On-campus job instructions

Read our jobs guide to learn more about completing the on-campus job process.

Off-Campus Employment

F-1 students may be authorized to work off-campus, but only after having been in F-1 status for one academic year, and only after meeting certain criteria. Students who are experiencing unforeseen economic hardship and students who have a job offer from an international organization may apply for work authorization from the Department of Homeland Security.


Severe Economic Hardship

If you are an F-1 student and have experienced a legitimate and unforeseen economic hardship during your stay, you may be able to get authorization for off-campus employment. Just what constitutes a legitimate and unforeseen economic hardship is debatable. It is up to the UC International Services to initially determine the legitimacy of the request.Typically, we will consider factors including:

  • Loss of on-campus employment
  • Unexpected loss of a scholarship
  • Serious currency devaluation (when the funds come from abroad)
  • Excessive tuition and fee increases
  • Medical bills
  • Burglary or robbery (with a police report)
  • Substantial increases in living costs
  • Disruption of a sponsor’s income
  • Death of a sponsor

If we determine that your situation is a legitimate and unforeseen economic hardship, we can recommend to the DHS through a SEVIS endorsement that you are granted employment authorization by attaching evidence of the hardship. You will need to do the following tasks:

  1. Fill out a Request for Severe Economic Hardship Employment Authorization form.
  2. Set up an appointment with our office by calling 513-556-4278.
  3. Bring all the documents listed in the form to your appointment.

If granted, the employment authorization is valid for part-time employment (20 hours a week or less while school is in session) and full time during scheduled breaks.


Employment with an International Organization

A special situation exists for F-1 students who have been offered employment under the sponsorship of an international organization, as defined by the International Organization Immunities Act. A student seeking permission to work for such an organization makes an application to the DHS having jurisdiction over his or her residence by submitting the following:

  1. A written certification from the organization that the proposed employment is within the scope of the organization’s sponsorship.
  2. A Form I-20 ID endorsed for employment in SEVIS by UC International Services within the last 30 days.
  3. A completed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with the fee required.

If you believe that your off-campus job fits this circumstance, you will need to make an appointment with our office to get your I-20 endorsed. You can do this by calling 513-556-4278.

Optional Practical Training

Optional practical training is an opportunity for F-1 students to gain work experience to complement their academic program. All F-1 students are entitled to one year of Optional Practical Training for each higher degree they receive. To engage in Optional Practical Training employment, the student must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This is done with a recommendation through UC International Services. 

Optional practical training employment must be related to the student's field of study. A communication major, for example, is not eligible to work as a computer programmer on OPT. The student may not start OPT employment until the DHS approves the application and provides the student with an EAD. Delays of 90 days or more are typical during the summer months.

 

When can I apply for OPT?

  • If you are applying for pre-completion OPT, you can file your application 90 days before you wish to start working. You can only work:
    • During your annual vacation or when school is not in session if you intend to register for the next term or session.
    • While school is in session provided that you do not work more than 20 hours a week.
    • Full-time after completion of all course requirements for your degree (excluding thesis/dissertation or equivalent).
  • If you are an undergraduate student applying for post-completion OPT, you may apply 90 days prior to graduation and no later than 60 days after the end of your academic program. 
    • You may only work after you have fully completed your program of study.
  • If you are a graduate student applying for post-completion OPT, you can apply 90 days prior to graduation and no later than 60 days after the end of your academic program. Your program completion date can be one of the following:
    • The last day of your last term
    • The date that all requirements (thesis/dissertation) have been completed
    • The date that all coursework has been completed, but not your thesis/dissertation
  • If you are applying for the 24 month STEM extension, you may apply 90 days prior to the expiration of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and no later than your EAD's expiration.

 


STEM Student Extension

Students who complete a degree on STEM Designated Degree Program List may be entitled to a 24-month extension of OPT (36 months total). A student who earns another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level of study can receive a second 24-month STEM OPT extension. STEM refers to degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics and includes:

  • Actuarial Science, Computer Science (except data entry/microcomputer applications), Engineering, Engineering Technologies, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, Military Technologies, Physical Sciences, Science Technologies, Medical Scientist

To qualify for the 24-month extension, the students’ employer must be enrolled in the E-Verify Employment Verification Program operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The employer and the student must implement a formal training program to augment the student's academic learning through the practical training experience. This is done by completing form I-983, training plan for STEM OPT students.

Students on the 24-month STEM OPT extension must submit a formal employer-signed self-evaluation of the training progress to UC International Services at the 12 and 24 month points in the STEM OPT extension period. The self-evaluations will be subject to DHS review and will be a required part of the immigration (SEVIS) record. The first evaluation is due within one year and 10 days of the first day of employment indicated on the OPT Employment Authorization Document. The second evaluation is due with 10 days of the expiration date of the OPT EAD.


determine type of OPT


1. Determine which type of OPT you are filing for: Pre-Completion or Post-Completion OPT.

Pre-Completion OPT occurs while you are still finishing your degree. Post-Completion OPT occurs when you finish your degree or are preparing your thesis/dissertation.

watch video

 

2. Watch an online seminar about OPT.

There is a seminar available for students applying for the initial 12-month OPT period and a seminar for the 24-month STEM OPT extension. You must watch the appropriate video before you apply for OPT.

begin your application


3. Begin your OPT Application on iBearcatsGlobal.

You will be asked to provide the following information:

  1. Whether you are filing for pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, or the STEM extension.
  2. Your degree level
  3. Your proposed start and end date for employment
  4. If you have a current job offer
  5. If you have applied for OPT before.

scan and upload docs

 

4. Scan and upload all documents as ONE PDF to your application on iBearcatsGlobal.

  1. I-765
  2. G-1145
  3. All previous I-20s, including any Curricular Practical Training documents
  4. Passport
  5. Visa
  6. Printed I-94
  7. Official University Transcript
  8. 2 New Passport Photos
  9. A check or money order for $410, made to the Department of Homeland Security

 

get approval


5. Get the Approval of your Academic Advisor.

The application will explain who you need to contact for your degree level and college. Email your academic advisor to let them know that you are sending the request. 

submit request


6. Submit your OPT Application to UC International Services.

If we have received approval from your academic advisor and you have uploaded all necessary documents, we will contact you to set up an appointment.

appointment


7. Come to your appointment with UC International Services.

We will email you after we have received your OPT request and will confirm an appointment time. At this appointment, we will review your documents and prepare them for you to send them to USCIS.

send docs


8. Send your documents and OPT request to USCIS.

You must send this request within 30 days of your OPT appointment, but no more than 90 days prior to the expiration date listed on the new I-20 you received during that appointment.

wait


9. Wait for your OPT request to be processed.

This may take around 90 days. You can check your status by calling 1-800-375-5283 or by checking their website.

receive EAD


10. Receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and upload a copy to iBearcatsGlobal.

You'll be able to upload it using the "Update Immigration/Visa Documents" form in the Biographical Information tab.


Traveling on OPT

While on OPT a student may travel internationally if required/desired. The student will need the EAD, a letter from the employer certifying that the student is employed, and the student must have his/her form I-20 endorsed by UC International Services within the previous 6 months. Unless going to Canada, Mexico or contiguous territories for 30 days or less, the student will also need a valid F-1 visa. Students with an expired F-1 visa are cautioned not to travel while on OPT.


Can I keep working for my employer when I complete my OPT?

In order to continue employment at the conclusion of OPT, a student would need to have an approved change of status to one of the employment categories (H1B, TN, J-1, O, etc) or have obtained lawful permanent residence (or an EAD authorizing employment while adjustment of status is in process).


Things to Remember

  • You may be charged for the University of Cincinnati Student Health Insurance Plan. If you are receiving medical insurance as a part of your employee benefits, you may be approved to waive the UC student health insurance coverage.
  • You must tell UC International Services if you change your address within 10 days of moving. You can do this using iBearcatsGlobal.
  • You are also responsible for informing UC International Services if your employer's address changes. If you are on the 24-month STEM OPT extension, a new I-983 Training plan is required.
  • If you remain unemployed for 90 (regular OPT) or 150 days (STEM OPT), your F-1 status will be terminated. You must keep UC International Services informed of any loss of employment on OPT.
  • Every 6 months you are required to verify your employment status with UC International Services.
  • If you decide to stop working on OPT and return to school, you must notify UC International Services immediately of this and the name of the school you will attend. Your OPT ends when your SEVIS record is transferred.
  • If your immigration status changes while on OPT (i.e. H-1B, Permanent Residence), you must inform UC International Services immediately. Fill out the eForm at ibearcatsglobal.uc.edu for Notification of Change of Immigration Status under the Biographical Information tab.


H-1B Cap-Gap Relief

If you receive an approved H-1B petition, but your period of authorized F-1 stay expires before the H-1B employment start date, you do not need to depart the U.S. You need to do the following: 

  • Get a new I-20 form from UC International Services showing an OPT recommendation that covers this "cap-gap" period. 
  • Provide UC International Services with proof of H-1B receipt or approval in order to obtain the new I-20 form.


STEM Student Extension

Students who complete a degree on STEM Designated Degree Program List may be entitled to a 24-month extension of OPT (36 months total). A student who earns another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level of study can receive a second 24-month STEM OPT extension. STEM refers to degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics and includes:

  • Actuarial Science, Computer Science (except data entry/microcomputer applications), Engineering, Engineering Technologies, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, Military Technologies, Physical Sciences, Science Technologies, Medical Scientist

To qualify for the 24-month extension, the students’ employer must be enrolled in the E-Verify Employment Verification Program operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The employer and the student must implement a formal training program to augment the student's academic learning through the practical training experience. This is done by completing form I-983, training plan for STEM OPT students.

Students on the 24-month STEM OPT extension must submit a formal employer-signed self-evaluation of the training progress to UC International Services at the 12 and 24 month points in the STEM OPT extension period. The self-evaluations will be subject to DHS review and will be a required part of the immigration (SEVIS) record. The first evaluation is due within one year and 10 days of the first day of employment indicated on the OPT Employment Authorization Document. The second evaluation is due with 10 days of the expiration date of the OPT EAD.



Travel while on OPT

You may NOT travel outside the US while your 12-month OPT application is pending at the USCIS. You can travel while the 24-month STEM OPT application is pending. You may travel once you receive your EAD card. You will need the following in order to re-enter the US:

  1. Unexpired passport (unless passport exempt)
  2. Unexpired F-1 visa* (unless visa exempt)
  3. The back of your I-20 signed for travel (signed within the past six months)
  4. Your EAD card (or receipt)
  5. A letter from your employer stating you are currently employed (or a recently dated paycheck).

*If your visa has expired, you will need to present all the documents above (except #2 and include salary in #5) to the US Consulate/Embassy to obtain a new visa stamp. Please consult with a UC International Services advisor prior to traveling in such circumstances. Obtaining a new visa at this stage may be difficult

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is designed to provide eligible students with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Such training could include the following:

  • alternate work/study
  • internship
  • cooperative education
  • any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school 
  • graduate student research for a thesis or dissertation

Training must be a requirement or an integral part of your degree. This is determined by your academic advisor or department. A qualifying Curricular Practical Training involves employment experience that carries academic credit, is listed in the University’s course offerings and has a faculty member assigned to teach the course. A course offered for the primary purpose of facilitating employment authorization does not qualify for CPT.

If you are a graduate student engaged in research that is integral to a thesis or dissertation, the research should involve innovative technology available only at a particular corporation’s research facilities or the collection of data or experience essential for your thesis or dissertation. All required coursework for the degree must be completed to use this form of CPT. You must be registered for at least 1 credit hour of thesis/dissertation research each semester (except summer) during the CPT authorization.

 

CPT Authorization

You must complete one academic year (2 semesters) as a full-time student and hold F-1 status before you are eligible to start CPT. There is an exception for graduate students if they are required by their program to start a co-op or internship during their first two semesters. If you meet these qualifications, you will need to do the following:

  1. Submit a Curricular Practical Training eForm at ibearcatsglobal.uc.edu under the F-1 Services link.
  2. Receive certification by your academic/co-op advisor explaining how the work is necessary completion of your program. The authorization will take 5 business days to process from the date of certification by your advisor.
  3. Recive authorization from UC International Services. With this authorization, you can begin your employment.

You are not eligible to work until you receive this authorization from UC International Services. No other authorization is required for CPT. You are not limited in the amount of Curricular Practical Training you may utilize. However, students who have engaged in a year or more of full-time CPT are ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). 

On your first day of work, you will complete an I-9 form with your employer. It certifies how you are authorized to work in the U.S. The two most common questions about this form are answered below:

  • In Section 1, "An alien authorized to work", your Admission # is your I-94 card number.
  • In Section 2, CPT falls under the category of "List A", document #4: Unexpired foreign passport, with Form I-94 indicating unexpired employment authorization. This section is to be completed by the employer, not the student.


FAQ