International students are never eligible for off-campus employment without special authorization. Always speak with your International Student Coordinator before accepting or participating in off campus employment. International students are not permitted to work off-campus without prior authorization from the Office of International Programs.
Off-campus employment opportunities are extremely limited by the immigration regulations. A student who has been in the United States in valid F-1 status for one academic year (fall & spring semesters) is eligible to work off-campus only under certain circumstances:
- Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- Employment with International Organization
- Special Student Relief
- Severe Economic Hardship Employment
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is off-campus employment authorization for international students in F-1 status. CPT is defined by U.S. immigration regulations as being an integral part of the student’s curriculum and directly related to his/her major field of study.
- To be eligible for CPT, a student must have been in lawful F-1 status and enrolled on a fulltime basis for at least the past full academic year. Note: if a graduate degree program requires immediate participation in off-campus training, CPT may be authorized.
- The training must be required by or count as credit towards the student’s degree program.
- The student must continue to maintain a full course of study in F-1 status during the period of training.
- CPT must take place before completion of the educational objective.
- Students must have an employment offer before applying for CPT authorization with the Office of International Programs. CPT is authorized for one specific employer, at one specific location and during specific dates.
- When accepting an offer of employment, the student should inform the hiring company that s/he is available to start the position within 2 weeks to allow sufficient time for the CPT authorization process to be fully completed.
- A student who is authorized to engage in CPT will receive a new I-20 with the training dates indicated on the 3rd page. This is the student’s documented proof of work authorization. The student must not start the training until the dates listed on the new I-20. Working off-campus without prior authorization is a violation of F-1 status.
- The student must stop working on or before the CPT end date indicated on the I-20.
- CPT is authorized one semester at a time. If a student wishes to extend the CPT authorization, a new, full request must be submitted to the Office of International Programs, allowing a minimum of 5 business days to process.
- If a student wants to switch employers, a new, full request for CPT must be submitted for the new training opportunity.
- CPT authorization is always limited to part time employment during the academic year, unless the degree program requires fulltime participation. CPT may be fulltime during the annual vacation and breaks. Part time employment is defined as a maximum of 20 hours per week- this is a strict limit, NOT an average.
- There are no limits in the amount of CPT for which a student can be authorized, but those who use one year or more of fulltime CPT become automatically ineligible for Optional Practical Training.
A note of caution
While USCIS regulations provide a variety of opportunities for international students in F-1 status to be employed, working improperly or without authorization is a serious violation of your status. You should therefore consult with the MSU International Student Coordinator before taking up ANY employment. It is YOUR responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations that apply to F-1 students.
Curricular Practical Training Application Process
If you are interested in learning more about Curricular Practical Training, you must set an advising appointment with the International Student Coordinator. During this meeting, CPT requirements and a step-by-step process will be outlined in detail. You will also receive the relevant forms needed to complete the authorization process through the Office of International Programs.
Remember that CPT authorization is not complete until your I-20 is updated with CPT information by the Office of International Programs. Under no circumstances are you allowed to start off-campus employment until you receive a new I-20 with training dates listed on page 3. Working off-campus without prior authorization is a violation of F-1 status.
Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows students to engage in off-campus employment for 12 months. OPT is defined as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to a studentís major area of study." The idea is that you can gain practical experience in your field of study to round out your academic experience before returning to your home country. Therefore, the work must be in your field of study and it must be at the level of your education. Many students do this after they graduate.
OPT can be authorized for a maximum aggregate period of 12 months for each level of study. Students who maintain lawful F-1 status for one full academic year become eligible for this benefit, and you receive a new period of OPT after you complete each level of study (12 months after Bachelors degree, 12 months after Masters degree, etc.)
Granting of OPT is not automatic, although most applications are approved. A student must apply for OPT from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) which in turn issues an EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) to the student that is valid for 12 months. USCIS can take 90-120 days to approve an application for OPT, so students should file their applications with USCIS well in advance of their intended start date. There is a filing fee for an OPT application.
If you wish to apply for OPT, you should do so early; December/January are best for spring and summer graduates, and August/September are best for December graduates. Regulations REQUIRE you apply before graduation, and you cannot apply after graduation. Please make an appointment with your International Student Coordinator well in advance if you plan to apply for OPT.
During the period you are working on OPT you are required to keep Minot State notified of your address so it can be updated in SEVIS, and you are required to keep your I-20 valid by having it signed at least once a year. If you need your I-20 signed and you are not in the Minot area, please mail it to us with a self-addressed return envelope.
Severe Economic Hardship Employment
As you already know, in order for an I-20 form to be issued for an incoming international student, the student must show that they have the necessary funding to study and support themselves in the United States. If a studentís source of funding should suddenly change, through circumstances over which the student has no control, then the student may be eligible to apply for off-campus employment authorization based on "Severe Economic Hardship." The student must document their case carefully, and prove to the USCIS that the change in funding source came unexpectedly. Similar to OPT, an Economic Hardship application has a filing fee, and can take the USCIS between 90-120 days to adjudicate. If approved, this off-campus work authorization expires within one-year, whereupon the student (if still eligible) may reapply. If approved, the employment is limited to 20 hours/week while school is in session but may be full-time during breaks.
To be eligible to apply, the student must;
- Have completed at least one full academic year and be in good academic and legal standing,
- Demonstrate that there is an unforeseen severe economic necessity beyond the student's control that arose after obtaining F-1 status,
- Demonstrate that other employment opportunities are unavailable or are otherwise insufficient,
- Establish that employment will not interfere with full-time study.
Specifically, cases where this benefit is NOT available include:
- You did not have enough money to begin with and your plan has been to make it through one year and then apply for off-campus employment.
- One or both of your parents retire.
- Other family members wish to attend school in the U.S. so your family wishes to decrease the support to you.
- Annual tuition increases have increased cost.
- Adequate on-campus employment is available.
If the financial situation is too severe, part-time employment may not solve the problem. You and the International Student Coordinator will need to look at all options available within the F-1 regulations. It is important for the International Student Coordinator to understand the full scope of your financial necessity and the conditions that created the hardship.
Employment With International Organizations
This F-1 employment benefit allows F-1 students to work for recognized international organizations within the meaning of the International Organization Immunities Act. Qualifying organizations include the United Nations, World Bank, and World Health Organization. A complete list of qualifying organizations is published at 19 CFR 148.87. None of the qualifying organizations have offices in Minot.
Special Student Relief
This benefit is available only to students from Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand or the Philippines who obtained visas before June 10, 1998. For more information, contact your International Student Coordinator.