International Student Services

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F-1 Employment

General Information

Employment options for F-1 international students in the U.S. are restricted by law. It’s illegal for employers to knowingly hire non-immigrants who do not have a permit to work.  Employers must verify employment eligibility for every employee, regardless of an employee’s citizenship or immigration status, by completing the Form I-9. Employment permission, when necessary, is given by International Student Services or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Note: Immigration regulations prohibit all employment for F-2 dependents (spouses and children of F-1 students.)

Definition of Employment

"Employment" is work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food, or any other benefit.  Even if you receive no pay or other benefit for an activity, it may still be considered employment if others performing the work are being paid.

“Volunteer work” refers to philanthropic activity without financial gain. Students participating in work for which no other employee receives employment benefits would be considered doing volunteer work.

On-Campus Employment

USCIS allows F-1 students who are maintaining their student status to be employed on-campus.  Types of on-campus employment include the terms of a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship or any part-time, on-campus job.  On-campus employment does not need to be directly related to a student’s area of study.  F-1 students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week on-campus when school is in session, and up to 40 hours per week during scheduled breaks. For further information about on-campus jobs, interested students should contact the Student Employment Office

Off-campus Employment

Students are only eligible to work off-campus after maintaining student status for one full academic year.  All off-campus work must be within a student’s area of study, and requires approved work authorization prior to working.  Working improperly or without authorization is a serious violation of student status. Students should always consult with the International Student Services office before participating in any form of off-campus employment.

There are two types of off-campus employment:  Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Curricular Practical Training

Work experiences which are an integral part of an academic program are considered "curricular practical training." These experiences may include alternate work/study programs, internships, cooperative education, and practicum experiences. To be eligible for CPT, students must receive course credit or be in a recognized co-op program.

How To Apply for Curricular Practical Training

Students are required to do the following:
1) Register for co-op or internship with their academic department in the SIS system.
2) Report their employment information to the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services via JobZone.  
3) Additional permission to participate in curricular practical training must be granted by the International Student Services office, prior to the employment start date.  Students must provide ISS with a copy of their job offer letter, and will receive a new SEVIS I-20 with CPT Authorization on page 3.

Students interested in participating in curricular practical training should make an appointment to see an ISS advisor.
 

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined as “temporary employment for practical training, directly related to a student’s major area of study”.  The maximum amount of time granted to work on OPT is 12 months per degree level plus a possible 17 month extension for those who qualify (see 17 Month STEM Extension). OPT authorization must be obtained from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

 

Students interested in applying for OPT should review the OPT Application Instructions

 

To download the I-765 form and complete it online, visit the following link: I-765

 

To download the G-1145 form and complete it online, visit the following link
Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance

When all the application materials are ready, students should make an appointment to see an International Student Advisor. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 585-475-6943.

OPT Eligibility

To be eligible for OPT, students must have:
1) Maintained their F-1 student status for at least one academic year.
2) Completed all required coursework for their degree (excluding a thesis, dissertation, or equivalent requirement).  
3) Completed less than 365 days of full-time curricular practical training (CPT)
4) Applied within 60 days of completing their program (*ISS recommends 90 days prior to desired start date)
5) Employment within the completed field of study (*no employment offer needed at time of application)

When to Apply for OPT

Students may apply up to 90 days before their desired OPT start date, but NO LATER THAN 60 days beyond their graduation date or the end date of their I-20 (whichever is earlier).  Since OPT must be obtained from USCIS,  students are encouraged to plan ahead and file applications timely. If an OPT application is received by USCIS more than 60 days after the program completion date,  the student will not be eligible for OPT.

How to Apply for OPT

Students interested in applying for OPT should:

  1. Download the ISS OPT packet or pick one up in International Student Services. Please read through the entire packet.
  2. Make an appointment with an ISS advisor by calling 585-475-6943. Please note that ISS does not accept walk-in or same day OPT appointments. Appointments generally range from 30-60 minutes in length.
  3. Bring all the required items listed in the OPT Packet to your appointment except the new SEVIS I-20 with OPT recommendation (The ISS advisor will print this I-20 for you the appointment).
  4. The ISS Advisor will review and assist with mailing the packet to the appropriate USCIS Service Center.

If a student is outside Rochester and is unable to make an appointment to file OPT, all application materials should be mailed/FedEx’d to the International Student Services office.  The student should also include a memo with their materials, with the following information: student’s first and last name, RIT ID #, current mailing address, phone number, non-RIT email address, and desired OPT start date.  The ISS Advisor will assist the student through email, phone, and fax to complete the application.

Traveling Abroad While on OPT

During the OPT application process, ISS recommends that student limit travel outside the U.S. if possible.  Prior to graduation (before the I-20 expires), students should carry all of their immigration documents, along with an Enrollment Verification form from the Registrar’s Office.
If there is a gap between the I-20 end date and the OPT start date (i.e. grace period), students should not travel outside the U.S. until their OPT application has been approved.


Once the OPT application is approved, students are allowed to travel both within the U.S. and abroad. While traveling on OPT, students must carry the following documents:

  1. All I-20s (the OPT I-20 must have a travel signature within the past 6 months)
  2. Valid passport 
  3. Valid F-1 visa (if expired, students must renew it prior to re-entry)
  4. EAD card
  5. OPT Approval Notice and OPT Receipt Notice
  6. Employment offer letter
Reporting Requirements While on OPT

While students are on OPT, they are responsible for reporting the following information to International Student Services:

  • Any change of address
  • Any change of name
  • Any period of unemployment while authorized for OPT
  • The name and address of the current employer

Students need to update ISS within 10 days of any change. All new information should be updated through the OPT Reporting Link on the ISS website.  Once ISS receives this information, the SEVIS record will be updated accordingly.

OPT STEM Extension

F-1 students on OPT who have completed a degree in “STEM” fields (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics), are eligible to apply for an OPT STEM Extension, which is a one time 17-month extension of the 12 month OPT period. A student may file for the 17-month extension up to 120 days before the end of his or her post completion OPT.

To be eligible for OPT STEM Extension, students must have/be:

  1. Maintained valid F-1 student status and is currently pursuing authorized OPT employment in their field of study
  2. Completed a Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate degree (Student must be certified for graduation to apply)
  3. Completed a degree in a USCIS-designated STEM field. (Each major at RIT has a CIP code, which must appear on ICE’s designated codes list)
  4. Employed by an employer enrolled in the DHS E-Verify database.

For a complete list of designated STEM fields, please visit the ICE website

For more information about E-Verify, please visit the  the USCIS web page.

How to Apply for a STEM Extension

Students interested in applying for OPT STEM Extension should:

  1. Download the ISS STEM Application packet or pick one up in International Student Services. Please read through the entire packet.
  2. Complete the “Information Sheet for OPT 17 Month STEM Extension” form and I-765 Form
  3. Submit copies of both forms to ISS via fax, email, or mail.  ISS will create your new STEM OPT I-20, and mail it back to you with an instruction sheet.
  4. Compile all required application documents (including copy of new STEM OPT I-20) and submit to appropriate USCIS Service Center.

Additional information about OPT STEM Extensions can be found in the ISS STEM Application packet or by contacting the International Student Services office.

H1B/Cap Gap Extension of OPT

H-1B is visa status that allows students to work fulltime.  If a student’s employer files for an H-1B and is approved, the student will change their status from F-1 to H-1B on October 1.  F-1 students whose OPT expires before October 1st (of any year) and who have an H-1B application pending with USCIS may be eligible for a Cap-Gap Extension.   If the H-1B petition is pending and OPT expires prior to June 1, students should contact ISS to request a temporary extension.  ISS will require a copy of the pending H-1B receipt notice or proof of timely filing.  If documentation is accurate, ISS can extend OPT until June 1.  If the H-1B petition has been approved and the OPT expires prior to Oct 1, students should contact ISS to request a new I-20 with a Cap-Gap Extension.  ISS will require a copy of the H-1B approval notice.  Cap-Gap Extensions that are not automatically added by USCIS can be manually added by an ISS Advisor.

For more general information about H-1B or Cap-Gap Extensions, students should contact International Student Services.  For more extensive information, students should contact their employer’s immigration attorney.

Off-campus Employment: Severe Economic Hardship

If students are suffering from severe economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond their control, they may be eligible for employment off-campus. Students in this situation should contact ISS to make an appointment with an International Student Advisor.

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