The following is an overview of practical issues related to employment in the U.S., as well as tips to help you in your job search. International students may encounter more difficulty in securing co-op or full-time jobs than do full-time residents or U.S. citizens. Many employers use co-op as a means of recruiting for full-time positions, and sometimes don't wish to give a co-op position to a student who will not be able to work at the company on a long term basis. All jobs with the Federal Government require citizenship. Also, companies who have contracts with the government also require U.S. citizenship (in some cases, they will allow permanent residents) for their positions.
In order to acquire practical training in the U.S., it is not enough to be equal to your American competitor. Rather, your qualifications must be superior to your competition. You should put extra effort into writing a resume and cover letter that highlight your appropriate skills and experience. Countries have different, acceptable styles of resume writing and interviewing. See your program coordinator in the RIT Office of Career Services and Co-op early, preferably two semesters before you intend to co-op or graduate for assistance. For further information visit the International Student Services web site www.rit.edu/iss.
U.S. Customs & Border Protection officers have become much more active in requesting proof of legal immigration status from individuals in or around public transportation hubs. In particular, Rochester's Amtrak train station, and Greyhound bus station. These officers have legal jurisdiction far beyond the border crossings, and are allowed to stop you and ask to see your passport, I-94 card, and I-20 (or DS-2019 for those in J status). You are allowed to ask them to show you identification, but please be polite and cooperative. Sometimes they will be in uniform, sometimes they are not in uniform.
So, please carry your original passport, I-94 card, and I-20 or DS-2019 every time you are around an airport, train, water port, or greyhound bus station in Rochester. Also, you must have these documents on your person if you travel outside the Rochester area
While on campus, or while otherwise moving around the Rochester area (other than to the stations mentioned above) you do not need to have these documents on your person. But please remember them when you travel away from Rochester.
For all of you traveling outside the US please make sure that you have a travel endorsement signature from an international advisor, signed this academic year, on page 3 of your I-20, or in the travel endorsement section of your DS-2019.
In order to work in the United States, you must have a Social Security Number and Card. Applications are available at the Social Security Office, 100 State Street (downtown), Rochester, New York. Take your passport, I-94 and I-20 or IAP-66, and a letter from an international student advisor with you. The process takes from two to six weeks to complete. (Most often the ISS office will have application forms.)
All international students MUST have written authorization from either their international student advisor or from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service BEFORE beginning to work off-campus. Students who start work without authorization violate their immigration status and are unable to apply for reinstatement of status from within the United States!
According to the regulations of the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service for students with F-1 status, all work-related, educational experience requires either "curricular practical training" or "optional practical training" employment authorization.
Practical training must be in your field of study and an integral part of an established curriculum. This may be mandatory or optional cooperative education, internship or practicum. To be eligible for curricular practical training you must have F-1 status, and have completed at least two terms of full-time study in the U.S. If you have any questions, please contact your program coordinator (that works with your major) in our office for clarification.
As soon as an offer of employment is accepted, but at least one week before employment begins:
- Notify the Office of Co-op and Career Services. You will need to complete the form electronically through the main student page of our site. Click on Report Your Job link and provide the information requested.
- Register for co-op through your academic department.
- Make an appointment to see your international student advisor to obtain work authorization. Bring your I-20 and offer of employment to the appointment.
You may be authorized for whatever amount of curricular practical training your degree requires; however, you will be ineligible for optional practical training at the end of your studies if you have been authorized for more than 364 days of curricular practical training.
Practical training in your field of study can occur during the student's annual vacation; part-time during the academic year; after completion of all course work but before completion of a thesis or project for graduate students; or upon completion of a degree. You must obtain employment in your field of study, have F-1 status, and have completed at least one academic year (9 months) of full-time study in the U.S. to be eligible. A total of 12 months of optional practical training is allowed for F-1 students. In the case of certain STEM majors (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), students may also be eligible to extend their OPT for an additional 24 months.
- See your international student advisor to complete the necessary forms and obtain the necessary recommendation.
- Apply to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, in writing, for the specific time of employment. USCIS charges a $340 fee (that amount is always subject to change). Photographs necessary for the application can be obtained locally for about $15. The processing time can take up to three months for the card to be issued. It is important to apply well in advance of the time that you will need the card as you cannot begin employment until you actually have the card.
Part-time optional practical training (OPT) is available prior to completion of studies as well. That process also takes up to 3 months, so plan ahead.
If you wish to apply for optional practical training (OPT) to begin upon completion of your degree, you may apply up to 90 days before you complete all of the requirements for your degree and up to 60 days after you have finished. Upon graduation, you may apply for any amount of your remaining optional practical training you wish. After graduation you have 14 months to complete 12 months of OPT.
For students holding J-1 Visas: Regulations for off campus employment differ from those for students with F-1 status. Please see one of the international student advisors to obtain information on authorization for co-op or work authorization/academic training after graduation.
Students on J-1 Visas must have written authorization to work off campus.
If, after graduation, you plan to reside in the U.S. on either a temporary or permanent basis, you will want to obtain a temporary working permit (H-1B). Immigration law refers to H-1B workers in "specialty occupations." Specialty occupations include most jobs for which a bachelor's degree in a specific field is a prerequisite for employment. In order to obtain H-1B status, you must first have an offer of employment. There are then specific steps, which the employer must take. You may be in H-1B status for up to six years.
Further information regarding the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service's policies on employment, federal and state taxes, obtaining a social security number, and special co-op employment needs of international students, consult with International Student Services www.rit.edu/iss, or by phone at 585-475-6943.
Work with your program coordinator in the RIT Office of Career Services and Co-op to develop your job search strategies and strengthen your knowledge of the job search process in the U.S.