Working in the U.S.
Working Off Campus
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 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. Most students do this after they graduate.
OPT can initially be authorized for a maximum 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 (OPT after Bachelors degree, OPT after Masters degree, etc.) For certain STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) students OPT can be extended for 17 additional months (29 months total) if the employer is registered with E-Verify and the student and employer agree to certain stipulations.
Granting of OPT is not automatic, although most applications are approved. You must apply in advance to the USCIS. The work must be in your field of study and it must be at the level of your education.
You can apply for OPT up to 90 days before graduation or up to 60 days after. As with all USCIS applications, there is an advantage to applying early, as processing of your application can take some time. We have additional information about applying for OPT here. If your application for OPT is approved, the USCIS will issue you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Please keep this information in mind while on OPT.
Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a benefit available after you have been in legal student status for one academic year. CPT is available only while a student is in F-1 status, before completion of educational objectives. The employment must be a part of your educational program, or an “internship.” This is usually scheduled as part of your degree program. If you use 12 months or more of full time curricular training, you will completely lose the Occupation Practical Training (OPT) benefit. Most students, therefore, plan to use no more than 360 days of full time curricular practical training so they remain eligible for OPT.
At Concordia, curricular training is administered through Cooperative Education. If you are interested in participating in our Cooperative Education program, you may qualify by completing the steps listed below.
- Register with the Career Center. You may complete your registration by accessing our website. Follow the instructions provided.
- Complete at least your first year of college. Generally, the Co-op program is open to students holding 14 or more courses and at least 28 grade points. In certain cases, students who have completed at least 12 courses and/or who have met the minimum requirements established by the departments may be considered for Cooperative Education credit upon special request.
- Be a student in good standing. Students must be in good standing with the college in order to participate in the Co-op program. This means you must have a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or higher and maintain this average throughout your Co-op experience.
- Discuss a Co-op with your advisor. You must register for a minimum of 0.5 credits. (Prevailing tuition fees are charged.) You and your advisor should decide how much credit you would like to earn and through which department you will earn the credit. You also may verify financial aid availability with Don Buegel before finalizing your registration.
- Choose a Faculty Coordinator. Once you determine what type of credit you would like to earn, you must choose a Faculty Coordinator from the corresponding department. The faculty member you choose must agree to oversee your Co-op and approve the terms of you Learning Agreement.
- Make an appointment in the Cooperative Education office. Interested students should apply in advance of the term in which they wish to enroll for credit. Please call the Co-op office at 299-3492 or stop by Academy 101 to schedule an appointment. We will discuss additional Co-op information and opportunities.
- Record the CPT on your I-20 form. After you have a signed Learning Agreement and have registered for the course, the career center can record the CPT in SEVIS and on your I-20 form. Your employer will typically need to see this before you may begin work. You may engage in CPT only for the specific employer, location and period approved and recorded on your I-20 form.
Severe Economic Hardship Employment
Under certain circumstances of severe economic necessity, an F-1 student may be eligible to apply for authorization to work off-campus. Economic necessity refers to financial problems caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control that arose after obtaining F-1 status. The application requires a fee, a recommendation from the International Student Adviser, supporting materials documenting the unforeseen nature of the economic hardship and the unavailability of sufficient employment on campus, a transcript, an I-765 form, and the students immigration documents. The processing of the application takes two to six months on average. If approved, the 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.
Many students believe this applies to them, but actually its use is rather rare. Many students prefer to get employment authorization using CPT as it can be faster, less expensive, and more flexible to arrange.
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 US 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 an ICA Assistant Director will need to look at all options available within the F-1 regulations. It is important for the ICA Assistant Director to understand the full scope of the financial necessity and the conditions that created the hardship.
To be eligible to apply, the student must;
1) have completed at least one full academic year and be in good acacia and legal standing,
2) demonstrate that there is an unforeseen severe economic necessity beyond the student's control that arose after obtaining F-1 status,
3) demonstrate that other employment opportunities are unavailable or are otherwise insufficient,
4) establish that employment will not interfere with full-time study.
Please see an ICA Assistant Director, if you have questions or believe you qualify for this benefit.
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 Moorhead or Fargo.
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.
Handout for Employers
This handout may be useful for you to show employers about ability to work in the USA.
Employment after Graduation
OPT, as described above, is the most common means of working after you leave school. Read more about jobs after graduation.