Student Employment

On-Campus Employment

8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(i)

International students in F-1 or J-1 immigration status can work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. During official break periods only (i.e. Spring Break, Winter Break), students may work more than 20 hours per week. 

If you are interested in working on campus, please visit the department that interests you with a copy of your CV/resume. If they have a position open, let them know you are interested in applying.

Students with graduate assistantships are not allowed to accept other employment outside their assistantship duties. 

Off-Campus Employment

▼   Curricular Practical Training

8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)

(i) Curricular practical training. An F-1 student may be authorized by the DSO to participate in a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. Students who have received one year or more of full time curricular practical training are ineligible for post-completion academic training. Exceptions to the one academic year requirement are provided for students enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in curricular practical training. A request for authorization for curricular practical training must be made to the DSO. A student may begin curricular practical training only after receiving his or her Form I-20 with the DSO endorsement.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a benefit of F-1 status which allows F-1 degree seeking students the opportunity for employment which is temporary and directly related to the student’s academic curriculum [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)]. In some cases, the employment may be full time and off campus. Prior to beginning employment, the student must receive permission from the Designated School Official (DSO) in the Office of Immigration and International Admissions (OIIA) and a new I-20 noting the details of the CPT approval.

Although CPT cases are reviewed on an individual basis by the OIIA, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind when considering CPT. CPT employment can be approved only while a student is pursuing a degree.  Once the student has completed all program requirements, he/she is no longer eligible for CPT.  A program extension may not be requested for the sole purpose of engaging in CPT.  Curricular Practical Training is for specific offers of employment.  Thus, a job offer is required before the case may be approved.

Pre-Requirements for making application:

  • Maintain F-1 status for one academic year (two semesters)*
  • Possess a valid passport

*Graduate students enrolled in a program that requires immediate participation in an internship may apply at any time.

Full-time vs. part-time CPT

CPT can be authorized for full-time employment (more than 20 hours per week) or part-time employment (20 or fewer hours per week). However, the student must be simultaneously enrolled for sufficient credit hours to maintain lawful F-1 status.  The cumulative use of full-time CPT for twelve months or more voids a student’s eligibility for any OPT. Part-time CPT does not affect a student’s eligibility for OPT.

Eligibility Requirements:

To meet the requirements for curricular practical training, the employment must be:

  • related to student’s field of study
  • appropriate to student’s degree level
  • an integral part of student’s degree program
  • required by student’s degree program,  carry course credit or be essential for gathering research for the student’s thesis/dissertation  

CPT Application Required Documents:

  • Student Request Form
  • Copy of current I-20
  • Letter from employer including job title, dates of employment, number of work hours per week, location of employment and brief description of duties to be performed
  • Curricular Practical Training Recommendation Form completed by student’s academic advisor or department chair

*Students on assistantship are not allowed to participate in CPT and maintain their assistantship. Students will need to speak with their departments regarding this matter when discussing CPT. If your assistantship is canceled, new financial documents must be provided to the Office of International Services before CPT will be approved.

▼   Optional Practical Training (OPT)

8 CFR 214.2(f)(10) - (13)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 status which allows degree seeking students to apply for work authorization in order to gain employment experience that is directly related to their field of study.  OPT applications are specific in that they have start and end dates, are authorized for either part-time or full-time work and are considered either pre-completion or post completion (of study) petitions. Applications for OPT involve the student, the academic department, the Office of Immigration and International Admissions (OIIA), and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). When an application is approved, USCIS mails the student an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) which contains the student’s photograph, OPT category, and the dates of authorized employment.

Three kinds of OPT can be identified:

  • Pre-completion OPT
  • Post-completion OPT
  • Extensions of post-completion OPT for certain Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students

Requirements for an OPT petition:

  • Be a degree seeking student in F-1 status
  • Possess a valid passport
  • Have one academic year (two semesters) of full-time study completed before the requested OPT begin date (Note: students may apply 90 days prior to the requested start date as long as the required academic year of study will be completed during that 90 day period )
  • Have not used 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Pre-Completion vs. Post-Completion OPT

Pre-Completion OPT is for work authorization which will begin and end before the program end date listed on the student’s I-20. While school is in session, a student may apply for part-time (up to 20 hours per week) pre-completion OPT while also enrolling in the required hours to be a full-time student. Full-time pre-completion OPT may be requested for official school breaks (i.e. Summer Break, Winter Break) when the student is not required to enroll or when a student has completed all course requirements and only lacks completion of the thesis or dissertation.

Post-Completion OPT is for work authorization that will start after the program end date on the I-20. Post-completion OPT must be full-time. Students who have completed all course requirements except for the thesis or dissertation may apply for post-completion OPT although it may require the I-20 end date be shortened. OIIA can advise you on the impact of your choice as it affects the ability to extend your I-20 and receive the 17 month OPT extension for those in approved STEM fields.

Separate petitions are required for each type of OPT, therefore, it is not possible to request a period of part-time pre-completion OPT immediately followed by full-time pre- or post-completion OPT in the same petition.

Time Limits

A period of twelve months of full-time Optional Practical Training is available for each level of education in which a student enrolls. For example, a student would be eligible for 12 months at the Master’s level and another 12 months at the Doctoral level, but would not get OPT for doing another Bachelor’s program, even if OPT had not been previously used at the Bachelor level. Students who participated in full-time CPT for twelve months or more are not eligible for OPT at the same level in which the twelve months or more of CPT was used.

The use of part-time OPT is deducted from the 12 month limit at half the rate. For example, a person who has completed 10 months of part-time OPT would still be eligible for 5 months of full-time OPT.

A 24-month extension beyond the first 12 months of OPT is available for students with degrees in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 

Employment Dates

For undergraduates, the authorization period may begin as early as the date of graduation ceremonies or as late as sixty (60) days following the graduation ceremony. For graduate students, it may begin as early as the date requested after degree requirements are completed, or as late as 60 days after the Graduate School’s final acceptance of thesis or dissertation. The starting date for the OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be the date requested by the student or the date OPT is approved at the USCIS Service Center, whichever is later. The student will also request an end date which is no more than 12 months later than the start date.

Filing Deadlines

OPT petitions may be submitted up to 90 days prior to degree completion and must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after the degree completion date.

Unemployment Limit

Students with post-completion OPT are limited to 90 days of unemployment beginning with the start date of the OPT card. Unemployment is considered to be every day (including weekends and time spent out of the country) that the student does not have a qualifying work arrangement for OPT as described in the types of work appropriate for OPT section of this handout.

▼   STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension

8 CFR 214.2(f)(10) - (13)

F-1 students in post-completion Optional Practical Training who earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field as listed on the I-20 and the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program list, and who work for an E-Verify employer are able to apply for a 24-month extension of the post-completion OPT.  

Eligibility

  • Be in a period of approved post-completion OPT status and properly maintaining F-1 status
  • Current OPT must be based on a degree in one of the STEM designated fields (see link above)
  • STEM Extension may be based on a previously obtained degree. Previous degree must be from an accredited, U.S. - based institution, and the degree must have been earned within the past 10 years.
  • Possess a valid passport
  • Work at least 20 hours per week for an employer who is registered in the E-Verify program and in a job directly related to the student’s major field of study
  • Employer must agree to reporting requirements
  • Student must complete a Form I-983 Training Plan (attached) with their employer and submit with STEM OPT Extension application

When To Apply

STEM OPT petitions may be submitted up to 90 days prior to the end date on the current EAD card and must be received by the USCIS Service Center prior to the current EAD end date.

Employment Dates

Authorization begins the day after the first period of initial OPT and ends 24 months later. A student who submits the petition on time to USCIS may continue to work for 180 days beyond the expiration of the current OPT while the STEM extension is pending (274a.12(b)(6)(iv)). The work must be for an E-Verify employer.

Unemployment Limit

Post-completion OPT are limited to 90 days of unemployment beginning with the start date of the OPT card. Students with a STEM OPT Extension are granted an additional 60 days allowance for time spent unemployed. Students granted a 24-month extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the total 36-month OPT period (this includes any unemployment time accrued during the initial 12-month OPT). Unemployment is considered to be every day (including weekends and time spent out of the country). 

▼   OPT Cap-Gap Extension

A cap-gap extension automatically extends an eligible F-1 student’s status to bridge the gap between the end of OPT (F-1 status) and start of H-1B status. This extension allows a student to remain in the US and continue working during the “gap.”

The cap-gap extension is available to students who, as of April 1, were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change-of-status H-1B petition with USCIS with an October 1 start date.

This cap-gap extension will produce one of two outcomes depending on your individual situation:

• Scenario 1: Extension of your OPT work authorization to September 30. This happens if your approved OPT end date (on your EAD card) is April 1 or later.

OR

• Scenario 2: Extension of your F-1 “duration of status.” If your OPT employment authorization expires before April 1 but your 60-day grace period ends after April 1, you are allowed to stay in the U.S., if you otherwise maintain your F-1 status.  Please note: this is just an extension of your status, but you are not authorized to work until the H-1B petition is approved and goes into effect October 1.

Who is eligible for the extension?

Students in all fields of study are eligible for the cap-gap extension as long as the student has not violated the terms or conditions of their F-1 status. To qualify for the extension, the student must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that:

1. Has been timely filed (within the acceptance period – after April 1, but before either the OPT period or 60-day grace period expires)
2. Requests an employment start date of October 1
3. Requests a change-of-status (rather than consular processing)

How do I apply for the cap-gap Extension?

There is no application process for the cap-gap extension. If your H-1B petition has been approved by USCIS, your SEVIS record will automatically be updated to reflect the cap-gap extension and your work authorization will be extended to September 30. However, because of the huge number of applications USCIS receives, it is not likely that a case will be either receipted or adjudicated quickly after April 1.

The Office of Immigration and International Admissions can prepare cap-gap extensions at three different steps as allowed by USCIS and SEVP:

1. When your H-1B case has been filed and you can provide Immigration and International Admissions with proof of the submission (i.e. delivery confirmation), we can update the SEVIS system to extend your OPT only to June 1. (Please note that if your OPT already is valid through June 1, there is nothing to be done at this stage).
2.  When you get wait-listed by USCIS and you can provide Immigration and International Admissions with evidence of the wait-listing, we can then extend under cap-gap rules again to July 28. (Please note that if your OPT already is valid through July 28 or later, there is nothing to be done at this stage).
3.  Finally, when you get an official receipt notice for your H-1B case, we can process the full cap-gap extension until September 30.

To obtain a cap-gap I-20 from the Office of Immigration and International Admissions, please send an email to immigration@southalabama.edu with “Cap-Gap Extension” in the subject line. Include the following in the email:

• Full Name
• SEVIS number
• Jag ID number
• Employment start and end date as indicated on your current EAD Card
• Proof of filing (for an extension to June 1), or proof of wait-listing (for an extension to July 28), or scanned copy of I-797 H-1B approval and/or receipt notice (for an extension until September 30)
• Indicate whether you would like to pick up your document or have it mailed to you. We can ship documents to you through an express mail service provided by University Express Mail Services (UEMS) to deliver documents through DHL or FedEx in 3-5 days. Requesting your document delivery through UEMS is at your expense. Your credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Discover cards only) will be charged when requesting the service from UEMS. Otherwise, documents will be sent through regular US Postal Services "snail" mail.

What happens if my H-1B is denied after receiving the cap-gap extension?

If the student’s H-1B sponsorship is denied or withdrawn, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the U.S. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and the student should leave the U.S. immediately.

What if my OPT expires before April 1st? Will the cap-gap extension extend my OPT?

If your OPT employment authorization expires before April 1, but your 60-day grace period extends beyond April 1, your F-1 status will be extended.  Although your F-1 status would be extended, your OPT employment period is expired, and the cap-gap does not serve to reinstate or retroactively grant employment authorization.

You would be required to stop working until October 1. Also, keep in mind that the 90-day unemployment rule remains in full effect during your automatically extended work authorization (if you qualify for extension of work authorization.)

INFORMATION RESOURCES

Cap Gap Fact Sheet from the Department of Homeland Security

F-1 On-Campus and Off-Campus Employment

▼   J-1 Exchange Student Academic Training

22 CFR 62.23(f)(3)

Academic Training is a benefit of J-1 student status that allows J-1 non-degree seeking students the opportunity for employment that is temporary and directly related to the student’s field of study. In some cases, the employment may be full time and off campus. Prior to beginning employment, the student must receive permission from the Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) in the Office of Immigration and International Admissions (OIIA) and a DS-2019 updated with Academic Training information.

Although Academic Training cases are reviewed on an individual basis, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind. Only the Program Sponsor (the entity which issued the DS-2019) my authorize Academic Training. The Program Sponsor must evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the academic training in achieving the stated goals and objectives in order to ensure the quality of the academic training program. The work must be directly related to the field of study listed on the DS-2019. Academic Training is for specific offers of employment, thus, a job offer is always required before the case may be approved.

Criteria for Academic Training application:

  • Hold J-1 student status and have an unexpired DS-2019
  • Be in good academic standing
  • In the U.S. to study rather than work
  • Participate in academic training directly related to major field of study listed on DS-2019
  • Receive written approval in advance of work from OIIA for the duration and type of training

Time Limits

For all students, the period of academic training cannot exceed the period of time spent as an enrolled student. Work must begin no more than 30 days after completion of study. Application for academic training must be made well in advance of the program expiration date on the DS-2019 as a valid DS-2019 is required at all times.

Full-time and part-time work while on Academic Training
Part time work is deducted from the overall time limit at the same rate as full time work.

Financial Requirements
Work done during academic training can be paid or unpaid. For unpaid work, a student must show how they will be supported during the period of academic training. New financial bank statements may be required.