Work Authorization for International Students

This page will help you learn the basics of the work authorization process. The U.S. government takes working illegally very seriously. Do not accept or begin any employment without first contacting GEO to discuss eligibility and authorization requirements. 

Types of Employment Opportunities

  1. On-Campus Employment
  2. F-1: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) 
  3. F-1: Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  4. J-1: Academic Training (AT)

General Requirements

  • Receive authorization for GEO prior to starting any type of employment, including an unpaid internship or "volunteer" work.
  • Maintain active immigration status. 
  • Pursue only part-time employment (less than 20 hours /week) when full-time enrolled.
  • Apply for a Social Security Number (SSN).

​These are general requirements that apply to all work authorizations. The type of work authorization you need depends on the type of job you have, so it is important to understand your options ahead of time. Read more about each type of work authorization below. 

On-Campus Employment

Under construction

Off-Campus Employment

Off-campus employment authorization such as CPT, OPT, or AT is only available to students that have completed at least one full academic year (two consecutive semesters) of their program of study. See the tabs below for more information about off-campus employment.

  • F-1: Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

  • F-1: Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • J-1: Academic Training (AT)

F-1: Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including but not limited to internships or practicum courses that require employment. Students must be full-time enrolled for two consecutive semesters before they are eligible to apply for CPT. See your GEO advisor at least one month before you begin your internship.

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Handout

F-1: Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is one type of work permission available to eligible F-1 students. It allows you to be employed in a job related to your major for up to 12 months at each education level – Bachelor's, Master's, and PhD –before graduation (Pre-completion OPT), after graduation (post-completion OPT), or a combination thereof. Complex rules and guidelines dictate your eligbibiliy for OPT. Carefully review the information presented here, then contact your GEO immigration advisor at least 3-4 months before the desired start-date of your employment.​

Types of OPT:

  1. Pre-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used before the student’s Program End Date. It may be part-time or full-time.​
  2. Post-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used after the student’s Program End Date. It must be full-time.​
  3. 17-month (STEM) OPT Extension: For students who majored in designated STEM degrees approved by DHS. This type of OPT is a 17-month extension of OPT.​
  4. Cap-Gap OPT Extension: For students whose prospective employers filed a qualifying H-1B-cap subject petition.

Eligibility for OPT

  • Maintain Active F-1 Status​
  • Meet the one academic year enrollment requirement
  • Seek employment directly related to your majore area of study
  • Students may only be authorized for 12 months of practical training at each level of study. 

Previous work impacts your eligibility for OPT in the following ways:​

  • Part-time pre-completion OPT counts at half the rate, e.g. 6 months of part-time OPT only deducts 3 months from total available 12 months.​
  • If you do more than 12 months of full-time CPT, you will be ineligible for OPT.​
  • Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.

Application Process

  1. Meet with GEO Immigration Advisor

Key Dates

In progress...

Maintain Status While on OPT

  • Work Requirements
  • Reqportin Requirements
  • Travel
  • Ending OPT

J-1: Academic Training (AT)

Academic Training (AT) is work authorization that allows J-1 students to work in the USA in a job or internship related to their field of study. This authorization requires approval by both SEU or ISEP and the student's home university. While AT can be done during or after you finish your exchange program, GEO recommends that you not start any employment on AT until you have been in the U.S for at least 2 months.

  • Academic Training Handout