F-1 International Student Visa Employment Guidelines
F-1 visa holders are only eligible to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session.
F-1 visa holders at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®) are not allowed to work off campus without prior authorization from their international student advisor. Eligibility for off-campus employment is limited to Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).
The most important employment issue for an F-1 visa holder to consider is legal (authorized) versus illegal (unauthorized) employment. Make sure you have the necessary employment authorization before you begin work. Starting work without prior authorization, even if you receive authorization later, constitutes illegal employment. Contact your international student advisor with questions concerning your eligibility or category of employment.
Different requirements exist for each type of F-1 employment, but the following basic requirements apply to all types:
- You must currently be in valid F-1 status and in good academic standing at Tri-C while engaged in a full course of study, except during summer and school holidays.
- You must have completed one academic year of full-time study in order to qualify for OPT and CPT (not for on-campus employment).
- A student who is out of status is not eligible for F-1 benefits, including employment.
- Once employment is authorized, you must maintain your F-1 status or you will lose your right to continue employment and remain in the U.S.
- All employment, including on-campus employment, ends the day you graduate or transfer to another school.
Social Security Number
In order to work in the U.S., you will need a valid Social Security Number (SSN). Your student ID number (S-Number) is not a valid Social Security number. Students may apply for a SSN only after they have been offered a job or upon receipt of work authorization. The Social Security Administration will process your application, and a Social Security card will be sent to you.
F-1 student visa holders at Tri-C may engage in three types of employment:
1. On-Campus Employment
F-1 students are permitted to work on the campus of their choice while attending Tri-C and maintaining immigration status. This work is part time (limited to 20 hours per week) when school is in session, but can be full time during holiday and vacation periods.
An employment offer letter is required from the on-campus employer. If you are uncertain whether any proposed employment would qualify as "on-campus" employment, please contact your international student advisor.
Steps to apply for on-campus employment.
2. Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
F-1 students may be eligible for CPT if it is a requirement or option in the course sequence of their chosen field of study. These experiences may include internships, student teaching, cooperative education programs and practical experiences required as part of the student's academic program or for which academic credit is granted. Students authorized for CPT will receive a new SEVIS I-20 with the CPT notation. Contact your international student advisor for more information on eligibility for CPT and application procedures.
Steps to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
3. Optional Practical Training (OPT)
All F-1 students who study academic programs in the U.S. are eligible for paid employment experience for each academic level before they leave the U.S. OPT provides an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge obtained in an academic program to a practical work experience in the U.S. This employment opportunity must be directly related to your major field of study. Students working toward an associate degree at Tri-C qualify for one year of OPT; those who choose to use their OPT on a part-time basis only are eligible for two years. Students may choose to use their OPT in any of the following time frames:
- While school is in session (part-time only).
- During school vacations (full- or part-time).
- After completion of studies (full-time only) — post-completion OPT
How do I qualify for OPT?
You must satisfy the following requirements to qualify for OPT:
- Employment must be related to the area of study indicated on your Form I-20.*
- You must be in valid F-1 visa status.
- You must have completed coursework at Cuyahoga Community College in the field of study listed on your I-20.
- You must have completed at least one academic year in F-1 visa status in the U.S.
*English as a Second Language does not count toward OPT. If the degree program indicated on your I-20 is Language Training, you do not qualify for employment.
Eligible students may apply for "pre-completion” OPT (before program completion) and/or "post-completion” OPT (after program completion). Students do not need a job offer in order to apply for OPT. OPT requires the student to get authorization from USCIS before they can begin employment. This authorization can take up to three or four months to obtain. Students recommended for OPT will receive a new SEVIS I-20 with an OPT recommendation notation. For additional information, review the steps to apply for OPT.
Steps to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
In rare circumstances, F-1 students may be eligible to apply with USCIS for the following authorization:
F-1 students who experience a serious economic hardship due to an unforeseen change in their financial situation may qualify for off-campus employment authorization. Among the changes that may qualify a student for economic hardship authorization are unexpected losses of a sponsorship, significant currency devaluation or large business loss by a financial sponsor. Students must be able to document the change in their financial situation and prove that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond their control. Contact your international student advisor for more information.