F-1 international students are only eligible to seek employment with authorization from an International Advisor. Students may not begin any type of employment without prior work authorization. This page covers the various types of employment eligibilities students may seek while in F-1 international student status. Please make an appointment with an advisor to discuss these options in detail.
The United States has very strict rules regarding the ability of foreign nationals to work in the U.S. International students in valid F-1 status may work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the academic year, and full-time during vacation and holiday breaks. Students in valid F-1 status cannot be employed off-campus without obtaining prior written authorization. Working off-campus without the appropriate authorization is considered illegal employment according to federal immigration law and is a potentially deportable offense. USCIS regulations require that all unauthorized employment be reported. It is essential for international students to understand the off-campus employment rules that pertain to them.
You may work on campus provided:
You must obtain authorization from the Office of Global Education before beginning any on-campus employment.
Purpose: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a temporary employment authorization for International students in F-1 Student visa status. CPT allows students to take an off-campus training/internship which is required by the major for a specific period of time
Length: CPT is semester based. CPT will begin no earlier than the first day of instruction and must end no later than the last day of final exams for the semester
Internship: Students must enroll in an internship course. The internship course should be an integral part of students’ established curriculum. Please note not all majors at CSUSM have internship courses that corresponds to CPT. Therefore, not all F-1 students at CSUSM are eligible for CPT
How to obtain CPT: Students must request CPT authorization from the Office of Global Education. CPT is granted by F1 International Student Advisors at CSUSM
You must meet the following criteria in order to be eligible to apply for CPT:
Compensation is not a consideration when determining whether an opportunity qualifies as CPT. Any off-campus internship positions, whether paid or unpaid, requires CPT before you begin the employment. Under no circumstance can you begin working – not even as a volunteer – before your CPT is approved. Volunteering for a position which normally provides compensation is considered “employment” and is therefore not permitted without appropriate authorization.
OPT is a type of employment authorization for F-1 students. It is an opportunity to pursue a 12-month period of work experience in your major field of study. The authorization can be used for a paid position located on- or off-campus—both before (Pre-Completion OPT) or after completion of course requirements for the degree excluding thesis or equivalent or completion of the program of study (Post-Completion OPT). Student must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one academic year (or 2 consecutive semesters at CSUSM).
The training must be directly related to the major field of study.
The authorization for post-completion OPT must begin within 60 days of completing the program of study. For example, if your program completion date is June 30, you must select a start date between July 1 - August 30. NOTE: The authorization start date will be the requested start date or the date of approval, whichever is later. It is requested that you apply 2-3 months prior to the end of your program.
The authorization for post-completion OPT must be completed within a 14-month period following the completion of study. The requested end date cannot be more than 12 months after the requested start date. For example, if your program completion is June 30, your OPT will end no later than August 30 of the following year.
An additional 12 months of practical training is available when changing to a new degree program at a higher educational level.
Student can apply for a maximum of 12 months of OPT. Any pre-completion OPT prior to program completion deducts from the maximum total of 12 months allowed for OPT.
A job offer is not required to apply for post-completion OPT. However, if applying for pre-completion OPT, it is recommended that students have a job offer letter.
On March 11, 2016 Department of Homeland Security published a new STEM Final Rule, with effective date May 10, 2016. The Office of Global Education is currently reviewing the STEM final rule and will be updating our website, application process, and instructional materials with information as soon as we are able. Once we have completed a thorough review of the rule and policy guidance, we will provide detailed information, including transition plans for current STEM OPT and STEM-eligible students.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators will provide a summary of the rule and current updates here: http://www.nafsa.org/stemoptrule. (Background on the rule can be found here.) Detailed information for students and employers can also be found on the DHS Study in the States OPT STEM Hub
If other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, an eligible F-1 student may request off-campus work authorization based on severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control. These circumstances may include:
You are eligible to apply for employment based on severe economic hardship if you:
The student is not required to have a job offer before applying for this type of employment authorization, and the job is not restricted to student's field of study/major. Economic hardship permission does not affect OPT.