A. Authorization for Employment and Training

It is important to be aware that U.S. government interpretation of training and employment regulations is subject to change without notice.

Training is any kind of activity or learning outside the classroom that is related to your studies.  Sometimes training is also considered employment.

Employment is any kind of activity that you do receive or should receive any kind of compensation for – you do not have to receive money, “compensation” includes anything of value.  Any activity you take part in for which you receive some benefit can be considered employment – this includes getting paid in your home country if you are doing the activity in the United States.  WHERE you are when you do the “work” matters.  Violating employment regulations can cause serious trouble for you.  So what does authorization for employment and training look like?

Authorization is required for any training or employment activity, paid or unpaid.  Unauthorized employment is one of the most serious violations of your immigration status

  • What is defined as “Employment” or “Work” for international students?Any activity that you engage in for any sort of remuneration or compensation.
    • 8 CFR 274a.1(f): “employee means an individual who provides services or labor for an employer for wages or other remuneration”
  • Remuneration means anything given to you for providing a service.  This might be a salary or wages, but it can also be room/board, travel expenses, meals or meal vouchers, textbooks, or other “real goods” in exchange for any service you provide.
  • ”Employment” or “work” can also mean activities which you should be paid for under the Fair Labor Standards Act, whether or not you actually do get paid.It also includes self-employment or contract employment.That means no opening a food cart, no driving for Uber or Lyft, no working for a company outside the U.S. if you are doing the actual work here, and so on.

Verify your eligibility first 

  • Before any kind of employment or training (including required internships, practicum, or student teaching activities) verify with your immigration advisor that you are in valid status before accepting employment or starting the activity.
  • Never work off campus unless you have current authorization from an immigration advisor, your J-1 Program Sponsor, and/or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Even one day of work without authorization is a serious violation of status.Uber driving, house sitting, and other “casual” activities for remuneration of any kind are considered employment and can put you out of status.
  • Any employment authorization ends immediately if you fall out of status, complete your studies, or have your I-20 or DS-2019 transferred.On campus work permission ends the last day of finals in your final term (grad students should discuss work authorization during thesis with an immigration advisor).

Documentation required

  • If you do not already have one, you must apply for U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) if you will be paid for employment activities. Note that having an SSN does not mean you have authorization to work in the United States.
    • During your studies, after you have a job offer, bring the letter of employment to GSSS to receive an application support letter and instructions on applying for a Social Security number.
    • Students applying for OPT may include an SSN application in their OPT application, or may wait until OPT approval and apply with the approved Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
  • If you have already been assigned an SSN by the U.S. Social Security Administration, that is your number for the rest of your life . Keep your SSN in a secure place.
  • If you have a regular job, off or on campus, your employer has to complete an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form with you.In most cases, you will need to show your passport, I-20 or DS-2019 plus employment letter, and I-94 information to complete the form. If you have an I-766 Employment Authorization Document (EAD), that is sufficient by itself. Your employer is not permitted to ask you for specific documents, so it is a good idea to know what you need in advance.

On Campus Employment

On campus employment must be working directly for EWU itself or contractor that provides services on campus directly to EWU students (like on-campus coffee shops or restaurants).Note that Construction work or other activities that do not directly benefit students are not considered permissible on campus employment.  Check with your immigration advisor to make sure you are allowed to accept specific jobs.

  • On campus work for all students is limited to 19 hours or less per week during academic terms and may be full-time (more than 19 hours) during official school breaks and your authorized vacation term.
  • Paid work on campus does not require additional authorization as long as you are an active academic F-1 student in valid nonimmigrant status. However, EWU’s Student Employment requires you to apply for a Social Security Number before you will be permitted to begin work.Visit the Student Employment Office online and create a Handshake account to search for and apply for on campus employment. Unfortunately, international students are not eligible for on-campus work designated as a “work study” opportunities. Please check what type of on campus employment you are applying for. On Campus Employment for J-1 Exchange Visitor students requires written permission of an immigration advisor or Program Sponsor, before beginning employment. You must also apply for a Social Security Number before you will be permitted to begin work.

Off-Campus Employment

All off campus authorization requires special permission and has a limit on the number of hours that can be worked in one week. There are firm beginning and end dates for all off campus work. Note that permission must be renewed each time you wish to work.

  • Off Campus employment is limited to academic students. English Language Institute students are not eligible.
  • Any employment authorization ends immediately if you fall out of status, complete your studies, or have your I-20 or DS-2019 transferred.
  • F-1 students require authorization on page 2 of the I-20 or an I-766 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card from DHS for any off campus work or internship activities (paid or unpaid).J-1 Exchange Visitor students must have permission from their Program Sponsor to work off campus.
  • F-2 dependents are not authorized for any employment, on or off campus, including “casual” employment like babysitting or driving an Uber or Lyft.They are also prohibited from working for a company in their home country while they are here in the United States.The U.S. government cares about where the person is while they work, not where the employer is.
  • J-2 Exchange Visitor spouses may apply for work authorization with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Please talk with your immigration advisor for details.

F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT): CPT is “employment” permission primarily used for internships, student teaching, required practicum activities, or other training outside the classroom that involves more than simple observation.  It does not matter if you receive wages or a salary for CPT.

  • CPT is available after one continuous academic year in valid student status (exception for Master’s students with program requirements to start in the first year).
  • CPT must be “integral” to your program of studies:either a requirement for your program or you are receiving course credit in your major that will count towards graduation requirements.The class or requirement should be in the EWU Catalog for your program of studies.
  • Classes, even if credit bearing and required for a major, cannot be considered for CPT if the requested activity is “recommended” rather than required for course completion.
  • Traditionally, accumulating 12 months of full time CPT makes you ineligible for OPT at same level, but part time CPT has not been limited.USCIS has recently reinterpreted this rule and may count part time CPT towards the 12 month limit as well.
    • Recently there have been reports of USCIS aggregating all practical training authorizations under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10), which may impact future applications to USCIS such as H-1B work authorization applications.Students should be cautious to protect future options.
  • To apply, submit all of the following information as soon as possible and at least two weeks before beginning your internship activities. Note that the information must be verified and may need to be clarified, so submit as early as possible:
    • Completed CPT Request Form signed by your academic advisor and proof of enrollment in appropriate course/proof of program requirement,
    • Learning contract, if applicable,
    • Letter from employer on company letterhead stating job title, duties, number of hours/week, wage (if any), location, start and end dates, and supervisor’s name and contact information; and
    • Any other information documenting the academic nature of the proposed activity.
  • If your CPT activity is approved, your immigration advisor will issue a new I-20 with CPT authorization and approved site/activity information.
  • You must have this new I-20 before engaging in any training activities.
  • Any changes to CPT require updated authorization in advance.
  • CPT work permission is only valid while you are an active student.It cannot go past the end of your final term (Master’s students should discuss work authorization during thesis with an immigration advisor).

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT): OPT is employment permission authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  You will need to work with your immigration advisor for the application process.  Employment activity – paid or unpaid—must be directly related to your major field of studies. Optional Practical Training, while permitted during your studies, is primarily used after completion of studies (degree awarded) as a one-year employment opportunity in the U.S.

  • OPT is available to F-1 students only after one continuous academic year in valid student status.
    • If you have been enrolled full time in another status and changed to F-1 through a change of status application or re-entering with a new F-1 visa, you may be eligible to apply for OPT.
  • Any OPT employment activities must be directly related to your major and appropriate to level of study, but OPT is not tied to specific classes or program requirements.
  • 12 months of OPT (pre-and post-completion, combined) are available per higher level of study.If you do not use it immediately at a level of studies, you cannot claim it later.
  • 24 month extensions are available for some Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students.See OPT information packet for additional information.
  • Apply for post-completion OPT before finishing program (no more than 90 days) or up to 60 days after.Untimely applications will be rejected by USCIS.
  • USCIS approval can take three months or more.
  • Fee required with application ($410 at this writing, verify before application)
  • I-9 and Social Security Number required for paid employment.You may apply for a Social Security Number as a part of your OPT application.
  • Request an OPT packet for additional information.
    • Recently there have been reports of an aggregate of more than 12 months of practical training – OPT and CPT together – causing problems with H-1B work authorization applications.Students should be cautious of appearing to be using CPT and OPT as work permission rather than training in their field of studies.

F-1 Economic Hardship:  Students who face serious and unforeseeable economic problems, through no fault of their own, may be eligible to apply to USCIS for employment based on economic hardship.  

  • In order to be eligible, students must meet the following criteria:
    • Have been in lawful F-1 student status and have been a full time student in good standing for at least one full academic year at the current level of studies before applying.
    • Able to show USCIS that employment is necessary due to unforeseen and unforeseeable severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond the student’s control; examples are natural disasters or major economic crisis in a student’s home country, or the death of a financial sponsor.
  • Discuss your financial concerns with your immigration advisor as early as possible in order to determine eligibility and timing.Your advisor will also need to provide an I-20 for your application.
  • Applications are submitted to USCIS and require a substantial fee (although you may apply for a fee waiver) and takes three months or more for approval.
  • Cards are valid for no more than one year; a student may reapply annually until completion of program.
  • Authorization and eligibility end on program completion.
  • If approved, employment does not have to be related to your studies

J-1 Exchange Visitor Academic Training (AT): J-1 EV students can apply for off campus work authorization directly related to their program of studies. If you are a J-1 EV, please meet with your immigration advisor to discuss your options.

  • Approval for AT requires that the student be in good academic standing.
  • AT is not available for all Exchange Visitor Programs; contact your immigration advisor or program sponsor for information.
  • AT requires a job/internship offer directly related to your field of studies.
  • AT must be approved in advance by an immigration advisor or J-1 Program Sponsor, academic program advisor, and academic department.
  • An Exchange Visitor may be authorized for AT up to the same length of time you take classes in your EV program (up to 18 months).
  • The start date for AT can be anytime during your studies or up to 30 days afterwards (but must be approved prior to completion of studies).
  • Sponsors must also "evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the academic training in achieving the stated goals and objectives" of the academic training they grant.

ELI Students:

ELI Students are not authorized for any employment, on or off campus