Employment Options for F-1 StudentsCenter for International and Cultural Education

Gustavus Career Development is an important resource for you in finding internships and careers. It normally takes a concerted effort by each student and advice from Gustavus Career Development. It is best to begin well in advance! 

This page contains information about employment options in the U.S. for F-1 students.

On campus employment:

  • U.S. immigration laws allow you to work up to 20 hours a week on-campus.
  • Students usually work no more than 12-14 hours a week on-campus, because working more than that results in exceeding your financial aid award for the year, and it is hard to work more an still succeed academically and participate in extracurricular activities.
  • It is your responsibility to keep track of how many hours you work in a week and make sure that you do not exceed 20 hours in any week (Saturday to Friday).
  • You may work full-time on campus during official school breaks, such as the summer break, if you intend to continue at Gustavus the next term.

Off campus employment:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT). If you do a Gustavus internship for credit, that is related to your major field of study, you will qualify for CPT. Career Development will advise you in finding an internship and doing it as a Gustavus internship. Your DSO (Jeff Anderson) will advise you on the immigration part, and provide you with the required documentation. There is no application fee and you do not have to wait for DHS approval. You must get your new I-20 with the CPT authorization from Jeff before you begin the internships. There are deadlines for internship approval and registration, so you should start working with Career Development well in advance of your internship. CPT can be full-time in the summer or during the J-term Interim Experience term. You are allowed an unlimited amount of part-time CPT while you are an F-1 student, but if you use over 12 months of full-time CPT, then you are not eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Immigration law requires that you must have been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year before you qualify for CPT. CPT is normally the best option to work off-campus while you are enrolled as a student.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is designed for F-1 students to gain experience related to their major field of study. All F-1 students can do 12 months of OPT. OPT may be used before you graduate (pre-completion OPT), but most students prefer to save their OPT for after graduation (post-completion OPT). If you have a STEM major (Environmental Studies, Computer Science, Biology, Biology & Molecular Biology, Mathematics, Statistics, Chemistry, Geology, Physics) and a job in that field, then you may be eligible for an additional 24 months of STEM OPT. You may apply for OPT for each education level (bachelors, masters, or doctorate). Prior to your graduation, your DSO (Jeff Anderson) will advise you on applying for OPT. You must compete an application to USCIS, pay a $410 application fee, wait for USCIS to approve, and receive your Employment Authorization Document (OPT card), before you begin working. You do not need a job before you apply. It is advised to apply at least three months before you would like to begin working.
  • Employment based on severe economic hardship. You may qualify if a situation occurs after you begin as an F-1 student, that was unforeseen and beyond your control, that results in you being unable to fund your education. Examples of unforseen economic hardship inlclude the loss or substantial decrease in a parent or sponsor's income or assets, medical bills or other substantial and unexpected expenses, inordinate and unexpected increase in expenses or living costs, or substantial flucuations in the value of currency or exchange rate. You would need to apply to USCIS, pay a $410 application fee, wait for USCIS approval, and receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) prior to working. Your application to USCIS will need to provide supporting documentation to verify your circumstances. There is a high burden of proof to show USCIS that off-campus employment is necessary. Your DSO (Jeff Anderson) will advise you on the process. You do not need a job before you apply. If approved, the employment authorization would be for one year, and would allow you to work off-campus for up to 20 hours while school is in session and full-time during school breaks. The job does not have to be related to your field of study. It can be difficult for a student to work off-campus, in addition to on-campus work and extracurricular activities, and still succeed academically.
  • Internships with an International Organization. You may qualify based on your employment if you are offered an internship with one of the qualifying international organizations listed at 8 CFR 316.20(c). You would need to apply to USCIS, pay a $410 application fee, wait for USCIS approval, and receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card), prior to beginning the internship. Even if you are offered an internship with one of these organizations, CPT is normally a better option. 

Post F-1 Student Employment Options:

  • H-1B. You may qualify if you have a job that requires at least a bachelor's degree in the field of your major, and you remplyer is willing to "sponsor" you by filing an H-1B peition with USCIS. Normally the H-1B petition would be filied while you are on OPT. There are several other factors in obtaining an H-1B, including an "H-1B cap" that limites the number of H-1B petitions each year, for which USCIS uses a lottery system to determine which applicants can proceeed. If approved, you can be in H-1B status for up to six years.
  • U.S. Legal Permanent Residency (Green Card). You may qualify based on your employment, being selected in the Green Card Lottery, or through a relationshp to a spouse or direct family member who is a U.S. cizen or legal permanent resident. Your employer or you would apply to USCIS, normally through an immigration attorney, and normally while you are in H-1B status.