F-1 Students: Learn the Rules for Summer Employment and Training
If you are an F-1 international student who wants to train, intern, or work this summer, your first step is to talk to your designated school official (DSO).
It is illegal to work in the United States without authorization, so it is important that you speak with your DSO to make sure you follow the rules and maintain your student status.
The summer training and work opportunities available to you depend on what type of authorization you have or apply for, and whether you are eligible to take an annual vacation.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an off-campus employment option for F1 students when practical training is an integral part of the established curriculum or academic program. CPT employment is defined as “alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” To qualify, the work experience must be required for your degree, or academic credit must be awarded. And yes, you can get paid for CPT employment. Prior authorization by your school’s International Student Office and notification to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is required.
To be eligible for CPT employment:
- You must have been enrolled in school full-time for one year on valid F1 status (except for graduate students where the program requires immediate CPT)
- The CPT employment must be an integral part of your degree program or requirement for a course for which you receive academic credit
- You must have received a job offer that qualifies before you submit your CPT authorization request
Your job offer must be in your major or field of study
Your International Student Office must authorize you for CPT. Once you receive CPT authorization, you can only work for the specific employer and for the specific dates authorized (unlike with OPT or severe economic hardship off-campus employment, where you can work anywhere in the US). Your CPT authorization will also specify whether you are approved for part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week) CPT employment. While in school, you can only be approved for part-time CPT.
Regardless of whether you are approved for full or part-time on CPT, there is no limit to how long you can work. However, if you work full-time on CPT for 12 months or more, you are not eligible for OPT. If you work part-time on CPT, or full-time on CPT for less than 12 months, you are still eligible for all of your allowable OPT. So make sure you watch the dates and hours closely – don’t jeopardize your OPT!
As with all employment, you should work closely with your International Student Office. The general rules will apply somewhat differently to undergraduates, graduate students and PhD candidates, and they can guide you. The office can help you determine your eligibility for CPT, make sure your job offer qualifies, and make sure you follow all necessary steps in applying to USCIS. They also have to authorize your CPT, so you have no choice – you have to work with them. But they are pros, especially when it comes to USCIS regulations, so use them – they are there to help you.
- During the student’s annual vacation period and at other times when school is not in session if you are currently enrolled and intend to register for the next term while school is in session, provided that the practical training does not exceed twenty hours per week.
- after completion of course requirements (but before completion of a course of study) excluding thesis or dissertation if the student is in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree program after graduation or last term of attendance.
- Applications for practical training are sent to the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS). It takes the INS about three months to reply to a practical training application so students should plan well in advance for this kind of work permission.