Employment for F-1 Students

Your Rivier experience can be enhanced by employment and training opportunities on- and off-campus. Your advisor can help you shape an experience that matches your educational and employment needs.

On-Campus Employment

As an F-1 student, you may accept on-campus employment provided you are enrolled in a full course of study, have a social security card, and the employment does not displace a qualified U.S. resident. A maximum of 19.5 hours per week during the semester is allowed per the Student Employment Handbook. During summer vacations and school breaks, full-time work (40 hours) is authorized. On-campus job opportunities are published on Handshake during the academic year and by the Office of Human Resources in the summer. You must present documents such as your SEVIS Form I-20, passport, and social security card when completing the new hire paperwork for student employment.

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular practical training (CPT) refers to training that is a fundamental or an integral part of the existing curriculum. The training must alternate between classes and working such as an internship or practicum that is offered by a sponsoring employer through an agreement with the University. CPT may be granted by your advisor or a University official in increments of no more than one year. Engaging in CPT for more than one year may affect your eligibility to apply for Optional Practical Training. CPT may also be approved for part-time for 20 hours during the semester or more than 20 hours when school is not in session.

Curricular Practical Training Requirements

Meet with your International Student Advisor for eligibility inquiry and SEVIS requirements for CPT. The following are required documents for CPT application:

  • Application for the appropriate program must be completed and approved by your department coordinator
  • The recommendation form from your academic department advisor must be completed and approved by the department coordinator
  • The registration or add/drop form must be completed by the department
  • You must have an offer letter of employment from your sponsoring employer showing the title of the internship position, number of hours offered, the beginning and end date of the training

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) refers to practical training which may take place during or upon completion of the course of studies. OPT is available for a total of 12 months of full-time employment. Employment under OPT must be directly related to a student’s field of study.

Any period or increment of OPT will count toward the total 12 months. For example: part-time OPT for 20 hours per week for a period of six months will be counted toward the 12 months allowed at a rate of half the time. This means three months will have been used up of the total 12 months allowed (six months of employment at a half-time status = three months of full-time employment).

Such temporary employment may be authorized in the following situations:

  • When school is not in session and the student is currently enrolled and intends to register for the next semester
  • While school is in session, provided that the practical training does not exceed 20 hours a week
  • After completion of all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis, if applicable)

STEM OPT Extension

The Department of Homeland Security published a new rule on March 11, 2016, expanding the STEM OPT extension program; this rule took effect May 10, 2016. Students who hold degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) may be eligible to apply for an additional 24 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT), for a total of 36 months of post-completion OPT.

Only students who have completed degrees in a STEM designated field qualify for this extension. There is a possibility to apply for the STEM extension based on a prior U.S. degree in a STEM field. That degree must have been issued within the past 10 years from a SEVP-certified school that is accredited.

You are encouraged to meet with your advisor to determine if your degree or concentration is eligible for STEM Extension. A job offer or employment from an employer registered with “E-Verify,” a federal employment verification system, is a required document for filing a STEM OPT. Student and employer will be required to complete the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT students, before your application for STEM OPT is processed by the Office of Global Engagement.

How to Apply for STEM OPT?

The Office of Global Engagement recommends that you discuss your STEM OPT extension and the Form I-983 with your OPT employer as soon as possible so that you can prepare to file your STEM OPT application. Know when your initial OPT period expires. You may submit the STEM application up to 90 days before OPT period ends.

If you plan to apply for a STEM extension, you must:

  • work in a paid position for an E-Verify employer at least 20 hours per week
  • work in a position related to the STEM program major listed under “Program of Study” on the I-20
  • not work for any employer that is not an E-Verify employer
  • not have more than 150 days of unemployment time during the entire period of post-completion OPT (regular post-completion OPT and 24-month extension combined)
  • not be self-employed

Students must report within 10 days any changes to the training plan on file. Students are also required to report to their advisor if their employer is not abiding by the terms of the training plan. Students must submit a fully completed Training Plan evaluation at the end for the first and second twelve month periods of STEM OPT. Non-compliance of any of the following requirements will automatically invalidate the student’s F-1 status.

Required Documentation

STEM OPT students must provide the following information to their advisor every six months and within 10 days of any change:

  • Legal name
  • Residential and mailing address
  • E-mail address
  • Employer name
  • Employer address
  • Job title or position
  • Supervisor name and contact information
  • Employment start-date
  • Employment end-date

Limited Periods of Unemployment

During post completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization. Students granted a 24-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the total 36-month OPT period.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Application Requirements

Applicants must bring OPT application requirements to the Office of Global Engagement for review. We recommend scheduling an appointment with your advisor. Please complete the I-765 immigration form and make a copy of all required OPT documents before your appointment. The Office of Global Engagement will assist in mailing the completed application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

  • $410 check or money order payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. All fees are subject to change without notice. Always confirm the required fee with your advisor.
  • Complete the Application for Optical Practical Training form, which requires a signature from your Academic Advisor confirming your program completion date.
  • When completing the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, make sure you mark the proper code for item 16: (c )(3 ) (B) for post completion OPT. We encourage you to fill out the form online and print it. Your signature on the I-765 form is scanned directly for the EAD; make sure that there is no part of the signature that crosses the line. Use a blue pen when completing the form manually and for signing the form.
  • Photocopies of old EAD, if any.
  • Front and back copies of all previously issued I-20’s from different college/university and original Rivier University issued I-20s.
  • Two immigration style photos sized 2 X 2 (check with the advisor for specific instruction)
  • Photocopy of picture page of passport
  • Front and back copy of your I-94 card

Optional Practical Training 24 STEM Extension Application Requirements

All applicants must bring all OPT application requirements to the Office of Global Engagement for review. An appointment with your advisor is recommended.

  1. $410 check or money order payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  2. Complete a new immigration form I-765. We encourage you to fill out the I-765 form online and print it. Your signature on the I-765 form is scanned directly for the EAD; make sure that there is no part of the signature that crosses the line.
  3. Complete form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, marked with the proper code for item 16: (c )(3 ) ( C) for STEM OPT
  4. Proof of degree (copy of transcript or diploma)
  5. Copy of EAD from the initial OPT
  6. Copy of your employment offer letter for the duration of extension; provide a copy of the offer letter for your initial OPT.
  7. Provide the E-Verify number of the company and write accurate name of employer as it appears on the E-Verify system.

Frequently Asked Questions About OPT

Your advisor is available to provide additional guidance on these and other questions related to OPT:

  • Do I need to find a job offer before I apply for OPT? No, a job offer is not needed prior to applying for OPT. Your OPT job may be anywhere in the United States.
  • How soon do I apply for OPT? The earliest you can file your Post Completion OPT is 90 days prior to your program end date.
  • Can OPT be extended beyond 12 months? No, OPT cannot be extended for more than 12 months. For STEM qualified F-1 students only, the OPT can be extended for up to 17 months if requirements are met. (See information on OPT Extension)
  • What happens if I didn’t use the applied OPT? Can I carry it over for the next time? No, once USCIS processes the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that’s it.
  • If I decide to cancel my OPT before receiving my EAD, what should I do? Schedule an appointment with your advisor for options and guidance immediately.
  • What kind of documents will USCIS issue to me when my OPT application is approved? The USCIS Service Center will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This card shows your name and the dates that employment is scheduled to commence and end.
  • I plan to relocate while waiting for my EAD card. Can I use a P.O. Box to forward my EAD card? No. By law, federal mail may not be forwarded to a Post Office Box address or another address. It is very important to write a secure and correct mailing address on your OPT application. Inquire with your advisor about another address option.
  • Is traveling outside the United States advisable before I receive my post-completion OPT EAD card? Traveling outside the U.S. is not advisable until you receive the EAD card, and have at least one job offer for employment in the field of study. Also, to be eligible for re-entry to the U.S. you must have the EAD card, valid F-1 visa, valid passport, valid SEVIS Form I-20 with recent ISAO signature and OPT endorsement on page 3.
  • I received my EAD card for post-completion OPT, is it safe to travel outside the United States without employment? You can travel outside the U.S. after you’ve received your EAD card but there is a risk that you may be denied re-entry to the U.S. You must be able to convince the consular officer that you have a job waiting for you. You have to convince him/her too that you will leave the United States at the end of your OPT date. To be eligible for re-entry to the U.S. you must have an EAD card, valid F-1 visa, valid passport, job offer, valid SEVIS Form I-20 with recent ISAO signature and OPT endorsement on page 3.
  • Can I start working while waiting for my EAD card? No. You can start working only when you receive your EAD card and the employment start date on your EAD card is current. The beginning and end dates of OPT will be listed on the EAD card.
  • Do I have to depart the U.S. after the end date of my OPT/EAD card? You have exactly 60 days to depart the country. During the 60 days grace period, you also have a choice of staying in the country by seeking another degree program or seeking opportunity to another non-immigrant status. If you intend to continue academic studies, you should obtain a new SEVIS I-20 prior to the OPT end date.

Off-Campus Employment

F-1 students may apply for off-campus employment due to economic hardship. You would need to demonstrate the severity of the financial need with documentation that unforeseen circumstances have caused the urgent financial need, i.e., currency devaluation, loss of scholarship or sponsorship, and natural disaster in the home country. A budget detailing expenses versus available resources is highly recommended. You have to provide compelling evidence on why you are suffering financial difficulty despite the fact that you showed more than enough financial resources when your application for admissions was granted. Detailed explanation is needed for this application.