F-1 Employment Opportunities

The following is a list of all types of opportunities to obtain authorization to work in the United States if you are in F-1 immigration status. Each category may allow for authorization under different circumstances and at different times during your stay in the U. S. For detailed information on a particular category, please click on the subject heading.

On-Campus Employment

International students are allowed to work on university campus for a limited amount of hours a week (less than 20 hours a week, on campus). Visit the UNK Student Employment Services website for more information about working on campus.Chartwells

International students do qualify to work upon arrival at UNK; however, they must work only on-campus in part-time, non-work-study jobs.

If you are looking for a job, you can try to contact (in person) the Chartwells office, the Antelope Bookstore, UNK Facilities, Residential and Greek Life, and/or the UNK Library. Also you can visit the UNK Student Employment Services website. It is important to know that international students are not eligible for work-study positions, so make sure you check the Non-Work Study On Campus jobs.

If do you want to work on campus you must get a Social Security Card. (More Information)

Off-Campus Employment Options

Department of Homeland Security logoBelow is information on the different options available for off-campus employment for F-1 Student Visa holders.

It is against the law to have an off campus job while on a F-1 visa without the following options:

Severe Economic Hardship

Students who have been in F-1 status for one academic year and who are experiencing extreme financial difficulties due to unforeseen changes that severely affect their financial resources may apply for work permission, known as Severe Economic Hardship (SEH). Authorization is given by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the recommendation of the International Student Services Office (ISS) in Welch Hall.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) regulations, if on -campus employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, F-1 students are eligible for off-campus work authorization "caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control.”

USCIS states that circumstances deemed “severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control” may include “loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of the currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.” Retirement of a parent or birth of a child are not considered unforeseen and will not qualify as reasons for economic hardship.

As an F-1 student, you are eligible to apply for off-campus employment based upon severe economic hardship provided that ALL of the following requirements are met:

  • You are in good academic standing and are registered as a full-time student for a minimum of one academic year;
  • You can demonstrate unforeseen severe economic hardship (this will require documentation to prove the hardship);
  • You can show that employment opportunities on campus are otherwise unavailable or insufficient (proof must be provided);
  • Your acceptance of employment will not interfere with your full course of study (recommendations from two (2) advisors will be requested along with proof of good academic success to date).

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular practical training (CPT) is employment pursuant to an internship requirement or internship elective which is an integral part of the established curriculum of your school, which will be counted towards completion of your degree.


  • Training required by your degree program always meets the requirements for curricular practical training, regardless of whether or not you receive academic credit for your work.
  • Graduate students maintaining lawful F-1 status may apply for permission to engage in CPT whenever your program requires your participation, which may be immediately upon beginning your studies.
  • Undergraduate students must have completed nine months of full-time study in order to be eligible for any form of CPT.
  • Training not required by your degree program may meet the requirements for CPT if you receive academic credit for the employment experience and if it is an important part of your studies.
  • Students must be in lawful F-1 status and have been a full-time student for at least nine months.
  • ELI students are not eligible for CPT.

Part-time vs. Full-time Curricular Practical Training

Part-time CPT: Employment for 20 hours or less per week while you are also enrolled for classes is considered “part-time” curricular practical training. The employment authorization written on the student's I-20ID (Student) Copy should therefore specify permission to engage in “part-time” training, and you must be careful to limit your work to no more than 20 hours per week. There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in part-time curricular practical training, but you must be simultaneously enrolled full-time in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.

Full-time CPT: Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered “full-time” curricular practical training and the employment authorization on your I-20ID (Student) Copy should, in this case, specify permission to participate in “full-time” training. While in full-time training, you need not be enrolled for classes in order to maintain lawful F-1 status. There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in full-time curricular practical training, but if you participate for twelve months or more, you will not be eligible for post-completion practical training (see next paragraph).


  • US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations do not place an absolute limit on the amount of CPT you may utilize. However, if you engage in one year or more of full-time CPT, you will lose your eligibility to engage in Optional Practical Training.
  • CPT is always part-time during the academic year (max of 20 hrs/wk) unless the student is engaged in doctoral dissertation research. CPT may be full time during the annual vacation.
  • CPT taken with academic year coursework must be approved at the beginning of the semester in which the course is taken. The CPT must also be completed during the same semester.
  • CPT taken without coursework does not sustain F-1 nonimmigrant status, except in the case of doctoral students. If you are a Master's Degree student, you must take 3 credits of coursework (or more, depending on your school's policy) along with the CPT.
  • You may engage in curricular practical training only after your SEVIS record has been updated by an ISSO adviser and a SEVIS I-20 has been printed, indicating the approved employment. The endorsement will indicate the precise details of the authorized training, including the name and location of the employer, the specific dates of the training period, and whether it is full-time or part-time.

Employment Eligibility Verification
When you begin work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled “Employment Eligibility Verification" (INS Form I-9), which the employer retains. The I-20 must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission.

Social Security and Other Taxes
In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. less than five years are exempt from Social Security (F.I.C.A.) taxes. Your earnings are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. Students must file a tax return on or before April 15 each year, which will determine if any of the withheld taxes can be refunded.

A Note of Caution
While INS regulations provide a variety of opportunities for you to be employed during your time in F-1 status, working improperly or without authorization is a serious violation of your status. You should therefore consult with your international student adviser before taking up ANY employment. It is YOUR responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations that apply to F-1 students. If you fail to comply with your responsibilities, you may not be eligible for benefits normally granted to F-1 students.

Procedure to Apply
To obtain the ISS recommendation for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), you must submit the following documents for processing to the ISS office:

  • A letter from your academic advisor describing why the CPT experience is a necessary part of your academic program and the number of credit hours you will receive for the experience; or that you are receiving credit for the experience even though it is not a part of your academic program. Give this sample advisor’s letter to your advisor.
  • A letter from the potential employer outlining the specific job duties, exact beginning and ending dates of employment, and the location of employment. Give this same employer’s letter to your potential employer.
  • All current and previously issued Form I-20s.

Upon receipt of all of the above documents, ISS will evaluate your eligibility. If you qualify for CPT, the necessary documents will be prepared as quickly as possible. If approved, the appropriate information will be completed on page 4 of your Student Copy I-20, which will be returned to you.

PLEASE NOTE: You may not begin employment through your internship until your request has been approved by ISS and until the date noted on the back of your I-20.

Optional Practical Training

Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment benefit contained in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) regulations governing the F-1 visa category. Students who have maintained their status will have an opportunity to obtain work experience in their fields of study in order to enhance their educational experience in the United States. Students are allowed one year of OPT for completion of each level of study (i.e., BA, MA, Ph.D. Completion of a second BA does not qualify for a year of OPT.)

Upon completion of a degree program a student may be recommended for OPT for the remainder of time for which the student is eligible. This will be for a period of 12 months provided the student has not engaged in OPT during his/her course of study. To be eligible for OPT students must have maintained lawful F-1 status and must have been enrolled full-time the last two semesters. The application process involves two steps, the first to be completed by the office of International Student Services (ISS) and the second by USCIS. Both must be completed according to the following deadlines:

Application Deadline
OPT must be requested prior to the completion of all course requirements for the degree or prior to the completion of the course of study. A student must complete all practical training within a 14-month period following the completion of study. A student must be in their last semester of course work before he/she can apply for OPT.

Can a student continue to work while in the transfer process?
A student may continue in OPT while in the transfer process, but must terminate employment upon registration at the transfer-in school. On-campus employment during a transfer, however, may only be pursued at the school that has control over the student's record, meaning the transfer out school prior to the release date and the transfer in school after the release date.

Procedure to Apply
To see a complete description of the process visit the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement. To obtain a recommendation for Option Practical Training (OPT), you must submit the following documents to ISS:

Graduate Students:
A letter from your advisor giving the date all degree requirements will be completed or a copy of the diploma.

Undergraduate Students:

  • A letter from the Registrar’s Office verifying your anticipated graduation date of studies or a copy of diploma. If you are participating in the graduation ceremony before you complete your studies, you must list the date that you complete your program of studies.
  • The date you will graduate or complete all degree requirements;
  • Your major and degree sought.

All Students:
Bring these letters to ISS for verification. Also bring the items listed below:

  • A completed USCIS Form I-765 . Note: Item #16 will be “(C)(3)(i).” Please use address of ISS office.
  • Two photos, (see the instructions). If pictures do not conform exactly to these requirements, USCIS will reject your application and return it. Cut down to 1 ½ x 1 ½ “ and write your name and I-94 in pencil on the back.
  • Form I-94 card.
  • Passport.
  • All current and previously issued Form I-20 ID (Student) Copies; a new SEVIS I-20 will be issued and mailed with the application.
  • Fee of $340.00 (personal check is best; no cash or money orders); write your I-94 number at the top of the check. Make check payable to DHS (Department of Homeland Security).

The International Student Advisor will review your materials and copy all material to be sent to USCIS. You will be asked to return to collect your immigration documents and your application. You will be in charge of mailing your application in a traceable manner (such as certified mail with a return receipt verifying delivery), to:

For US Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:
PO BOX 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Express Mail and Courier deliveries:
Attn: AOS
1820 E Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

This process will take approximately 90 days but could take as long as 180 days.

NOTE: Upon receipt of your I-797 application, the USCIS Office will send you a Notice of Action, Form I-797 acknowledging receipt of your documents. This form has a receipt number. Do not throw this form away. This form is your proof that you have applied for OPT and the receipt number is necessary if you need to track your documents in the event you do not receive notification from USCIS within the specified period of time.

When employment is authorized, USCIS will issue and mail you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You must use the ISS address. You cannot begin employment until you obtain this Employment Authorization Document.

Internship with an International Organization

Students who are in F-1 status are eligible to work part-time during the academic year and full-time during vacation periods for recognized international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, etc. Authorization is granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the recommendation of the International Student Services Office (ISS) or the Office of International Education (OIE).

The ISS cannot authorize an internship with an international organization - only the DHS can do so by issuing you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You cannot begin employment until you have received this card. Your first step in obtaining an EAD is to qualify for a certification from the ISS recommending you for the internship.

Step 1. Submit the following documentation to ISS as early as 90 days before you wish to begin employment:

  • Your current I-20
  • Your passport and I-94 card
  • Letter from the international organization on the organization's letterhead certifying:
    • the specific internship opportunity and a description of the duties
    • the dates of employment
    • the place of employment
    • whether the employment is full-time or part-time
    • that the proposed employment is within the scope of the organization's sponsorship.

The International Student Services Office staff will:

  • Review your application for eligibility
  • Issue a new I-20 with ISS's recommendation for employment and a recertification signature
  • Provide you with the Form I-765 application for the EAD.

Step 2.
We suggest that you mail your application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services by certified mail, return receipt requested. This will provide you with proof that your application was timely in the event the application is lost. We also recommend that you photocopy the entire application before you mail it so you have a copy for your records. So that the documents do not get lost, put the photos in a small envelope and label as "photos" and staple all pages together, being careful not to staple the photos.

Include the following documents in your applications:

  • Completed form I-765 and the required $180 (a bank check or money order made payable to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). A personal check is acceptable only if your name and address are preprinted on the front. The DHS does not accept cash.
  • Photocopy of both sides of the I-20 bearing an ISSO adviser's recommendation for the internship. Do not send the original.
  • Two recent photos of yourself. The DHS will not adjudicate the application if the photos do not comply with specific guidelines as outlined on the I-765 instructions, part 3. These are not passport photos, but instead feature the right ear in a three-quarter front profile. Do not staple photos.
  • Photocopies of both sides of any previously issued EAD cards
  • Photocopies of the identification pages of your passport and both sides of your I-94 card

Mail your applications to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services office with jurisdiction over your proposed place of employment (see the form I-765)

You may bring the completed application to the ISSO, if you would like an adviser to review it before you mail it to the DHS.

Step 3. The DHS either will send the EAD card to the address indicated on the I-765 form.
Processing time:
DHS normally takes six to twelve weeks to process the EAD. DHS regulations provide that, in the event an employment application has not been processed within 90 days of the receipt notice, the applicant will be granted "interim employment authorization". Interim employment authorization is valid for 240 days or until DHS has processed the original request for an EAD, whichever is earlier. If you have not received a response within 90 days of your application, please contact International Student Services for information about interim employment authorization.

The advisers of ISS encourage you to contact them if you have any questions about the procedure or if you receive any correspondence about your application.