As an F-1 or J-1 student, you may find that you are interested in work opportunities in the US. Work may provide you with additional funds, or beneficial opportunities for you to practice your skills.
It is important to remember that the US government defines “work” as any activity that someone would normally be paid to perform. Even if you are not being paid, you still may need authorization. Always check with OISS before accepting any position, even if it is unpaid or “volunteer”. We will help you meet your goals in a legal way.
Curricular Practical Training
Optional Practical Training
For New Students
For Current Students
F-1 Students are eligible to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week during the Fall and Spring semesters, and up to 40 hours per week during the Winter and Summer semesters. On-campus employment can include work conducted at on-campus facilities such as the dining hall, library, or offices on-campus, as well as with associated businesses on-campus, such as the Barnes and Noble Bookstore. Before you accept any employment, you should check with the OISS to confirm if this opportunity is valid. If you require a social security number, or if your potential employer requires verification that you are eligible to work, you should complete and submit the On-Campus Employment Eligibility Form.
Curricular practical training, or CPT, is training that is both related and required by all students in a specific program, or all students in a specific course.
These experiences may include alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. Students can engage in CPT on a part-time basis (no more than 20 hrs/week) during the Fall and Spring semesters. Students can apply for full-time CPT (more than 20 hrs/week) during the Winter and Summer semesters. Graduate students in sustaining status can also engage in full-time CPT; authorization ends once the dissertation has been defended. To apply for CPT, the student must submit a completed “CPT form” (available at the OISS website) along with the necessary documents listed on the form. Once the CPT is approved, the school official will issue a new I-20 reflecting the work authorization.
To be considered for CPT authorization, you must meet the following conditions (in addition to the basic requirements listed above):
- Must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis at a DHS-approved school for one full academic year. (Exception exists for graduate students whose programs require immediate curricular training.)
- Must currently be in valid F-1 student status and in good academic standing. CPT will NOT be approved for graduate students with GPA less than 3.0 and undergraduate students with GPA less than 2.0.
- The student will continue to be enrolled for a full course of study, or otherwise considered full-time during the CPT in fall and spring semesters. This may include students on sustaining status.
- Employment must not only be related to your major field of study, but must also be a required part of the program or course. A good test for "required" would to ask the question, "Can I graduate without this training opportunity?" and "Is this training required of all students in my program or in this course?". The answer to the first question should be "no" and the answer to the second should be "yes".
- Student must complete the CPT application form and submit all required documents by the drop/add deadline of the semester in which the CPT will be used
- Employment must be authorized before you begin working even if you are not yet being paid!
CPT Application Procedures
- Meet with your Academic Advisor/Graduate Advisor to discuss appropriate employment opportunities for your major.
- Find an temporary internship, co-op, or practicum. UD’s Career Services Center may be able to assist you in this process.
- Complete the CPT recommendation form and obtain the necessary approval and signature from your Academic Advisor/Graduate Advisor.
- Obtain an offer letter, on official letterhead, from your hiring company indicating the following:
- Description and responsibilities of the appointment
- Exact address and location of the CPT
- Start and end dates of the appointment
- Number of hours per week
- Supervisor’s contact information and signature
- Obtain proof of enrollment: For each term, students must be registered in the appropriate course that satisfies an academic core or elective requirement. 3 credits are required in fall and spring semesters; 1 credit is required in winter and summer sessions. Students on sustaining status must provide proof that the CPT is required to complete their Thesis/Dissertation.
- Graduate Students must submit all of the above forms to the Office of Graduate & Professional Education for review and signature at least three weeks before the first day of the start of CPT.
- Submit all the above documents and completed forms to OISS no later than 2 weeks prior to your intended employment start date. Please allow 2 weeks for OISS to process your request. You will receive an email to your UD email address when your I-20 is ready for pick-up or if there is a concern regarding your application.
Remember, you are not permitted to begin employment prior to authorization. This includes unpaid work. OISS will not back-date employment authorization.
NOTE: Accepting work appointments without the proper authorization is a serious violation of student F-1 status. Failure to comply with all immigration regulations may cause a student to not be eligible for benefits normally granted to F-1 students and, in some situations, may cause the student to be subject to deportation. CPT may be for 20 hours per week (part time) or for more than 20 hours per week (full time). Students who accumulate 12 months of full-time CPT will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) at the time of degree completion. Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility. Once a student has filed an application for OPT, the student may not apply for CPT. A CPT application is employer specific and must be made for each experience; that is, if a student changes companies or places of work during the approved CPT period, the student must submit a new CPT application. (Students in the English Language Institute are not eligible for CPT or OPT.)
An F-1 student may be eligible for up to 12 months of optional practical training at each level of F-1 status. Employment must be directly related to the student’s major field of study.
Eligible students may apply for "pre-completion OPT " (before completion of program) and/or "post-completion OPT " after completion of program). Although students may engage in both pre-completion and standard post-completion OPT, the maximum amount of time that can be granted for all standard OPT combined is 12 months per educational level.
Students do not need a job offer in order to apply for OPT. Students recommended for OPT will receive a new SEVIS I-20 with an OPT recommendation notation. Students need to have authorization from USCIS before they can begin employment. Students can apply for post OPT 90 days prior to graduation or 60 days after graduation. Once the student applies, the authorization can take up to 90 days to obtain.
Eligibility for OPT
To be eligible for OPT, students must meet the following conditions (in addition to the basic requirements listed above):
- Must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis* at a DHS-approved school for one full academic year.
- Must continue to be enrolled for a full course of study during the Pre-OPT
- Employment must be related to your major field of study
- Students enrolled in English language training programs are not eligible for OPT
OPT Application Procedures
- A recommendation form signed by academic advisor and, for graduate students, the Office of Graduate & professional Education.
- Completed Form I-765 and Form G-1145 .(Please Read the instructions before printing or filling the form)
Note: Use the OISS address on the I-765 form: c/o OISS, 26 E. Main Street, Newark, DE 19716
- Copies of all Form I-20's page 1 and 3 (including I-20's from other institutions and other levels), passport, visa and your I-94 card (back and front) or your I-94 printout.
- A personal check or money order for $380 made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- Two passport type photos.Photos must be 2"x2" on a solid white background. If the background is grey, USCIS will not process the application and this will cause a delay. To avoid this issue, do not wear a white ot grey shirt to have your photo taken. Wear a dark, solid color so the white background is balanced as white.
- Employment letter (if offer has been made).
After you have all of the above, call (302)831-2115 to schedule an appointment with your immigration advisor.
Topics on OPT
OPT can be complex. Choose one of the following topics for more information.
Students on a J-1 student visa are eligible for employment through "Academic Training" for up to 18 months or the length of the program, whichever is shorter. More than 18 months can be approved only if it is necessary to satisfy the mandatory requirements of his or her degree program. Doctoral students might be eligible for an additional 18 months of post-doctoral academic training. The total training period may not exceed the period of full course of study, meaning that if the full course of doctoral study is less than 36 months, academic training would be limited to that lesser duration. The training must be related to the student's field of study. It is available before completion of your program of study as well as afterwards. As long as you stay within the stipulated time limits, it lets you work part-time during the academic year (Fall & Spring) and full-time during Winter and Summer; Students on sustain status may be eligible for Full-time employment. Nondegree students are eligible to participate in academic training, but are also subject to the requirement that time in academic training not exceed the time spent in the program of study, and that the student be primarily in the United States to study rather than engage in academic training.
To qualify for Academic Training, you must first obtain approval in writing from your J-1 Responsible Officer (at OISS). He or she must evaluate the proposed employment in terms of your program of study and your individual circumstances, and then decide whether it would be appropriate or not.
Eligibility for Academic Training
- Your primary purpose in the United States must be study rather than Academic Training.
- You must be in good academic standing at the school named on your Form DS-2019.
- The proposed employment must be directly related to your major field of study.
- Throughout your Academic Training you must maintain permission to stay in the United States, in J-1 student status, and apply for extensions as necessary.
- You must maintain health insurance coverage for yourself and any J-2 dependents throughout your Academic Training.
- Your employment may be authorized for "the length of time necessary to complete the goals and objectives of the training, provided that the amount of time... is approved by [both] the academic dean or advisor and... the responsible officer, "to quote the regulations. It may not exceed the period of full course of study or 18 months, whichever is shorter. If you receive a Ph.D., however, your "post-doctoral training" may last as long as 36 months. Additional Academic Training, beyond the 18 or 36-month limit, is allowed only if it is required for the degree. The total training period may not exceed the period of full course of study.
- Part-time employment for Academic Training counts against the 18 or 36-month limit the same as full-time employment.
- Earning more than one degree does not increase your eligibility for Academic Training.
- Academic Training approved after completion of your program must be reduced by any prior periods of "Academic Training."
- Academic Training following completion of your program of study must involve paid employment. Unpaid academic training following completion of the degree program is permissible only if the student is supported from other sources such as the home government.
- Whether the other items in the application are ready or not, you must obtain a written offer of appropriate employment and present a copy to your J-1 Responsible Officer no later than 30 days after the end of your program, or you will lose eligibility for Academic Training after completion.
- If you plan to leave the United States after you complete your program of study and reenter the country for J-1 Academic Training, you must obtain authorization before you leave. Otherwise, you will have trouble reentering. Consult your J-1 Responsible Officer for advice.
Application Procedures for Academic Training
- Obtain a letter of offer from your prospective employer that includes your job title, a brief description of the "goals and objectives" of your Training program (your employment), the dates and location of the employment, the number of hours per week, salary, and the name and address of your "training supervisor" (the quotations come from the regulations). Make sure that your employer's letter includes all of these details.
- Give a copy of your employer's letter to your academic adviser or dean for use in writing to your J-1 Responsible Officer recommending the Academic Training. According to the text of the regulation, your adviser's letter must set forth
- The goals and objectives of the specific training program;
- A description of the training program, including its location, the name and address of the training supervisor, number of hours per week, and dates of the training;
- How the training relates to the student's major field of study; and
- Why it is an integral or critical part of the academic program of the exchange visitor student."
- Your adviser must also approve your Academic Training for the length of time necessary to complete the goals and objectives of the training.
- When your academic adviser's recommendation is ready, you should deliver or send it to your J-1 Responsible Officer, with a copy of the employer's letter attached.
- Your J-1 Responsible Officer must evaluate the Academic Training program and decide whether it is warranted and appropriate. If so, he or she will write you a letter of approval. To authorize post-doctoral training your J-1 Responsible Officer must also issue you a new Form DS-2019, for no more than 18 months at a time.