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Employment for International Students
Please read this section carefully before accepting any job offer. Employment for international students on F-1/J-1 visas is strictly regulated.
Employment is any type of work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food, or any other benefit. If you receive no pay or other benefit for the work performed, and the position is normally an unpaid position, this activity is considered to be volunteer work. Volunteering for a job that is usually a paid position is still considered employment.
Note of Caution: Employment options under the F-1 and J-1 visas are strictly regulated and, in many cases, prohibited.
F-1 and J-1 students should not assume that they are automatically eligible to work in the United States. Unauthorized employment is considered a serious violation of F-1 and J-1 student visa status.
F-1 and J-1 students must make sure that any employment they plan to engage in is legal and that they have the necessary employment authorization before beginning to work. Starting to work without prior authorization from International Student Services is regarded as illegal employment. Illegal or unauthorized employment can have serious consequences such as termination of their immigration status. It is always recommended for F-1 and J-1 visa students to consult with an International Student Services international student advisor concerning their eligibility or category of employment.
In order to maintain valid F-1 status, students must not work in the United States unless the employment is specifically authorized under the regulations. In order for F-1 students to engage in any type of employment they are required to be currently maintaining valid F-1 status and to be in good academic standing.
F-1 students are allowed to work on campus up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours per week during official school breaks. Special authorization from UTSA International Student Services is not required for on-campus work, but you must continue maintaining valid F-1 status and to be good academic standing to remain eligible for this benefit.
Acceptable employment includes assistantship or fellowship, working within UTSA offices or departments, and work performed on UTSA premises for an outside contractor or firm as long as the employer provides direct services to students (for example, work for a food service company at UTSA).
The UTSA Career Center has a database of UTSA on-campus jobs. For more information, visit the UTSA Career Center website.
F-1 off-campus employment options listed below require consultation with an International Student Services international student advisor.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a type of employment that must be an integral part of an established curriculum, for example, required internships as published in the school catalog.
Under most circumstances, to be eligible for CPT students must have been in F-1 student status for one academic year. A job offer is required to be eligible to apply for CPT. While there is no limit to the length of time students may engage in CPT, any student who works for twelve (12) months or more in full-time CPT automatically loses the eligibility of any Optional Practical Training after completion of studies. For more information see Curricular Practical Training.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 students to engage in temporary employment to gain practical experience in their field of studies. Any work done must be related to the student’s field of study. It is best used for jobs or internships that are not “an integral part of an established curriculum.” No job offer is required to apply for OPT. To be eligible for OPT, the student must have been in F-1 student status for one academic year. OPT is available for a total of twelve (12) months of full-time OPT per degree level. The periods of OPT can be used before completion of studies (pre-completion OPT), after completion of studies (post-completion OPT), or for a combination of both. Any periods of OPT used before completion of studies will be deducted from the total twelve-month period available. For example, if students work full-time for two months of OPT during a summer vacation, they would only have ten months of OPT available after graduation. For more information see Optional Practical Training.
All students applying for post-completion OPT are required to complete the OPT workshop. The workshop is intended to provide detailed information and to answer specific questions you may have about post-completion OPT. You must register for the workshop as seating is limited to 10 people per session. Register online at OPT Workshop Registration.
You must report to the Office of International Programs to check in before the workshop. Please arrive a few minutes early. Late arrivals will need to reschedule for a later workshop date.
To complete the final application, students will still need to see an international student advisor. Please remember that the workshop is strictly an informational session to review how to apply for OPT. Applications will not be filled out during the workshops.
CPT and OPT at a Glance
There are very specific differences between Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training. Refer to this chart to see which may work better for your academic plans:
|Curricular Practical Training (CPT)||Optional Practical Training (OPT)|
|Student must have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student for at least one academic year to be eligible.||Student must have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student for at least one academic year to be eligible.|
|Student may use CPT authorization only before completion of studies||Student may use OPT authorization before graduation (pre-completion OPT) and after graduation (post-completion OPT).|
|Employment must be “integral to the established curriculum” of the degree program.||Employment must be directly related to the student’s major field of study.|
|Student must be registered for a course corresponding to the employment.||No course registration corresponding to the employment is required.|
|Only authorized on a semester basis||Not semester specific|
Student can work either
Pre-completion OPT may be
|12 months of full-time CPT eliminates eligibility for OPT. Part-time CPT employment does NOT affect eligibility for OPT.||Any periods of pre-completion OPT, whether part- or full-time, are deducted from the total 12-month OPT period.|
|Employer-specific: Student can only work for the employer listed on the student’s I-20 and in SEVIS.||Not employer-specific: Student can work for any employer as long as the position is related to his/her field of study.|
|International Student Services can authorize CPT by issuing a new I-20 with CPT recommendation.||International Student Services and USCIS must authorize OPT.|
|Processing time is 2-3 business days.||Processing times vary, but are generally 1-3 months.|
|Employment is only permitted during the dates in the CPT recommendation on the student’s I-20 and in SEVIS.||Employment is only permitted during the validity dates on the EAD card.|
|No fee to apply||USCIS requires a $380 application fee.|
OPT STEM Extension
Recipients of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in certain STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields can apply to USCIS for a one-time 17-month extension of post-completion OPT. Besides having completed a degree in a STEM field of study, students must have a job offer or be working for an employer registered with E-Verify, a federal employment verification system. For more information, see OPT STEM Extension.
Employment Due to Severe Economic Hardship
To be eligible for this category, F-1 students must have been in F-1 student status for at least one academic year and must prove to USCIS that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond their control that arose after obtaining F-1 status. Statistically it is very difficult to meet the criteria to qualify for this category of work authorization. For more information, see Employment Due to Severe Economic Hardship.
A cap-gap extension is a regulatory provision which automatically extends an eligible F-1 student’s status to bridge the gap between the end of F-1 status and start of H-1B status, thereby allowing the student to remain in the U.S. during the ‘gap’ period. For more information, see CAP-GAP Extension.
The instructions and forms for pre-completion, post-completion and the STEM OPT Extension are posted below. Download and review the related handouts before submitting the forms to International Student Services.
Note: All students who have been approved for OPT by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are required to keep their personal and employment contact information up-to-date by reporting to International Student Services. In order to update your information, please submit the new information in our OPT Update Form.
In order to maintain valid J-1 status, students must not work in the United States unless the employment is specifically authorized under the regulations. In order for J-1 students to engage in any type of employment they are required to be currently maintaining valid J-1 status and to be in good academic standing.
Note: J-1 students sponsored by other organization must contact a representative of that organization and inquire about their eligibility for work authorization.
J-1 students must obtain written authorization from International Student Services before they begin to work. To request authorization, the student must submit the following items to International Student Services:
- Completed On-campus Employment Authorization Form
- Job offer letter
This written authorization must be obtained annually. To request the annual authorization, the student must submit the updated job offer letter and On-Campus Employment Authorization Form to International Student Services.
With a written authorization from International Student Services J-1 students are allowed to work on campus up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours per week during official school breaks. You must continue maintaining valid F-1 status and to be good academic standing to remain eligible for this benefit.
Acceptable employment includes assistantship or fellowship, work for UTSA offices or departments, and work performed on UTSA premises for an outside contractor or firm as long as the employer provides direct services to students (for example, work for a food service company at UTSA).
The UTSA Career Center has a database of UTSA on-campus jobs. For more information, visit the UTSA Career Center website.
J-1 off-campus employment options listed below require consultation with an ISS international student advisor.
Academic training is training related to a student’s field of study. Academic training must be authorized in advance through written approval of an International Student Services advisor. Academic training may be divided into two categories:
- Pre-completion: Before completion of studies
- Post-completion: After completion of studies
For more information see Academic Training.
Work Authorization Due to Economic Hardship
To be eligible for this category, J-1 students must have been in J-1 student status for at least one academic year and must prove to USCIS that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond their control that arose after obtaining J-1 status. Statistically it is very difficult to meet the criteria to qualify for this category of work authorization. For more information, see Employment Due to Severe Economic Hardship.
Within the first three days of beginning work, the employee and employer must complete a form entitled Employment Eligibility Verification (U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services Form I-9), which is kept by the employer. To complete the form, the student must provide documents to prove that they are authorized to be employed in the United States. The Form I-9 must be updated each time the work authorization is renewed or there is a change of employer. Anyone earning income in the United States must have a U.S. Social Security Number.
A Social Security Number is a nine-digit number issued to those who are authorized to work in the United States. Its primary purpose is to report wages to the U.S. government for taxation purposes. Only those F-1 and J-1 visa students who are authorized to work can apply for an SSN. The Social Security Number information page on this website has a list of required documents needed to apply at the Social Security Administration office for a Social Security Number.
It is recommended to make copies of all the required documents and take them with you to the Social Security Administration.
F-1 and J-1 visa students may only engage in on-campus employment at the school having jurisdiction over their SEVIS records.
|Transfer In to UTSA||The student may begin working at UTSA after the transfer release date and within 30 days of the program start date.|
|Transfer out to a different school||The student cannot work at UTSA after the SEVIS release date.|