The F-1 student visa provides certain employment benefits for international students to gain work experience in the United States. The U.S. government is very strict about unauthorized employment, so it is essential for F-1 students to understand what employment is permitted and to abide by these rules. You may only work in the U.S. as permitted by the F-1 regulations, and even seemingly minor infractions can have serious ramifications and result in the loss of F-1 status. Please review this webpage carefully to learn more about work opportunities on campus, off-campus internships, and employment after graduation. More general information about employment, the job search, and career readiness is available through the Career Development Office.
Employment as a Student
While you are a student, the F-1 visa permits you to work on campus, and to seek special permission through Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for an off-campus internship.
F-1 students are permitted to work on campus from the program start date through program end date listed on their I-20. Students do not need special permission from the CGE to access this benefit.
While classes are in session, F-1 students may work a maximum of 20 hours per week on campus. Students may have multiple campus jobs, but the total work per week cannot exceed 20 hours. During breaks (fall, winter, spring, and summer breaks), F-1 students can work full-time at campus jobs.
Please note that campus employment for F-1 students is limited to positions on campus for which Kenyon College or AVI are the employer. The Bookstore and Kenyon Inn are included in the campus employment benefit. Private businesses in downtown Gambier (such as the Village Inn, Market, Wiggin Street, Weather Vane, Deli, etc.) are not Kenyon-owned and therefore do not qualify as campus employment. Similarly, doing individual work for professors or community members such as babysitting, petsitting, yardwork, translating, or doing research are not permissible as campus employment (unless you are hired and compensated by Kenyon College).
The campus employment benefit will end at graduation or, in the case of students who withdraw from the college or take a leave of absence, at the time of withdrawal or leave. Students who are withdrawing or taking a leave should confirm with the CGE the date their campus employment benefit ends.
Students interested in working on campus can learn more here. After getting a campus job, students will need to complete payroll paperwork with the Career Development Office and should contact the CGE for assistance applying for a Social Security Number (SSN).
Curricular Practical Training (Authorization for off-campus internships)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is permission for F-1 students to take off-campus internships, research positions, or jobs that relate to their major and are an integral part of an established curriculum. Any F-1 student with an off-campus internship or similar opportunity must contact the CGE to seek CPT authorization before beginning the internship. On-campus internships with a campus employer fall under the campus employment benefit and do not require CPT.
To be eligible for CPT, you must meet the following:
- Be in F-1 status and have completed at least one academic year in F-1 status (or another status that permits full-time collegiate study such as H-4 or G-4) immediately prior to the internship period
- Have an off-campus internship or similar opportunity that relates to your declared major
- Enroll in EXPL 205 or 206 (Connecting Academic and Intern Experiences - Summer or Semester, respectively)
- Contact the CGE to apply for CPT authorization before beginning your internship
Off-campus internships which are paid or compensated must have CPT authorization. Non-monetary compensation could include a housing or meal allowance, transportation provisions, etc. However, whether an internship is paid/compensated is not the sole determining factor as to whether CPT is necessary. A formal internship that is relevant work experience, that you plan to list on a resume, likely needs CPT authorization even if unpaid or uncompensated. Some unpaid externships or internships may state that they do not require CPT, but you should still talk with the CGE prior to beginning these to determine if CPT is advisable. Please talk with the CGE before you begin any internship in the U.S.
Remote internships that you will be physically in the U.S. while participating in require CPT, even if the employer is not a U.S. entity. While you are physically in the U.S., you need authorization for any work activities.
Students who receive need-based financial aid and have an unpaid or underpaid summer internship may be eligible to receive funding from the Summer Internship Stipend Fund (SISF). Please note that receipt of an SISF award for an F-1 student with a U.S. based internship is contingent upon CPT issuance.
Once CPT has been issued, you will receive an updated I-20 from the CGE with your CPT authorization notated. You are eligible to work within the CPT authorization dates. During your CPT employment, you must update the CGE of any changes to your address or employment within 10 days. You should retain records of your internship such as your position description, proof of connection to your major, and hours worked; and ensure that you complete EXPL coursework to earn academic credit for your internship.
Employment After Graduation
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Post-completion OPT is a benefit of F-1 status that allows students to work in fields related to their major for up to 12 months after graduation, in the 14-month period following graduation. To be eligible for OPT, students must be in F-1 status and have completed at least one academic year of study without a gap in enrollment immediately prior to graduation. OPT requires an application and filing fee to USCIS. Students can begin applying 90 days before graduation and up to 60 days after, and are encouraged to file early to allow for USCIS processing time. Students do not need to have a job offer when applying for OPT.
To maintain F-1 status during OPT, students must work full-time (21+ hours per week) and not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment once their OPT has begun. Employment on OPT must relate to the student’s major and can include paid or unpaid employment, internships, or volunteer work. Students may also be self-employed on OPT.
You can learn more about OPT and how to apply here, and you can view an OPT Info Session recording. To begin an OPT application, F-1 seniors should contact an international student advisor in the CGE.
STEM OPT is an additional 24 months of work authorization after the OPT year for students with majors designated as STEM by the Department of Homeland Security. At Kenyon, the following majors qualify for STEM OPT: Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies, Mathematics, Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, Physics.
Please note that there are some key differences between STEM OPT and OPT. For STEM OPT, the F-1 student must complete the Form I-983 and submit this to the CGE before beginning their STEM OPT application. The F-1 student must be a paid, full-time employee and have an employer who can assist them with completing the I-983. Additionally, the student’s employer must be enrolled in E-Verify.
Students can apply to USCIS for STEM OPT up to 90 days before their OPT ends, and must apply before their OPT ends. You can learn more here about STEM OPT and how to apply. To begin your application, submit your I-983 form to the CGE and contact an international student advisor.
Once STEM OPT begins, students are entitled to 60 additional days of unemployment. In total, students on STEM OPT cannot exceed 150 days of unemployment aggregate between their OPT and STEM OPT periods.
Study in the States has a STEM OPT Hub with helpful resources for students and employers.
Reporting Requirements for OPT and STEM OPT
Students on OPT and STEM OPT are required to keep their information in SEVIS accurate and to submit updates within 10 days of any change to your employment or address. After your OPT begins, you will receive access to your SEVP Portal, where you can submit updates. You may also send updates to the CGE and we can update your SEVIS record. If you are locked out of your SEVP Portal account or have any questions, please contact the CGE for assistance.
It is essential that you keep your SEVIS record updated throughout the OPT and STEM OPT period. SEVP may terminate SEVIS records that do not have employment information reported and/or have exceeded the allowable unemployment days. Please contact the CGE with any questions or concerns.
Students on STEM OPT Additional Reporting Requirements
6 month reporting: STEM OPT students must check in every 6 months to report updates to employment and address or to confirm that there have been no changes. Updates should be added through the SEVP Portal or reported to the CGE. If there have been no changes, you should email the CGE to confirm that your employment and address are the same.
I-983: The I-983 must be kept up-to-date throughout the STEM OPT period. If there are changes to any information on the I-983, students need to update the I-983 and email it to the CGE, as well as retain a copy for themselves and their employer. Additionally, at the 12-month and 24-month mark of STEM OPT, students need to complete the first and second reflections, respectively, on page 5 of the I-983, and then submit an updated I-983 to the CGE.
Students on OPT or STEM OPT should keep good records of their employment, including job descriptions, record of hours worked, payment, employment dates, how the employment related to their major, compliance with SEVP reporting requirements, etc. If you apply for other immigration benefits in the future, you may need to have evidence from your OPT period.
Travel During OPT and STEM OPT
Students on OPT and STEM OPT are still on the F-1 visa. Whenever entering the U.S. as an F-1 student on OPT or STEM OPT, you will need:
Passport with at least 6 months validity remaining
Valid F-1 visa stamp
I-20 with DSO travel signature less than 6 months old. If you need a new travel signature, contact the CGE.
Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
Proof of employment or active job search (suggested to have in your carry-on)
If your F-1 visa has expired and you are traveling outside the U.S., you will need to get a new visa stamp before returning. We encourage you to speak with an international student advisor well in advance of your travel if you will need to apply for a new visa.
Options After OPT
Students who are approaching the end of their OPT or STEM OPT are encouraged to contact the CGE to discuss their next steps. Students may request a SEVIS transfer to a graduate school if they are beginning a new degree program within 5 months of finishing their OPT or STEM OPT. Students whose employer is sponsoring them for an H-1B work visa should notify the CGE.
Work Visa: H-1B
The H-1B is a work visa for specialty occupations that students who want to work in the U.S. beyond their OPT or STEM OPT period may consider. The H-1B requires an employer to sponsor a petition for an employee, meaning that students cannot apply for this visa on their own. The CGE is unable to assist students with H-1B applications.
Because there is a cap on the number of H-1Bs issued annually, there is an H-1B lottery in early March through which most employers must submit petitions. If your employer has submitted an H-1B registration for you and you are selected through the lottery, your employer will be notified on or around April 1st and will be directed to submit a full H-1B petition for you within a specified timeframe. Individuals selected through the H-1B lottery and approved generally gain H-1B status on October 1st, and may be eligible for the Cap-Gap benefit to extend their OPT or STEM OPT through September 30th. To take advantage of the Cap-Gap benefit, students must have their full H-1B petition submitted both within the timeframe given by USCIS, and before their OPT or STEM OPT ends. This timeline is important and students are encouraged to contact the CGE as soon as they are aware of being selected in the lottery.
Some employers, including higher education institutions, nonprofit research organizations, and government research organizations, are exempt from the H-1B lottery and can file H-1B petitions for their employees at any time of year. If you are interested in the H-1B and work for an organization that you think might be exempt from the lottery, confirm this with your organization. Never assume, without verifying, that an organization is not subject to the H-1B lottery.
Social Security Number
Social Security Numbers (SSN) are used for employment and tax purposes in the U.S. F-1 students are eligible to apply for a SSN after receiving a job offer (through campus employment or an internship for which the student receives CPT authorization). Graduating seniors who did not work as students but are applying for OPT may apply for a SSN through the OPT application.
F-1 students who do not have a SSN should contact the CGE after getting their first campus job or off-campus internship (with CPT authorization) to request assistance applying for a SSN. Most F-1 students must apply in person at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) and may begin employment before their SSN is issued; students applying for a SSN via their OPT application do not have to apply in person. View this publication from the SSA for more information about SSNs for F-1 students.
In addition to being used for employment and tax purposes, the SSN can also be used to verify identity and to run credit checks when opening financial products or applying for a contract cell phone. Unfortunately, there are many scammers who try to steal SSNs and use these stolen numbers for identity theft (such as opening fraudulent credit card or bank accounts). You can learn more here about common SSN scams and how to avoid them.
Interstride is an interactive career platform that enhances the career exploration and job search process for international students and alumni. The platform provides information on job and internship opportunities, the job search, H-1B and other work visas, building one’s professional network, and more. There are also country guides and links to various resources for students interested in jobs outside the U.S.