The following information is intended to provide an overview of the laws and regulations affecting employment for international students. Because penalties for working improperly can be severe, it is important you read the following information carefully. Please contact our office with questions before accepting any employment.
It is important to realize that for immigration purposes, the government uses a strict definition of employment. Employment is any type of work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, food, or any other benefit. If you do not receive pay or other benefit for work performed, the activity is considered "volunteer work." Although there are no restrictions on volunteering, you should be careful to have documentation that clearly outlines your volunteer responsibilities.
- Employment by Colorado College itself (i.e., the library, administrative offices, residential life, academic departments)
- Employment by a service provider at Colorado College (i.e., Sodexho)
- Employment by Colorado College at an off-campus location (i.e., paid scientific research off-campus)
Students in F-1 status are limited to working no more than 20 hours per week while school is in session (including block breaks). During the summer, winter, and spring breaks you may work full time, up to 40 hours per week.
- To pursue "practical training" which is work (usually a formal internship) directly related to your degree. Practical training may be granted during the summer or other vacation periods, after the completion of your degree or part-time during an academic term. There are two types of practical training: curricular and optional
- If you are suffering from severe economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. It is very difficult to receive off-campus work authorization in this category. However, if you feel you qualify for off-campus work due to economic hardship, please visit the office to discuss your personal circumstances.
Curricular Practical Training
Some students may be eligible to engage in Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT allows students to pursue work off-campus in their major field of study if the work is required as part of your degree program or is an integral part of the curriculum at Colorado College and you are receiving academic credit (GS199: Internship Adjunct) for your work. You must be in status at CC for at least one full academic year before you may apply for CPT. CPT may only be done part-time (20 hours per week or less) during the academic year. During summer and winter break, you may work part-time or full-time. There is no limitation to the amount of time you may use for CPT. However, if you participate in 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training. Please visit our office to find out if you are eligible for CPT and for more information about the application process.
Optional Practical Training
Optional practical training is the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off campus. This may take the form of an internship or other paid job. Optional practical training is authorized by the U.S. government, and may be granted for up to 12 months. Additional information is below:
When can optional practical training be granted?
Optional practical training may be issued at one of four different times in your academic career:
- During the summer or other vacation periods.
- After the completion of all course requirements, but before the completion of a thesis.
- Part-time (20 hours per week or less) during an academic term.
- After the completion of the degree.
Please note that you are only eligible for optional practical training if you have been in F-1 student status for at least nine consecutive months.
How much optional practical training are students authorized to do?
You may be authorized a total of 12 months of full-time optional practical training during your academic career. Optional practical training taken during your studies may be awarded in increments of less than 12 months, but will be deducted from the training you might take after graduation. Because of this, you may wish to wait until after the completion of your degree requirements to do practical training.
How do I apply for optional practical training?
Authorization for optional practical training is obtained through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), although you must first be recommended by the Office of Study Abroad/International Students. Recommendation will not be given if you are out of status.
What is the EAD card and how do I get one?
If your application for optional practical training is approved, USCIS will issue you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Your EAD will normally be mailed to the address you specify within 3-4 months after your application has been received. The EAD card serves as verification of your employment eligibility. This card, along with your I-20, will show a potential employer that you have work authorization.
When is the best time to apply for optional practical training authorization?
You may apply for optional practical training authorization at any time after having been in F-1 status for nine consecutive months. If you intend to apply for OPT that will start after you finish your studies, you may apply up to 120 days before your employment start date and no later than the last day of Block 8. You do not need to have a formal job offer to apply. You may NOT begin work until you have the actual EAD card in your possession.
Is it possible to travel outside the U.S. while my application is pending?
After you graduate, it is NOT RECOMMENDED that you leave the U.S. while your application is pending. Please consult our office if you plan to travel before you graduate. Once your application for OPT has been approved, it is possible to travel outside the U.S., provided you are employed. You will need your I-20 (endorsed for travel), EAD card, your valid passport, a current F-1 visa stamp, and your job offer letter or proof of employment.
OPT Application Procedures
- Set up a meeting with our office to determine your eligibility for practical training, discuss your plans and obtain the required paperwork. Please note that if you wish to work immediately after graduating, this step should by completed in January.
- Obtain two passport-style photographs. Lightly write your name and your I-94 number in pencil on the back of both photos.
- Complete the Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization).
- Obtain a personal check or money order for $340.00 made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- Make copies of your passport pages showing your name, photographs, date of birth and passport expiration date.
- Make a copy of your I-94 card, front and back.
- Make a copy of your current visa.
- Make copies of your current I-20 and any previous I-20s.
- Make a follow-up appointment with our office. Please bring your photographs, check or money order, completed I-765 and copies of your documents to this meeting.
- Make 2 copies of your entire application, including your photographs and check.
- Mail your application to USCIS. It should be sent certified mail, return receipt requested. Send the application to:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Nebraska Service Center
PO Box 87765
Lincoln, NE 68501-7765
Within 2 to 4 weeks after your application has been received by the immigration service, you will receive a receipt notice. You may check the status of your application using the reference number (LIN #) listed on the upper left corner of your receipt notice.
Finding a Job
If you receive student employment as part of your financial aid award (also known as "work-study"), you may begin looking for a job during Block 1. Other students must wait until after the start of Block 2. Even if you have work-study, you must apply and interview for an on-campus job as you would for any other job. There are many jobs available and most students wishing to work are able to find suitable positions. Job listings are available at the Financial Aid Office and there will also be a job fair held early in Block 2.
If you are looking for an off-campus internship or for work when you return home, be sure to pay a visit to the Career Center. Staff at the center can help you identify opportunities in your field of study, prepare a U.S.-style resume, practice interviewing skills and much more.
Once you have received a job offer, you will need to apply for a Social Security card. Please be aware that international students must pay several applicable federal, state and local income taxes. Normally these taxes are withheld from your paycheck. We will hold a workshop in March to help students prepare their income tax returns.