Employment

Students in F-1 status may work on-campus without any additional authorization from ISSO with the following limitation:

  • F-1students are limited to working a total 20 hours per week on-campus while classes are in session. Working more than 20 hours per week will result in a violation of your immigration status.
  • F-1 students may work full-time during official University breaks.

Students in J-1 status will require additional authorization to be allowed to work on campus.  If Clark is your program sponsor, please contact the ISSO for more information about how to obtain this permission.  If Clark is not your program sponsor, please contact your program sponsor to determine if you can work on-campus during your program.

Students with an on-campus job must apply for and receive a Social Security number (SSN) before beginning employment. 

CPT

Employment off-campus for international students in F-1 status is strictly regulated by the U.S. government One way that you may be able to get work authorization is through the use of Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT is defined as “a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established academic curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.”  CPT authorization will allow you to accept off-campus employment when your established curriculum includes an internship, practicum or professional experience component. CPT authorization is required for all work experience for academic credit or fulfill an internship requirement, whether paid or unpaid.

Eligibility

To be eligible for CPT you must first complete two full semesters of study in the U.S.  A full semester consists of at least three units of completion. The internship, practicum, or professional experience must be a required part of your academic program or for academic credit. (The only exception to this rule is for academic programs where the curriculum requires practical training right away for ALL students — these programs are VERY limited at Clark.)

Limitations

CPT authorization limits employment to part-time (no more than 20 hours per week) while classes are in session. You may work full-time during breaks (winter break, summer break, etc.). To be eligible for part-time CPT during the academic year, you must maintain full-time student status (a minimum of three course units of credit) throughout the authorized CPT period. There is no limit on the time you may be authorized for CPT, but if you engage in 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will lose eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Prior to beginning employment, you must receive authorization from the ISSO, who will record the employment in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).  You will be issued a new I-20 Form with a notation that permits you to engage in CPT. CPT is authorized for a specific employer, for a specific time period, and to meet a specific academic objective. You must re-apply to the ISSO anytime you change employers, extend or shorten hours, or change the length of your employment period. You may only work for the employer specified in the CPT authorization on page two of the Form I-20, and you must not begin work until you have received the CPT authorization from the ISSO. Working on dates that are not included in the CPT authorization or working before your CPT has been authorized is not permitted and may result in the termination of your F-1 status.

CPT Application Process

Allow one week from the time we receive your documents to issue your new I-20 with CPT authorization.

Undergraduate students

First visit Career Services in the ASEC Building to begin the necessary paperwork for your internship. Career Services will approve your internship and send the information to the ISSO.  The ISSO will process your CPT authorization and contact you by email when your new I-20 is ready to be picked up.

Graduate students

To obtain approval for CPT, follow these steps:

  • Complete part 1 the CPT Application.
  • Send the CPT application form to your department advisor to complete part 2 of the form and return it you.
  • Send the completed form, along with your internship/employment confirmation letter, to ISSO for processing. 
  • The employer letter must be on company letterhead and contain the follow:
    • Complete address of the work-site
    • Start and End date of the internship
    • Supervisor name and phone number
    • Salary/compensation, if applicable

Please allow one week after you have submitted all paperwork to the ISSO for processing your new I-20.   Working prior to receiving ISSO authorization (new I-20 with CPT authorization) can have negative consequences on your immigration status.

For more details on Curricular Practical Training, please review our CPT overview for graduate students.

OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to the student’s major area of study.  A student must apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for OPT employment authorization. 

You are eligible for a total of 12-months of OPT per program level.  Before you can apply, you must have been enrolled on a full-time basis for at least two semesters/one academic year.  To be considered full-time, you must be enrolled in at least three units of credit.

Types of OPT

Pre-completion OPT

  • Pre-completion OPT takes place before you complete your degree program.  This may an option if you wish to pursue a work experience that does not qualify for CPT authorization.
  • Pre-completion OPT is limited to no more than 20 hours per week while you are enrolled full-time and classes are in session. You may work full-time when school is not in session. 
  • The US government may take up to 90 days to approve pre-completion OPT.  ISSO strongly recommends that you apply as soon as you know you will have a job.
  • Pre-completion OPT counts as part of the total 12 months of OPT allowed.  Part-time pre-completion OPT subtracts from the 12 months at one-half (1/2) the rate. (4 months of part-time pre-completion OPT would reduce your post-completion OPT by 2 months.)
  • An application for pre-completion OPT is for a specific period of time prior to completing your program.  It requires a complete Application for Employment Authorization, including the filing fee.  The application is sent to the US government for processing.

Post-completion OPT

  • This is the most common type of OPT.  It allows students to work off-campus to get experience in their field of study post-graduation.
  • Post-completion OPT is always full-time, which means working more than 20 hours per week.
  • You are applying to the US Government for work authorization.
  • Post-completion OPT must directly relate to your field of study that is listed on your I-20.

When to apply

Pre-completion OPT

  • You can apply after you’ve been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year.
  • Apply up to 90 days before you want work authorization to begin.

Post-completion OPT

  • You can apply up to 90 days before your program completion date (the last day of the final exam period of your last semester), and up to 60 days after your program completion date.
  • OPT applications are generally processed within 60 – 100 days (including mailing time), so we highly recommend applying early so that you will be able to start working when you want to after you complete the semester.

How to apply

  • Attend on OPT Workshop.  This is mandatory and must be done before ISSO will file your OPT application.
  • Apply for graduation at Clark’s Office of the Registrar.
  • Ph.D. students only:  Obtain a letter from your academic advisor that confirms the date that your degree requirements will be met (dissertation defense or dissertation submission date).
  • Complete and submit the ISSO OPT form and all required documents to the ISSO.
  • Come to the ISSO at the pre-arranged time to finalize your application.

Requirements while on OPT

  • You must be engaged in practical training (working) at a job that is directly related to your field of study. 
  • Your total working hours must be more than 20 hours per week.
  • You must report any changes of address or employment to ISSO.  Please report those using our OPT Employment Reporting Form, and submit to ISSO within 10 days of any change.
  • Keep proof of your employment for your records.
  • Limit time that you are unemployed to 90 days or less during your OPT.  Unemployment days accrue throughout the 12 months of your OPT.

Travel while on OPT

Unless international travel is absolutely necessary, we advise that you remain in the United States while your OPT application is pending. 

Once your OPT is approved, you should carry with you the following documents when you travel:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • Printout of your most recent I-94 information
  • I-20 with OPT endorsement and travel signature that is signed within the past 6 months on P. 2.
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD card for post-completion OPT)
  • Proof of employment (job offer letter, employment contract, etc).

Travel while on OPT is riskier if you don’t have proof of employment, as Customs and Border Protection officers at the Port of Entry may refuse your entry into the United States.

If you need to get a new F-1 visa while on OPT, please contact ISSO prior to leaving the US to make sure that you are prepared for your visa interview.

If you have questions about traveling while on OPT, please contact ISSO.

When your OPT ends

When your OPT ends, you will have several options for what to do next:

  • You will be automatically granted a 60-day grace period that will begin the day after your OPT ends.  You may not work or study during your grace period, and you may not reenter the United States in F-1 status during this time.  You must do one of the things listed below before or during your grace period in order to maintain your immigration status.
  • You may depart the United States.  If you leave after your OPT ends, you will not be able to come back in F-1 status with your documents from Clark.
  • You can enroll in another degree program at Clark or another U.S. University.  Contact ISSO for more information about what is required in this case.
  • You can change to another immigration status by requesting the change of status from the US government.  Many students are interested in the H-1B visa, which is a visa based on employment and is sponsored by the student’s employer.  Learn more about the H-1B visa on the USCIS website.

STEM OPT Extension

Students in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields may apply for a 24-month extension of their OPT if their employment meets certain qualifications.

Who qualifies?

  • A student who received a degree from an accredited U.S. institution in a major that is on the STEM Designated Degree Programs List.  The six-digit code associated with the major listed on your I-20 must be on this list for you to qualify.  The full list is available on the Student and Exchange Visitor Program website.
  • A student who is in a valid period of post-completion OPT and has maintained their status while on OPT
  • The employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and be in good standing.  The employer must also have an employer identification number (EIN) for tax purposes.
  • The student and employer must work together to complete the Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, or Form I-983.  Form I-983 and instructions can be found on the Study in the States website.
  • The student must apply for the STEM OPT extension before the current Post-completion OPT period ends.  Applications can be submitted up to 90 days before the OPT end date.
  • A student who has previously earned a STEM degree in the United States from an accredited U.S. higher education institution can apply if the previous degree was earned from an SEVP-certified institution within the past 10 years, the qualifying employment is directly related to the STEM degree, and all of the above criteria are met.
  • Students can apply for a STEM OPT extension twice per lifetime.

How to apply?

  • The student must apply for the STEM OPT extension before the current Post-completion OPT period ends.  Applications can be submitted up to 90 days before the OPT end date.
  • A student who has previously earned a STEM degree in the United States from an accredited U.S. higher education institution can apply if the previous degree was earned from an SEVP-certified institution within the past 10 years, the qualifying employment is directly related to the STEM degree, and all of the above criteria are met.
  • Review the STEM OPT Extension Checklist and STEM OPT Extension Request Form.
  • Complete the STEM OPT Extension Request Form and the Form I-983 with your employer
  • Submit the Checklist with all supporting documentation, completed Request Form and completed Form I-983 to the ISSO.  If you are able to, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your ISSO adviser to complete the application.  If you cannot come to Clark, the process can be completed by e-mail and phone.
  • ISSO will complete the application package for you and mail it to the USCIS on your behalf.

Requirements while on the STEM OPT Extension:

  • Your employment must be directly related to your field of study.  The employer you are working for must be enrolled in E-Verify.
  • You must do the work that is described on your Form I-983.  If there are changes to your job description on the I-983, you must submit an updated Form I-983 within 10 days of those changes.
  • You must work more than 20 hours per week for the employer listed on your Form I-983.
  • If you change employers, the new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and you must submit a completed Form I-983 for the new employer within 10 days of your employment start date.  You must also submit the Final Evaluation on Student Progress (P. 5 of Form I-983) for the previous employer.
  • Report any changes of address to ISSO.
  • Confirm your address and employer with the ISSO 6 months after your STEM OPT begins, and again at 18 months after your STEM OPT begins.
  • Confirm your address and submit the Evaluation of Student Progress (P. 5 of the Form I-983) 12 months after your STEM OPT begins.
  • Submit the Final Evaluation of Student Progress (P. 5 of Form I-983) when your STEM OPT ends.
  • Keep proof of your employment for your records.
  • Limit time that you are unemployed to 150 days or less during your OPT.  Unemployment days accrue throughout the 36 months of your OPT.

Travel while on STEM OPT Extension

  • We strongly advise that you remain in the United States while your STEM OPT Extension application is pending. 
  • Once your STEM OPT is approved, carry the following documents when you travel:
    • Valid passport
    • Valid F-1 visa
    • Printout of your most recent I-94 information
    • I-20 with OPT endorsement and travel signature that is signed within 6 months on P. 2.
    • Employment Authorization Document (EAD card for STEM OPT extension)
    • Proof of employment (job offer letter, employment contract, copy of Form I-983, etc.).
  • If you need to get a new F-1 visa while on the STEM OPT extension, please contact ISSO prior to leaving the US to make sure that you are prepared for your visa interview.
  • If you have questions about traveling while on the STEM OPT extension, please contact ISSO.

When your STEM OPT ends

You are automatically granted a 60-day grace period the day after your OPT end date.  You may not work or study during that time.  If you are outside the US during the grace period, re-entry on your F-1 visa will not be allowed.

Post-OPT options:

  • Depart the US
  • Enroll in another degree program at Clark or another U.S. university.  Contact ISSO for more information about this.
  • Change to another immigration status.

J-1 Academic Training

Academic training is designed to provide J-1 visa holders with employment experience to complement your program of study in the United States.  Therefore, the work must be directly related to your field of study, and it must be appropriate for someone with your level of education.  You may engage in academic training during your degree program and/or after the completion of your degree program as long as the total amount of training does not exceed the prescribed time limitations indicated below.

Eligibility

A J-1 student is eligible for academic training if he or she:

  • Is in good standing or has successfully completed a program of study.
  • Is participating in academic training that is directly related to his or her major field of study.
  • Is authorized in advance to engage in academic training with written approval of the International Students and Scholars Office.

Time limitations

For undergraduate and predoctoral students, up to 18 months of academic training may be authorized, however, academic training cannot exceed the length of your program of study.  Students obtaining a doctoral degree may be eligible for 36 months of academic training. 

Academic training must begin within 30 days of program completion.

How to apply (if your DS-2019 is issued by Clark)

  • Obtain a letter from your employer on official letterhead that contains:
    • an explanation of the goals and objectives of the proposed employment
    • the start and end dates of employment (not to exceed the prescribed time limitations)
    • the number of hours per week that you will work
    • the salary to be paid
    • the location of the training
    • the supervisor’s name and address
  • Bring your employer letter and the Application Form for J-1 Student Academic Training) to your academic advisor and ask him/her to complete the form and return it to you.
  • Send the letter and completed application form to the ISSO.  The ISSO will authorize your academic training and issue a new DS-2019 that will extend your permission to stay in the U.S. and provide you with authorization to work for that specific academic training opportunity.  ISSO will contact you via email if additional information is needed before your academic training application can be processed.
  • To change employers after the academic training is authorized, you must repeat this process prior to starting with the new employer.