F-1 Visa Compliance
What You Need to Know
There are certain requirements for international students coming to the U.S. to study. Learn what information you need to know before and after you arrive.
F-1 students who leave the U.S. for a break must take a signed I-20 from the International Director in order to re-enter the country. In order to re-enter the U.S. it is usually necessary to have a valid visa stamped in the passport. Please contact the International Education Office for additional information on the documents need for travel.
You are allowed to work no more than 20 hours during the Fall or Spring semesters.
You may work more than 20 hours during summer vacation at the discretion of your supervisor, provided you intend to enroll full-time the following semester.
Download CPT Application Form
What is CPT?
The regulations state that a student may participate in a "curricular practical training program" that is:
- "an integral part of an established curriculum" and
- "directly related to the student's major area of study"
CPT is granted directly by the International Office through an update to a student's SEVIS record. Below are the eligibility requirements:
- The student is currently in valid F-1 status
- The student has been enrolled on a full-time basis for 1 academic year
- The student will continue to be enrolled for a full course of study during the CPT
- The training is "an integral part of an established curriculum"
- The training is "directly related to the student's major area of study "
- You are seeking:
The International Office can authorize CPT if the proposed employment meets one of the three following conditions:
- The training employment is required of all degree candidates in the program and is necessary for the degree. Included in this category is employment in a required internship or practicum.
- The training employment must result in the awarding of academic credit.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time
- Undergraduate students are allowed Part-Time CPT ONLY (except during the summer)
- Graduate students may participate in Full-Time CPT, but NOTE that full-time CPT for more than 11 months may affect eligibility for Optional Practical Training.
In general F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for less than five years are exempt from social security taxes (also known as F.I.C.A. tax). You should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of international student tax laws. Students in F-1 status are subject to all other taxes that may apply: federal, state and local.
Failure to Comply with Employment Regulations
It is your responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to F-1 students, including employment regulations. Working without the proper authorization is a serious violation of your student status.
The first step is to meet with the International Office to discuss the application process.
You may begin CPT only after it is authorized by the International Office and you receive your original I-20. You must NOT work beyond the date authorized on the I-20. Working without legal authorization will put your visa status in jeopardy.
What is Optional Practical Training?
Optional practical training is one type of work permission available to eligible F-1 students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters. It allows students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study. While OPT is recommended by a Designated School Official (DSO) in Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), final approval of OPT is granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The student may not begin working before the start date on the EAD Card.
To be eligible for OPT:
- Student must be in valid F-1 immigration status
- Student must have been enrolled full-time for one academic year (two semesters)
- Student must not have used 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Post completion OPT (c)(3)(B):
Up to 12 months of OPT used after the student’s Program End Date. Graduate students who have completed all required coursework except thesis/dissertation are eligible to apply for post-completion OPT.
24-month (STEM) OPT Extension (c)(3)(c):
For students who majored in a designated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Please make an appointment with the International Office at the beginning of your final semester to discuss the OPT application process as this can take between 3 to 5 months to complete.
A Social Security number (SS#) is a taxpayer identification number. It is issued throughout
the US by the Social Security Administration.
It does not represent permission to work. It is not proof of US citizenship or permanent residence. If you are paid in the US, you must have a SS# to file a US income tax return. If you are not paid in the US but are in a visa status which permits certain types of employment (e.g. J-1, F-1 PT, J-2 with EAD), you are required by regulation to obtain a SS#. Once you obtain a SS#, it is your number forever and may be used on subsequent visits to the US.
If you would like to obtain a SS#, you should apply in person at a local office of the Social Security Administration. When you go, remember to bring your passport, I-94 Card, I-20 form together with a Social Security letter, which you can obtain from the International Education Office. These letters are provided to students who provide proof of authorized employment. You will receive your Social Security number on a card in the mail approximately six weeks after you apply.
J-1 and F-1 students should not have the Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld if they have been in the United States for less than five calendar years.
If you need to work due to an economic need in which you had not foreseen and beyond your control, you may apply to immigration for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Contact the International Office.
Student who have received one year or more of full-time curricular practical training are ineligible for post-completion practical training. Part-time curricular practical training is not counted toward the one year threshold at which a student loses eligibility for post completion practical training.