During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government has provided temporary guidance and
changes to regulations related to your immigration status. Please review the
for changes to regulations that relate to employment, travel, maintaining status and other guidance from the university and federal agencies.
As an F-1 or J-1 student, you may find that you are interested in work opportunities in the U.S. It is important to remember that the U.S. government defines “work” as any activity that someone would normally be paid to perform. Even if you are not being paid, you still may need authorization. Always check with CGPS before accepting any work opportunity, even if it is unpaid or “volunteer.” We will help you to meet your goals in a legal way.
An F-1 student interested in working off-campus may be eligible to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). This training must be related to the student’s degree program. It must also be required by all students in a specific program or course.
The training experience could include alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. Students can apply for part-time CPT (no more than 20 hrs/week) during the fall and spring semesters and students can apply for full-time CPT (more than 20 hrs/week) during the winter and summer sessions. Graduate students in sustaining status may be eligible to engage in full-time CPT during the major semesters.
To apply for CPT, the student must submit an online CPT Eligibility Form (available on the CGPS Forms webpage) along with the necessary documents listed on the form. Once the CPT is approved, the school official will issue a new I-20 reflecting the work authorization.
To be considered for CPT authorization, the following conditions must be met (in addition to the basic requirements listed above).
The student must:
Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis at a DHS-approved school for one full academic year. (Exception exists for graduate students whose programs require immediate curricular training.) Important: If you’ve been issued a new “Initial” I-20 to enter the U.S. after a break from your program, such as a leave of absence, the CPT academic year requirement resets. You will need to wait a full academic year from the start of your new Initial I-20 before you will be eligible for CPT.
Currently be in valid F-1 student status and in good academic standing. CPT will not be approved for graduate students with a GPA that is less than 3.0 or undergraduate students with a GPA that is less than 2.0.
Continue to be enrolled full-time in the fall and spring semesters while on CPT.
Find employment that is not only related to the major field of study but also a required part of the degree program. A good test for "required" would be to ask the question “Is this training required for me to graduate from my degree or to complete a course or program, such as internship credits, that count towards my degree?"
Have an employer for CPT. Students on CPT may not be self-employed.
Complete the Graduate or Undergraduate CPT Application Form and submit all required documents. The deadline for this application is the end of the free drop/add period for the semester/session in which the CPT is being requested.
Receive CPT authorization before starting the employment, even if the position is unpaid.
- Meet with your Academic Advisor/Graduate Advisor to discuss appropriate employment opportunities for your degree.
- Find a temporary internship, co-op, or practicum. UD’s Career Center may be able to assist you in this process.
- Complete the Graduate or Undergraduate CPT Application, which includes:
- Obtaining electronic recommendation/approval from your Academic Advisor and Dr. Mary Martin (for graduate students only).
- Uploading an offer letter, on official letterhead, from your hiring company indicating the following:
- Description and responsibilities
- Exact address and location
- Start and end dates
- Number of hours per week
- Supervisor’s contact information and signature
- The application must be submitted no later than 2 weeks prior to your intended employment start date to allow time for processing. If anything additional is needed and/or when your new CPT I-20 has been processed, CGPS will send a notification to your UD email.
Remember, you are not permitted to begin employment prior to authorization. This includes unpaid work. CGPS will not back-date employment authorization.
NOTE: Accepting work appointments without the proper authorization is a serious F-1 status violation. Failure to comply with all immigration regulations may result in the loss of benefits normally granted to F-1 students and, in some situations, may subject the student to deportation. CPT may be authorized for 20 hours per week (part-time) or for more than 20 hours per week (full-time). Students who accumulate 12 months of full-time CPT will lose eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility and is unlimited. If the student has already filed for post-OPT, CPT authorization may no longer be possible. A CPT application is employer specific and must be processed accordingly; that is, if a student changes companies or places of work during the approved CPT period, the student must submit a new CPT application.
Students in the English Language Institute are not eligible for CPT or OPT.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of work authorization available to eligible F-1 students and a job offer is not needed to apply. If eligible, an F-1 student may be granted up to 12 months of work authorization in the U.S. The employment must be directly related to the student’s degree field.
An F-1 student is eligible to apply for one year of OPT at each higher degree level of study (i.e. an F-1 student may be eligible for 12 months of OPT for a Bachelor’s degree and then 12 months of OPT for a Master’s degree, but a Master’s student who has completed 12 months of OPT would not be eligible to then use another 12 months at a Bachelor’s level).
"Pre-completion” OPT (Pre-OPT) is work authorization granted while the student is still in the degree program. "Post-completion” OPT (Post-OPT) is work authorization for after a student completes his/her degree program. Although students may engage in both Pre- and Post-OPT, the maximum amount of time that can be granted for all OPT combined is 12 months per educational level. This means that if a student completes 6 months of Pre-OPT, he/she would only be eligible for 6 months of Post-OPT after graduating.
Students can apply for Post-OPT up to 90 days prior to degree completion or up to 60 days after degree completion (the complete OPT application must reach USCIS no later than the 60th day after degree completion). A new I-20 will be issued with an OPT recommendation notation. The student must submit the OPT application, including this new I-20, to USCIS for adjudication, and approval can take 90 days or longer to obtain. Please review the USCIS Processing Times webpage for information on processing times. Once approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The student must not begin working (either paid or unpaid) until the EAD card has been received and the start date on the EAD card arrives.
To be considered for OPT authorization, the following conditions must be met (in addition to the basic requirements listed above). The student must:
have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis at a DHS-approved school for one full academic year.
continue to be enrolled for a full course of study (if on Pre-completion OPT).
Students enrolled in English language training programs are not eligible for OPT.
Obtain electronic recommendation/approval from your Academic Advisor and, for graduate students, Dr. Mary Martin.
Upload the required documents to the application and submit it to CGPS..
Contact CGPS to schedule your OPT appointment.
How to know if you are in a STEM field
The U.S. government publishes a list of STEM majors by "CIP" Code. Please use the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program CIP Code List to find if your major is eligible for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension. You can check the CIP code associated with your major by looking at page 1 of your I-20. In the middle of the page, your CIP code and major will be present.
How to apply for a STEM OPT extension
Students in STEM fields may be eligible to apply for the 24 month STEM OPT extension. If you think you are eligible, you will need to complete the STEM OPT Extension I-20 Request online. CGPS will contact you with any questions and/or when your new I-20 has been issued.
How to be eligible for and maintain status while on STEM OPT
To be eligible for and maintain F-1 status on the STEM OPT Extension:
Employment: You must be currently employed.
Work Hours: You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week.
Application Timeline: You may apply for the STEM extension I-20 up to 90 days before your current EAD expires and no later than your current EAD card expiration date. Provided USCIS receives your complete application prior to your EAD end date, you may continue working past your authorization for up to 180 days while the application is pending.
E-Verify: Your employer must participate in E-Verify in order to be eligible for the STEM extension.
Mentoring: Employers must submit/certify a mentoring & training plan through the Form I-983.
Pay: Employment must be paid and subject to wage protection.
Unemployment: The final rule retains the 90-day maximum period of unemployment during the initial period of OPT, but allows an additional 60 days of unemployment (for an aggregate of 150 days) for students who obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension.
Self-Employment: Not permitted on the 24 month STEM extension. The student must have a bona-fide employer-employee relationship.
Entrepreneurial ventures: Students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures. However, they may not fill out their own Form I-983 nor act as their own employer for the purposes of the form.
Reporting Obligations: Students must confirm the validity of their employment information with the DSO every six months.
The employer’s training obligation
Staffing and temporary agencies and consulting firms may seek to employ students under the STEM OPT program, but this is permitted only if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience to the student and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student throughout the extension period. STEM OPT participants may engage in a training experience that takes place at a site other than the employer’s principal place of business as long as all of the training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. As noted in the 2016 STEM OPT rule, certain types of arrangements, including multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through ‘‘temp’’ agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other similar relationships may not be able to demonstrate a bona fide employer-employee relationship and, therefore, may not meet the requirements of the STEM OPT extension. See 2016 STEM OPT Final Rule (p. 13079).
DHS will review on a case-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Training Plan and will verify that the employer that signs the Training Plan is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. For more information, please refer to the DHS STEM OPT Hub.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may contact you or your employer for a potential site visit while you are on STEM OPT. Employers providing practical training opportunities to STEM OPT students should plan in advance for site visits and ensure that they are meeting the obligations for the training plan reported on the F-1 student worker’s Form I-983. This includes verification that the training is directly related to the F-1 student worker’s qualifying STEM degree; and that the employer is conducting regular evaluations of the F-1 student worker through the STEM extension period. For more information, please visit the Study in States Employer Site Visits webpage.
Update: STEM OPT Reminders
While on STEM OPT, F-1 international students are required to comply with immigration regulations and continue to maintain their status. Here are a few reminders for UD international students who are currently on STEM OPT Extension:
Employment: Your position must be directly related to your STEM degree field.
Work Hours: You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week.
E-Verify: Your employer must be E-Verified in order to be eligible for STEM extension.
Mentoring: Your employer must submit/certify a mentoring and training plan on the Form I-983.
Pay: Your employment must be paid and subject to wage protection.
Unemployment: You may not be unemployed for more than 150 days total for the entire 3 year OPT/STEM OPT period.
Self-Employment: You are not eligible for self-employment. Your STEM OPT must be based on a bona-fide employer-employee relationship.
Reporting Changes: Please report any changes in your name, address, email address, employer’s name, or employer’s address to OISS within 10 days.
STEM OPT Employment Evaluations: You must confirm the validity of your employment information with OISS every six months. You must also complete the self-evaluation sections of the Form I-983 after 12 months and 24 months of the STEM extension and submit them to CGPS.
The Study in the States OPT STEM Hub is an additional resource.
OPT can be complex. Choose one of the following topics for more information.
Meeting with your advisor: What to expect at your OPT appointment
Once you have submitted your online OPT Application and prepared all of the required documents, you will need to schedule an appointment with your ISS advisor at CGPS. During this appointment, your advisor will confirm your requested OPT employment dates, review the USCIS approval process, and provide mailing instructions for sending your complete application to USCIS. The ISS advisor will be able to answer any questions related to the OPT application process. OPT appointments generally last 20-45 minutes and are usually much quicker if you are prepared with all of the requested documents. It is important to remember that if you are not prepared or if your application is incomplete, the ISS advisor will not be able to issue your OPT I-20.
Timing: Learn about the OPT timeline
When should I apply?
You can apply for Pre-completion OPT at any time if you have been in lawful status and enrolled full-time for at least one year. For Post-completion OPT, you can apply up to 90 days before your degree completion date and no later than 60 days after your degree completion date. If you have a job offer for a position that begins soon after degree completion, we recommend applying as soon as possible (in the 90 days prior to your anticipated graduation date). Please note that your OPT application and newly endorsed I-20 for employment must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the I-20’s issuance. It is the responsibility of the student to mail, track and follow up on any questions regarding their application after the ISS advisor processes the document.
When will I receive your EAD card?
OPT is authorized by USCIS and can take 90 days or longer to be adjudicated although processing times can vary. Please review the USCIS Processing Times webpage for more information. To check your case status, enter your receipt number on the USCIS Case Status webpage.
Mailing your OPT application: Instructions for mailing to USCIS
We recommend that you mail your application by using a service that will allow you to track or confirm that USCIS received your package. The distinction between the mailing options is important. FedEx, UPS and other carriers will not deliver to PO Boxes. Please make sure when selecting a carrier that you choose the corresponding USCIS address for that service e.g. the USPS address vs. FedEx, UPS, etc.
Please note that it is your responsibility to mail, track and follow up on any questions regarding the application after OISS has processed the new I-20. Find mailing information on the USCIS website. You will find direct filing addresses under “Foreign students” and Category Description: F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Once your application has been approved: Learn about your responsibilities on OPT
Once USCIS has approved your OPT application, you will receive an EAD card in the mail. (If you check your status online and see your approval, remember that you still may NOT work until you have received your EAD card and are within the valid dates on the EAD card.)
Once you receive your card, check it for errors. Make sure that all information is correct and contact the number on the back of the card if there are any mistakes.
You are required to report any employment or address changes to CGPS while on OPT. Use the online form to submit changes.
Travel: Find out about renewing your visa and crossing the Port of Entry while on OPT
Travel on OPT is possible, but you must be careful and organized. Always carry your valid EAD card, your most recently issued OPT I-20, your employment offer letter (if possible), and your valid F-1 visa and passport when reentering the U.S. Students on Post-completion OPT may undergo more scrutiny at the Port of Entry, and you may be asked to prove your purpose for reentering the U.S.
Renewing your F-1 visa on OPT is not recommended. While there are no regulations against it, you will have a greater burden to prove your need to return to the U.S. to a consular officer. If you need to travel and obtain a new visa, be prepared for a longer interview and perhaps more questioning. You will need to prove how the training (work) you are conducting on OPT in the U.S. will benefit your long-term plans to return to your country and utilize your degree there.
H-1B Cap-Gap Extension: If your employer timely filed an H-1B petition for you, you might be eligible for an extension of your employment
The duration of status (D/S) and any Post-completion OPT work authorization will be automatically extended for an F-1 student who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting an H-1B employment start date of October 1 (the first day of the following fiscal year). This is called a Cap-Gap extension. To apply for the I-20 Gap-Cap, please complete and submit an I-20 Reprint Request and attach a copy of your H-1B Receipt or Approval notice.
If you are on your 60-day grace period, you would be eligible for an extension of your F-1 status but not an extension of your work authorization.
Economic Hardship: Employment for students who are experiencing financial difficulty
F-1 and J-1 students who are experiencing serious economic hardship due to an unforeseen change in their financial situation may qualify for off-campus employment authorization. The student must have been in F-1 or J-1 student status for at least one full academic year and must prove to USCIS that the employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his or her control that arose after obtaining F-1 or J-1 status. Examples of unforeseen economic hardship include "loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses." To apply for employment through Economic Hardship, please contact your ISS advisor.
Unemployment: What to do if you can't find work
OPT authorization maintains your legal status in the U.S. Part of this authorization is a stipulation and understanding that you are actively engaged in employment that utilizes your degree knowledge. Regulations do not permit unemployment that exceeds 90 days on the 12 month OPT period. This number is cumulative and includes unemployment throughout the term of your 12 month OPT authorization. It is the responsibility of DHS to determine whether an individual has exceeded the unemployment limit, meaning that while you may not be subject to removal from the U.S. on the 91st day, you may be denied a STEM OPT extension or change of status if it has been determined that you have exceeded the unemployment limit.
If you can not find work, it would be in your best interest to keep a log of companies to which you have applied. Record names of contact persons, phone numbers, email addresses and the result (whether you were hired or not). While this will not make your period of unemployment acceptable, it may help your case by proving that you attempted to find employment. Please note that volunteering (unpaid employment) could be considered employment on OPT, but you should check with your ISS advisor before accepting the employment. USCIS has denied STEM extensions on the determination that volunteer or unpaid work was not considered employment.
If you need help finding a job or tailoring your resume, we recommend that you take advantage of the UD Career Center. Check with professors and others in your field to find challenging, applicable work opportunities directly related to your degree. If you have questions about unemployment while on OPT, please make an appointment with an ISS advisor.
Students on a J-1 visa are eligible for employment through "Academic Training". This employment authorization may last for up to 18 months or the length of the program, whichever is shorter. Academic Training of more than 18 months may be authorized only if the employment is required to complete the student’s degree program. Doctoral students might be eligible for an additional 18 months of post-doctoral academic training; however, the total training period may not exceed the period of a full course of study, meaning that if the full course of doctoral study is less than 36 months, academic training would be limited to that lesser duration. The training must be directly related to the student's field of study. Academic Training authorization may be used during the student’s degree program or after the student graduates. If the Academic Training authorization is used during the student’s degree program, the student may work part-time (20 hours/week or less) during the fall and spring semesters and full-time (more than 20 hours/week) during winter and summer sessions. Students in sustaining status may be eligible for full-time employment during the major semesters. Non-degree students are also eligible to participate in Academic Training.
To qualify for Academic Training, you must first obtain approval from your J-1 Responsible Officer (at CGPS), who will evaluate the proposed employment in terms of your program of study and will then determine your eligibility.
- Your primary purpose in the U.S. must be to study rather than to engage in Academic Training.
- You must be in good academic standing at the school named on your Form DS-2019.
- The proposed employment must be directly related to your degree field.
- Throughout your Academic Training you must maintain valid J-1 student status and apply for extensions as necessary.
- You must maintain health insurance coverage for yourself and any J-2 dependents throughout your Academic Training.
- According to regulations, Academic Training may be authorized for "the length of time necessary to complete the goals and objectives of the training, provided that the amount of time...is approved by [both] the academic dean or advisor and...the responsible officer". It may not exceed the period of full course of study or 18 months, whichever is shorter. If you receive a Ph.D., however, your "post-doctoral training" may last as long as 36 months. Additional Academic Training beyond the 18 or 36-month limit is allowed only if it is required for the degree.
- Part-time (20 hours/week or less) employment for Academic Training detracts from the 18 or 36-month limit, just as full-time employment would.
- Earning more than one degree does not enhance your eligibility for Academic Training.
- Any Academic Training approved before completion of your degree program would reduce any post-degree period of Academic Training.
- Unpaid Academic Training following completion of the degree program is permissible only if the student has adequate financial support for the duration of the program, such as funding from the home government.
- If you plan to leave the U.S. after you complete your program of study and then reenter the country for J-1 Academic Training, you must obtain authorization before you leave to avoid difficulty reentering. Consult your J-1 Responsible Officer at CGPS for advice.
- Complete the J-1 Student Academic Training Application in Terra Dotta.
- CGPS wll email you once your application has been approved and your new DS-2019 with the Academic Training authorization has been issued.
Important: Please submit all of your materials via Terra Dotta no later than 2 weeks before your intended employment start date to allow time for processing. If you have any questions or if you would like to schedule an appointment with an ISS advisor, please contact email@example.com.
F-1 Students are eligible to work on campus up to 20 hours per week during the Fall and Spring semesters, and up to 40 hours per week during the Winter and Summer sessions. On-campus employment may include:
- Teaching or Research Assistants on graduate contract
- Work conducted at on-campus facilities as a UD employee, such as the library, labs or offices on campus.
- Associated businesses on campus that provide direct services to students, such as the Barnes and Noble Bookstore or Aramark (dining hall).
Off-campus businesses near the UD campus, such as restaurants and stores on Main Street are not considered on-campus employment. Also, employment with on-campus commercial firms, such as construction or landscaping companies, which do not provide direct student services are not deemed on-campus employment.
Before you accept any type of employment, please contact CGPS to confirm if the opportunity is valid. If you require a social security number, or if your potential employer requires verification that you are eligible to work, you should complete and submit the On-Campus Employment Eligibility Form.
All on-campus employment by J-1 students must be approved in advance and in writing by CGPS. In order to request on-campus employment authorization, you must complete and submit an On-Campus Employment (J) Application to CGPS. You must wait until CGPS authorizes your on-campus work authorization before you can engage in the employment. On-campus employment may be granted for up to 12 months at a time. If your on-campus employment will last more than 12 months, you are required to submit an updated On-Campus Employment (J) Application for every additional employment period.
J-1 students requesting on-campus employment must be in good academic standing and must continue to engage in a full course of study at UD. If approved, J-1 Students are eligible to work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters and up to 40 hours per week during the winter and summer sessions.
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ISSS Disclaimer: The information contained on this web site is provided as a service to international students, faculty, staff, employees, and administrators at the University of Delaware, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax, or other matter. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of official counsel. For assistance on your immigration status, we encourage you to contact an ISS advisor for specific guidance at firstname.lastname@example.org.