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O’Brien Center for Student Success


Information for International Students

Topics for International Students on Employment in the United States

It is the responsibility of the student to ensure legal immigration status at all times while at Merrimack College. We are here to provide guidance and assistance in relation to USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services) regulations and career planning; however, we cannot control the time it takes for USCIS to process necessary documents or the outcome of your request. Special Note: Students must be in lawful student status for at least nine months before applying for off-campus employment in the US.

Full-time Co-op (Curricular Practical Training)

Curricular Practical Training is employment authorization that enables students to work in their field of study if the work is an integral or required part of the student’s degree program. Students currently enrolled in the Co-op program should note that twelve months or more of full-time co-op make students ineligible for one year of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training.

Part-time Co-op (Curricular Practical Training)
On-Campus Employment

Students can opt to participate in part-time co-op (under 20 hrs/week) that falls under the umbrella of Curricular Practical Training. The position must be directly related to the student’s degree program. Any part-time work, on- or off-campus, will not affect student’s eligibility for one year of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training.

Full-time Employment After Graduation
(Post-Completion Optional Practical Training-“OPT”)

Optional Practical Training is an extension of F-1 student status that allows individuals to work in the US in order to gain practical work experience related to their field of study. Students do NOT need a job offer to apply for OPT.

  • Students are eligible for twelve months of OPT per each degree level (ie; Bachelor’s, Master’s).
  • Students should apply for OPT at least 90 days prior to completion of studies and the SEVIS record must be updated with the OPT request PRIOR to the official graduation date.
  • Please be sure to save all I-20’s as they will become part of the office I-765 application for OPT.
  • All post-completion OPT must be completed within 14 months of completing degree program.
  • We suggest that students not travel outside the US once an application has been filed for OPT until the EAD card has been received by the student.
  • Students may not begin working until the EAD card is received.
  • The effective date of employment authorization issued by USCIS will be either the date employment is scheduled to commence as recorded by your advisor on SEVIS or the date the EAD is issued, whichever occurs later.

Working without authorization is a serious violation of your status and may result in your loss of eligibility for benefits normally granted to F-1 students.

Social Security Number

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will issue a Social Security Number only to F-1 students who are authorized to be employed in the US (on-campus, co-op, OPT). It is advisable to obtain a letter from the Office of International Programs prior to applying.

The Social Security Office
Heritage Place
439 S. Union Street
So. Lawrence, MA 01843
Phone: 978-686-6171
National Number: 800-772-1212


Students generally have US Government (Federal), State and City (if applicable) taxes withheld from their paycheck unless the student is exempt due to a tax treaty. International students do not usually need to pay Social Security (FICA) and Medicare taxes. You are required by law to file both state and US federal government tax returns every year, whether or not you have worked on co-op. Tax returns are due April 15 of each year for students who have worked in the US and June 15 of each year for students who have not worked in the US.


Please contact The Office of International Programs at 978-837-5210.  Also, please visit for more information.