Getting a Job as an International Student
As an international student, you may work on campus without applying to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for work authorization. Job listings for on-campus positions can be found at the O’Brien Center for Student Success, on the second floor of the Sakowich Campus Center. You can work a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session and up to 40 hours per week during vacation periods.
There are three options for legal employment off campus. You may not be eligible for all three options.
For F-1 Students:
You should not assume you are automatically eligible to work in the United States. Unauthorized employment is one of the most serious violations of F-1 student status. Any unlawful employment - even for one day, and even if you did not know it was illegal - poses a serious threat to your ability to remain in or return to the United States. You should speak with the Office of International Student Support before accepting any employment.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a work authorization granted to students on F-1 status for work that is “an integral part of an established curriculum.” CPT enables you to apply and practice the knowledge and skills gained in your academic programs. CPT is granted by the International Student Support in accordance with U.S. immigration law. Authorization of CPT includes both academic and immigration components.
Academic Eligibility for CPT
Internships must be approved by the appropriate Merrimack department, and you must be registered for the particular academic course that supports the internship. You may only engage in CPT if:
- You are registered in a credit-bearing internship course or co-op (for undergraduate students only).
- The work experience is a requirement for your academic program.
- The CPT application must be submitted prior to the beginning of each semester that the CPT will be applied.
Immigration Eligibility for CPT
- You must currently be maintaining valid F-1 status and enrolled full time for at least one academic year (two semesters) before applying for CPT.
- CPT authorization is date- and employer-specific. If you anticipate changes to your internship, such as different dates or a different employer, you must first obtain authorization from International Student Support.
- There is no limit to the amount of time you can be authorized for curricular practical training. However, if you are working 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training, you will lose your eligibility for optional practical training.
You’ll register for curricular practical training through International Student Support and should begin by reading “CPT Statement of Understanding for F-1 Students” and completing the CPT application form. Both documents are found on CPT application on the ISS-TerraDotta CPT Page.
Students are eligible to participate in Optional Practical Training if all of the following criteria are met:
- You have completed all course requirements for the degree.
- Your employment is directly related to your major field of study.
- You have been in F-1 student status in the United States for at least one academic year (three terms).
- Completed Optional Practical Training Acknowledgement form.
- Application fee of $410, payable by check or money order, to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- Form I-765.
- Provide an electronic copy of I-94 and identity pages of your passport.
- Provide photocopies of all previous I-20s.
- Submit all of the above to the Office of International Student Support for recommendation.
Immigration will issue you an Employment Authorization Document, which will be sent by mail to the address you indicated on Form I-765. You cannot begin employment until the EAD is received. For forms and instructions for getting the EAD. Go to:
Travel Regulations While Applying for OPT
In order to reenter the United States after you have obtained Optional Practical Training, you will need the following:
- USCIS Form I-20, endorsed for travel within the last six months.
- A valid Employment Authorization Document.
- A valid F-1 student visa.
- A letter from your employer. If you try to come back to the United States after graduating and you do not already have a job, you may have difficulty re-entering the United States.
Note: Once you have applied to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for Optional Practical Training, it will take approximately eight to 12 weeks for the agency to process your application. There is no way to cancel or change the employment authorization. It is strongly recommended that you do not travel outside the U.S. while the application is pending.