Employment On and Off-Campus

Working On Campus

Work-Study: a financial award that enables you to work on campus for 8 hours/week. Most jobs on campus are only available to students with a work-study award. There are payroll jobs which are often for positions in which a special skill is required, such as knowledge of physics, chemistry, music, graphic design, etc. or with Sodexo, the campus food service office.

Payroll Jobs: available to all students, whether or not you have a work-study award. 

The Financial Aid Office

lists all current available student jobs

ALL international students are limited by their visa to  working no more than 20 hours per week . Since University time cards are issued for a calendar month, you must be careful not to exceed 80 hours for any given month. Working more than 20 hours per week is in direct violation of your student F-1 or J-1 visa. Students are allowed to work up to 40 hours per week when classes are not in session, winter and summer break.

A Social Security Card must be obtained to work in the United States.

Put your campus address on the social security application so that your card is sent directly to you. 

Most students receive their social security card in the mail 2 weeks after they apply. You are eligible to work immediately after you apply for your social security card.

At the beginning of each semester, several trips will be scheduled to take students to the Social Security Office to submit your application. You must apply in person. If you need to go to the Social Security Office later in the semester you will need to make independent arrangements.

To receive a paycheck  the U.S. requires every student to complete the I-9 and W-4 tax forms. You can complete these at the Financial Aid Office, which will require that you have your social security number. You must take your passport with you to complete these forms since you are required to establish your identity. Once the I-9 and W-4 forms are completed the University can issue you a time card which is required to be completed and submitted to the Business Office in order to receive a paycheck.

Working Off Campus

Going Global Career and Employment Resources include: world-wide job openings, internship listings, industry profiles and country-specific career information. More than 30,000 pages of constantly-updated content is included on topics such as: work permit/visa regulations, resume writing guidelines and examples, employment trends, salary ranges, networking groups, cultural/interviewing advice, corporate profiles and worldwide job listings... plus much more! Instant access to thousands of visa petitions from U.S. employers seeking to hire international talent. Search by location, job title, occupation and company name. Salary information provided for each application. Customized search engine provides access to all 400,000+ visa petitions from the U.S. Department of Labor.  

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

In order to do internships off-campus F-1 international students must receive work authorization known as CPT. This applies to both paid and unpaid positions. While in school, you can only be approved for part-time CPT which is 20 hour or less per week. In order to be eligible for CPT, F-1 international students must be in-status for at least one academic year.

What is CPT?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined as “employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including alternate 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.”

It is required that you receive academic credit for CPT.

CPT Forms and paperwork:

Examples of CPT:

  • summer research at another university in the US during winter, spring, or summer break
  • unpaid internship/job off-campus anywhere in the United States
  • paid internship/job off-campus anywhere in the United States
  • 2 week accounting program with an accounting firm in Chicago

You need to know that CPT:

  • may be paid or unpaid employment. An unpaid internship is considered CPT.
  • must be directly relevant to your academic major (not minors)
  • if authorized, allows you to work for a specific employer
  • is only authorized for one semester or one summer at a time
  • may be part-time (20 hours or less/week) when classes are in session
  • may be full-time (40 hours/week) when classes are not in session
  • your academic advisor must approve of the work/research you intend to do

Who is eligible?

  • F-1 students who have completed 2 academic semesters of full-time coursework and have an offer of an internship or research opportunity.

What’s next?

  1. Obtain a written offer letter that includes:
    1. Employer name, address, phone #
    2. Your job title 
    3. If the position is paid or unpaid
    4. Position start and end dates
    5. Number of hours you will work per week
  2. Complete the CPT Request Form
  3. Complete the Curricular Practical Training Internship/Research Agreement
  4. Have your research/internship supervisor and academic advisor read and sign the Curricular Practical Training Internship/Research Agreement
  5. Make an appointment with the International Student & Scholar Advisor to review your documents, request CPT on SEVIS, and create a new I-20

Important: You may not begin CPT until the ISSA has requested authorization and produces a new I-20. You may not continue working after CPT has ended. Doing so violates the terms of your F-1 visa.  

You can visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website for more information.


Partial Tuition Waiver for Summer Internship Credit

If you are participating in a off-campus internship over the summer, you may be eligible to receive a partial tuition waiver. Please review the guidelines and application on the Hart Career Center's page. 


Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training is authorized employment off-campus, designed to provide students with practical training related to their area of study. OPT is authorized employment that allows students to engage in temporary employment to gain practical experience in his or her field of study.

Types of OPT:

There are two general types of optional practical training:

  1. Pre-completion OPT, available before the student's program end date; and
  2. Post-completion OPT, available after the student's program end date

Post-completion OPT is further subdivided into:

  1. Standard post-completion OPT
  2. STEM extension OPT
  3. H-1B cap-gap extension OPT

OPT Forms and paperwork:


Entrepreneurship & Starting a Business

It is important to think about immigration implications if you are in the U.S. as an international student and you want to start or run your own business. The U.S. federal government considers most entrepreneurship to be “work” even if you are not yet personally earning money from the venture. That means that appropriate U.S. employment authorization is needed for most of the entrepreneurship activity you do while you are physically present in the U.S., including starting any type of U.S. business. In addition, you would need a U.S. employment authorization to work remotely for your non-U.S. business. You need employment authorization even if you do all your work from an on-campus location or through an on-campus entrepreneurship class or project.

The U.S. federal government takes employment authorization very seriously. Working without appropriate authorization can have long-term negative consequences. If you are not sure about whether your business development and entrepreneurial activities might need U.S. employment authorization, please consult an experienced immigration attorney.

If your work is related to your field of study, then employment authorization options for F-1 student visa holders include Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Both of these types of employment authorizations are of limited duration and may be restricted to less than 20 hours per week while you are completing your degree. The International Office can advise on both of these
employment authorization options.


Additional Resources: