Working in the U.S. & OPT Regulations

Getting a job and working while attending school

Employment for International Students can be designated as either On-Campus or Off-Campus. On-Campus employment must be either performed on the premises or at a location which is educationally connected with FIDM. Off-Campus work authorization can be defined as either CPT, OPT, or necessary due to severe economic circumstances.

See the definitions of each below:

On-Campus Employment

  • Students are permitted to work part-time on the premises of the school that issues their I-20 while attending school.
  • Students are limited to working 20 hours a week while school in session; work can be full-time during official school breaks.
  • Students can work in any position that does not displace a U.S. worker (this does not mean that a domestic student must be considered first; it means that a domestic student cannot be fired specifically to permit the hiring of an F-1 student).
  • Employment is incident to status and does not require approval.
  • On-Campus employment can include working for commercial firms which provide services to FIDM unless the job is not on FIDM premises and not for FIDM educational purposes (if a business is in a FIDM building, or located directly next to it you cannot work for that company unless they are specifically affiliated with the educational process of FIDM and are specifically affiliated with FIDM).
  • On-campus employment may include work at off-campus locations so long as it is educationally affiliated with the school.
  • Initial entry students cannot begin to work sooner than 30 days before classes start. Otherwise students may pursue on-campus employment as early as their first quarter at FIDM.

Off-Campus Employment

  1. Severe Circumstances: Unforeseen economic necessity.
    1. Students must have been in F-1 status for one full academic year.
    2. Students must show employment necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his/her control.
    3. Employment can last for up to one year.
    4. Employment is limited to 20 hours per week while the student is attending classes. During official school breaks, employment can be full-time.
    5. Students must apply for EAD (Employment Authorization Document) from USCIS after they are recommended for employment.

  2. Curricular Practical Training (CPT): The regulations state that Curricular Practical Training must be "an integral part of an established curriculum." They define CPT as "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." (8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(10)(i))
    1. Students must have been enrolled at FIDM for one-full academic year (a full year is 12 months).
    2. Students must be in the last or second to last quarter of their program.
    3. Students must have a cumulative grade point average of a 3.0 or higher.
    4. Students must have an offer from an employer, and the job must be with that specific employer, location, and time period originally arranged.
    5. Work must be an integral part of an established curriculum.
    6. Work must be a maximum of 20 hours for a paid CPT position and a maximum of 10 hours for a non-paid CPT position.
    7. FIDM authorizes only part-time CPT, which has no effect on OPT eligibility unless done for two years or more.

  3. Optional Practical Training (OPT): Optional Practical Training is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." (8 C.F.R.§ )214.2(f)(10)(ii))
    1. Student must have completed one academic year and earned a degree.
    2. OPT lasts a maximum of 12 months. Standard OPT can be authorized for a maximum aggregate period of 12 months per educational level. A student becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she changes to a higher educational level.
    3. OPT can be full-time or part-time employment.
    4. OPT must be related to field of study.
    5. Procedures
      1. Students may apply as early as 90 days prior to their program end date and as late as 60 days after. The application must be received by the USCIS within 60 days of the program end date.
      2. Student’s select an OPT start date within their 60 day grace period when making their OPT request to FIDM’s International Student’s Office.
      3. Currently the average application time for OPT is three months from the day the application is received.
        PLEASE NOTE: Students often receive the EAD well after the OPT start date they were given. The student cannot start working until the EAD is received. The EAD will expire within one year of the OPT start date, regardless of when the student actually receives the EAD. For example: If the student's OPT start date is June 1, and the EAD is received on August 1, the EAD will expire on June 1 (12 months from the OPT start date).

    Read additional rules related to OPT.