F-1 Students

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Employment is any work performed or services provided in exchange for compensation. Unauthorized employment is a serious violation of student status.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a benefit of F-1 status which allows F-1 degree-seeking students the opportunity for employment directly related to the student’s academic curriculum. Prior to beginning employment, the student must receive permission from the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences and the Designated School Official in the Office of International Services and a new I-20 noting the details of the CPT approval.

CPT employment can be approved only while a student is pursuing a degree. Once you have completed all program requirements, you are no longer eligible for CPT. A job offer must be secured before the case is approved.

CPT can be authorized for full- or part-time employment; however, the student must be simultaneously enrolled for sufficient credit hours to maintain lawful F-1 status. The cumulative use of full-time CPT for 12 months or more negates a student’s eligibility for any OPT. Part-time CPT does not affect a student’s eligibility for OPT.

To meet the requirements for curricular practical training, the employment must be:

  • Related to the student’s field of study.
  • Appropriate to the student’s degree level.
  • An integral part of student’s degree program.
  • Required by the student’s degree program, carry course credit or be essential for gathering research for the student’s thesis/dissertation.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Many students at UMMC choose to take advantage of Optional Practical Training following graduation or, in some cases, while still engaged in thesis or dissertation research.

Employment on OPT must be directly related to your major area of study and appropriate with your educational level. You do not need a job offer to apply for this benefit, which can be authorized for a maximum aggregate period of 12 months per educational level. Optional Practical Training is not related to a specific employer or place of employment so you can change jobs while on OPT.

An OPT application can be submitted up to 90 days before the program completion date and cannot be received by USCIS more than 60 days after the program completion date. Changes to the OPT start and end dates are not easily made. Please be certain of your anticipated employment start and end dates before scheduling your appointment with our office.

It may take USCIS up to 3 months to issue your OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If you wish to begin working immediately after completing your degree requirements, you should plan to apply for OPT as soon as you are within 90 days of your program completion date.

Students on post-completion OPT are only allowed a total of 90 days of unemployment. If you exceed this acceptable period of unemployment, you are considered to have violated your status.

A 24-month extension is available to some students who have degrees in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). To be eligible for the STEM extension, a student must be working for an employer who is registered with E-Verify. You are allowed to change jobs during the STEM extension as long as your new employer is also registered with E-Verify.

You can apply for the STEM extension up to 120 days before your EAD card end date. The process for applying for the STEM extension is similar to the initial OPT application. Once you have submitted the STEM extension application, you may continue to work on OPT for up to 180 days after your initial EAD card expires while you wait for your STEM EAD card to be issued.

IMPORTANT: The Department of Homeland Security has decided against permitting volunteer and uncompensated activities while on STEM OPT saying that "requiring commensurate compensation for F-1 students - which does not include no compensation - protects both international and domestic students and ensures that the qualifying STEM positions are substantive opportunities..."

During the whole 36 months of OPT employment, you are allowed a total of 150 days of unemployment. If your job is ended before your STEM extension end date, your employer is required to contact the OIS to inform us of your last day of employment.

Federal regulations require that schools report up-to-date information on F-1 students engaging in Optional Practical Training. As an F-1 student, you are responsible for informing the Office of International Services of the name and address of your employer and any change in your address and other contact information. Our office will keep your record updated and accurate in SEVIS.