Off-Campus Employment for International Students

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an opportunity for students on F-1 visas to practice their practical skills related to their majors while studying at SUNY Oneonta by participating in a credit-bearing internship. If students need to intern off campus, their off-campus internship (or CPT) must be approved in their SEVIS record by their DSO/International Student Advisor.

CPT Eligibility:

U.S. immigration regulations require the following in order to be eligible to apply for work authorization:

  • Have active F-1 status and have completed at least one year (two semesters) of full-time academic study in the U.S.
  • Have obtained a job/internship offer letter by the time you request CPT.
  • Are registered for internship credits through the Career Development Center by the time you request CPT.

CPT Approval Process:

  • Meet with your DSO/International Student Advisor to ensure you understand the process for obtaining CPT approval.
  • Apply for internships (utilize Career Development Center for assistance on resumes, cover letters, and interviews) and obtain an offer letter from an employer.
  • Register for internship credits through the Career Development Center. See their Internship Registration Website for instructions.
  • Submit the following documents to your DSO/International Student Advisor at least two weeks prior to the desired start date of your internship.
    • Offer letter (stating employer name, address, supervisor email and phone number, and number of hours per week you will work)
    • Confirmation that you are registered for the internship for credits (1-3 credits typically)
  • The DSO/International Student Advisor will then be able to add the CPT approval to your SEVIS record and provide you with an updated I-20 with CPT approval.

You cannot begin your internship until you have been authorized and issued an I-20 with CPT approval.

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary work authorization following completion of your degree and is designed to give F-1 students an opportunity to apply their knowledge gained through their educational experience.

OPT is not automatic – you must apply for it no earlier than 90 days prior to graduation and you are responsible for reporting your anticipated graduation to the OGE office and scheduling an appointment with the International Student Advisor for OPT processing and attend an OPT workshop held prior to graduation.

Each semester, an OPT workshop is held prior to graduation with ample time to apply for your work permit card. Since immigration regulations may change, it is highly recommended that graduating international students attend one of these workshops to be sure they are knowledgeable about current rules and guidelines for the OPT experience and file the petition for the work permit effectively.

Authorization for optional practical training is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Your I-20 will be adjusted to request authorization to work after graduation by the OGE at the time of filing the request for OPT.

You cannot begin working through OPT until after your OPT application is approved and after you have received your work permit card / Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The application is approved and the EAD card is sent by the USCIS.

OPT Application Steps:

  • Meet with your DSO/International Student Advisor to ensure you understand the application steps for OPT prior to the 90 days before your program end date.
  • Create your account through the website to complete the OPT application (I-765 form). Students may fill out the OPT application with help from the International Student Advisor - schedule an appointment to receive help with this.
  • Gather and upload the following documents to the online application:
    • An virtual full-face, passport-style color photo, 2” x 2.” Must be on white or off-white background, taken within the past 30 days.
    • A copy of your I-94 (travel history/record).
    • 1 copy of the signed I-20 with OPT recommendation from your DSO/International Student Advisor and all other I-20s with past CPT approval or OPT approval. *Note: If you submit your application WITHOUT the "OPT recommendation" I-20, your application will be rejected.
    • Copy of your passport photo & signature page
    • Copy of your F-1 student visa – photo page & port-of-entry stamped pages.
  • Pay the OPT application fee after completing the online application. The current fee is $410.00 - always check the I-765 Form site for the most updated fee.

OPT Eligibility

U.S. immigration regulations require the following in order to be eligible to apply for work authorization:

  • Must be in full-time student status for at least one full academic year prior to the submission of the OPT application
  • Must have maintained valid F-1 status at the time of the application, and
  • Must intend to work in a position directly related to your major field of study.

In addition, students applying for OPT must also concurrently satisfy the following:

  • Must have no financial encumbrances on your student account at the time of the OPT application
  • Must be in good academic standing and approved for graduation; thus, you must bring verification of a letter from your Academic Advisor that you are cleared for graduation to the OGE.

OPT Reporting Requirements and Reminders

  • Students must report the following information to their DSO/International Student Advisor within 10 days of the change (preferably before the change occurs):
    • Physical address and mailing address
    • Email address and phone number
    • Employer information (changes in job or position, company name and address, supervisor name, phone, and email, hours per week, description of how employment directly relates to program of study).
  • Students must work above 20 hours per week total (considered "full-time" in SEVIS). If a student falls below this, they would start accruing unemployment days.
  • Students receive 90 days of unemployment total for the OPT year. SEVIS automatically counts the unemployment days for any time there is no current employment information in a student's SEVIS record, or if the student is working 20 hours or less per week (part-time).
    • The unemployment count begins on the OPT start date on a student's EAD card and in their SEVIS record if there is no employment information added on the start date.

STEM 24-Month Extension OPT:

Students who graduate with a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) are able to apply for a STEM 24-month OPT extension before their 12-month Post-Completion OPT ends.

  • A student's major must be on the USCIS STEM OPT CIP code list to be eligible for this extension. You can find your CIP code for your major listed on your I-20 (the number code next to your listed major).

Please contact your International Student Advisor for assistance with applying for the STEM 24-month OPT extension.

What is the difference between an employee an a volunteer? A common misconception is that the only difference is employees get paid and volunteers do not.

However, work that is unpaid may still be considered either CPT or OPT employment for F-1 and J-1 visa holders and may require employment authorization.

What is an employee? In the context of immigration regulations, it is as follows: "An individual who provides services or labor for an employer for wages or other remuneration". Note that "remuneration" is a broad term and includes a variety of non-monetary benefits, such as free housing, food, gifts, etc.

What is a volunteer? According to the Department of Labor, it is: an "individual who performs hours of service...for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation, or receipt of compensation for services rendered". A volunteer cannot displace a genuine employee, and the services provided by the volunteer should not be the same services for which they were previously paid and/or expects to be hired and paid for in the future.

The Career Development Center (CDC) is located in 128 Hunt Union. Students are encouraged to schedule an appointment through the CDC website assistance with interview practice, cover letters, and resumes.

See the CDC's resume review & appointment instructions (students must upload their existing resume first).

Students can view off-campus job postings (from around the U.S.) through the CDC website in Handshake.

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