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Work Authorizations

International students must be approved to legally work on-campus or off-campus prior to starting the employment including internships.

Please select the appropriate form or document below that you wish to complete online.

Note: If you have already started a specific online form, do not start a new one. Please go to your User Home Page to continue working on your online form.

International Students may apply to on-campus job positions such as Student Worker (University Aid), Graduate Assistant and Resident Assistant. You may work only up to 20 hours per week when school is in session and up to 26 hours per week when school is not in session. When you are offered a position on campus, you must apply and obtain a Social Security Number and complete a New Hire packet in the Department of Human Resources.

For Social Security Number, you must go to the Social Security office with the following documents:
  • Job Offer Letter from department
  • Approval Letter from International House and Programs
  • I-20/DS2019
  • Valid passport with valid visa stamp
  • I-94 record
Social Security Office Location:  801 QUINTARD AVENUE ANNISTON, AL 36201

F-1 Students are not permitted to work off-campus unless the students apply and get approved for work authorization from USCIS.

An F-1 student may be authorized for off-campus employment due to severe, unforeseen economic necessity. The severe economic hardship employment authorization benefit is intended to address situations where a financial need beyond the student's control arises, which was unforeseen at the time the student applied to the school he or she is currently attending and after all other potential employment opportunities have proven to be insufficient.

Eligibility Criteria
Remember that eligibility only refers to the ability to apply and does not mean qualification for approval.
  • Must have been enrolled full time for at least one academic year.
  • Must have maintained F-1 status.
  • Must be in good academic standing.
  • Provide evidence of economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control. Acceptable unforeseen circumstances may include:
    • Loss of financial aid/scholarship
    • Loss of on campus employment without fault on the part of the student
    • Substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate
    • Inordinate increases in tuition and /or living costs
    • Unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support/sponsor
    • Medical bills
    • Other substantial and unexpected expenses
  • Show that on-campus employment is not available or sufficient.
F-1 Students may apply for CPT if you have maintained your legal status for at least one full academic year.  CPT must be an integral part of an established curriculum, directly related to the major area of study or is required to meet graduation requirement for that major.

F-1 Students may apply for Pre-Completion OPT or Post Completion OPT as part of their F-1 student’s benefit if you have maintained your legal status for at least one full academic year.

Pre Completion OPT Rules and Regulations

1. Who is eligible to apply for pre-completion OPT?
• F-1 student who has been enrolled in a bachelor’s, masters or doctoral program for at least 1 academic year.
• Student must be registered in a full course of study and maintaining status.

2. How do I apply?



Once request is completed the student should make an appointment with the Immigration Advisor to request OPT. All documents should be brought to the meeting. Incomplete application or missing documents will require the student to reschedule the meeting until they have completed application packet.

3. How many hours can I work?
Pre-completion OPT is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and student still has coursework to complete. It can be done full time during official school breaks, including the summer session and interims and if student is not taking classes. Students must reapply if they switch from full time hours to part time hours or vice versa.

Example: If a student goes from 20 hours per week during the spring semester to 40 hours during the summer terms, they must reapply. Reapplication is also necessary if a student goes from 40 hours per week to 20 hours per week.

4. What kind of work can I do?
No offer of employment is required to apply for OPT. Students may secure employment in a job that is directly related to their field of study

Types of employment allowed:
-Regular paid employee: Must work at least 20 hours per week.
-Contracted employment: Must provide proof of contracts, times and duration.
-Self-employed business owner: Must work full-time, have proper business licenses and the business must be directly related to the student’s field of study.
-Employment through an agency: Must provide proof they have worked 20 hours per week at the agency.
-Volunteering or Internships: Allowed as long as labor laws are not compromised. Must work at least 20 hours per week. May use this option to stay in status if having difficulty finding paid employment.
-Multiple employers (such as artists, musicians etc.): Must keep a detailed list of all employment. Allowed 10 days between paid performances or work in between multiple employers.

5. When can I start working?
Students can only begin work after they have received the Employment Authorization Card (the EAD card) from USCIS. Students may not begin working until the start date on the card has commenced even if they receive the card early. Employment cannot exceed the end date indicated on the EAD.

6. Can I still apply for post completion OPT after I graduate?
Yes, however employment while on pre-completion OPT counts against the 365 days of full time eligibility. This means that if a student does 3 months of part time OPT (20 hours/week), then the student has lost one and a half months toward the 365 days of full time eligibility. If the student works 3 months of full time pre-completion OPT, then the student has lost 3 months toward 365 days of full time eligibility.

7. Can I work on campus and do pre-completion OPT?
Students may work on campus and do pre-completion OPT as long as the total number of hours worked does not exceed 20 per week.

8. Do I still have to register in full time hours?
Yes. As per F-1 status, you must be enrolled full time at all times while on pre-completion OPT.
F-1 Students may apply for Pre-Completion OPT or Post Completion OPT as part of their F-1 student’s benefit if you have maintained your legal status for at least one full academic year.

Post Completion OPT Rules and Regulations

1. Who is eligible to apply for post completion (standard) OPT?
-F-1 student who has been enrolled in a bachelor’s, masters or doctoral program for at least 1 academic year.
-Students engaged in full time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for one year are not eligible for OPT.
-English as Second Language students are not eligible to apply for OPT.
-Students are eligible to split OPT between two consecutive degree levels as long as they have not applied and been approved for all their OPT on the first degree level. Students
who move to a higher educational level forfeit the OPT at the previous level.

2. When should I apply?
Students may apply no earlier than 90 days before the program completion date. The Immigration Advisor will set the program completion date as the graduation date. Students’ OPT application must be received by USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) no later than 60 days after the program completion date. Students should keep in mind that USCIS can take 60-90 days or longer to approve work authorization.

3. How do I apply for OPT?



Once request is completed the student should make an appointment with the Immigration Advisor to request OPT. All documents should be brought to the meeting. Incomplete application or missing documents will require the student to reschedule the meeting until they have completed application packet.

4. What is my “program completion date”?
A student is considered “finished” by immigration regulations when they have finished all coursework necessary for program completion (excluding thesis, dissertation or equivalent). The DSO usually sets the program completion date as the day or graduation. Students are considered finished whether or not they walk at the graduation ceremony.

5. What if I still have to do thesis or take my comprehensive exam?
Students who have completed all coursework necessary for graduation (including internships) but are required to do thesis, dissertations hours or equivalent (such as a comprehensive exam) may choose to apply for pre-completion or post- completion OPT.
 
  Advantages Disadvantages
Pre-Completion OPT
• Students must still be registered in full time hours according to their status (registering for or dissertation hours)
• Students will follow the same procedures to apply for OPT through USCIS
• Unemployment is not counted towards the 90 days of unemployment requirement
• Students have the flexibility to change their program end date as they define thesis.
• Students are allowed to work full time.
• Students are not eligible for the 24 months STEM Extension
• Students are not Eligible for the cap-gap extension
• When students complete their thesis or dissertation work, they will have to apply again for post-completion OPT. This can cause a gap in work between pre-completion OPT and post completion OPT.
Post-Completion OPT
• Students who choose this option should confer with their academic advisor to understand if they will be conferred a degree if their thesis or dissertation has not been completed. By not being conferred a degree, students may have difficulty finding jobs.
• Students can work full time
• Students can apply for STEM Extension
• Students are eligible for the cap-gap extension
• Unemployment is counted towards the 90 days of unemployment requirement.
• Students cannot change their program of study date. This means if the student has completed opt but he/she has not finished his/her thesis.
6. What kind of work can I do while on OPT? Do I have to have a job offer before I apply?
No offer of employment is required to apply for OPT. Students may secure employment in a job that is directly related to their field of study. If a student works multiple jobs, all jobs must be directly related to the field of study.

Types of employment allowed:
-Regular paid employee: Must work at least 20 hours per week.
-Contracted employment: Must provide proof of contracts, times and duration.
-Self-employed business owner: Must work full-time, have proper business licenses and the business must be directly related to the student’s field of study.
-Employment through an agency: Must provide proof they have worked 20 hours per week at the agency.
-Volunteering or Internships: Allowed as long as labor laws are not compromised. Must work at least 20 hours per week. May use this option to stay in status if having difficulty finding paid employment.
-Multiple employers (such as artists, musicians etc.): Must keep a detailed list of all employment. Allowed 10 days between paid performances or work in between multiple employers.

7. When can I start working?
Students can only begin work after they have received the Employment Authorization Card (the EAD card) for USCIS. Students may not begin working until the start date on the card has commenced even though if they receive the card.

8. How do I choose a start date?
The student should choose a date that is at least 1 day after the program completion date and up to 60 days after the program completion date. Students should keep in mind that USCIS processing times and the job search process when choosing as start date.

9. What if I can’t find a job right away?
Students on post completion OPT cannot exceed 90 days of continuously accrued unemployment. Students who are outside the US and not working also accrue days of unemployment. Students who exceed the allotted days of unemployment may be considered out of status and can lose future F-1 benefits. Students who switch jobs are allowed 10 days of unemployment between jobs that does not count towards accruing unemployment.

10. How long can I work while on OPT?
Students are allowed 365 days of employment. If a student engaged in pre-completion OPT, this counts against the total days available for post completion OPT.

11. Do I have to let the school know when I find a job?
Yes. Students must provide the DSO with the employer’s name, address, and other relevant information. Students must also report any changes in employment within 10 days of the change. In addition, students must also report their current residential address. If a student moves, they must report the move within 10 days.

12. What if I want to travel outside of the United States?
If a student has filed the I-765 but have not been approved yet for OPT, travel outside of the US is permitted. The student must carry their I-797 Receipt Notice, valid/signed I-20, passport, visa and other relevant immigration documents. If a student is approved while outside of the US, they cannot re-enter unless they have a job offer and have received the EAD card.
If a student has applied for OPT and been approved, travel outside of the US is also permitted. The student must carry the EAD card, valid/signed I-20, passport, visa and employment offer letter. If a student has been approved for OPT but does not have a job offer, they cannot re-enter the United States.

13. What is a STEM Extension?
Students who graduated from JSU with a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics are eligible for a one-time 24 months’ extension of their OPT status. Majors must have the appropriate CIP code associated with the major as defined by the Department of Homeland Security.

14. What happens when I’m finished with OPT?
Students have 60 days after the end of their OPT to do one of the following:
• Transfer to a new school and receive a new I-20. The start of the new school may not be more than 5 months from the end of OPT.
• Leave the US
• Start a new program at the current university and receive a new I-20
If a student does not do one of the above 3 things, after 60 days the students record will automatically terminate itself. The student will then be considered out of status and will have to file for a reinstatement.
F-1 Students under Standard post completion OPT may apply for STEM Extension if they graduated with STEM eligible degree program at JSU.

STEM Extension OPT Rules and Regulations

1. What is a STEM extension?
Students on Post Completion OPT in select science, technology, engineering, and mathematic fields are eligible for a one-time 24 month extension of their OPT. This would put the total amount of OPT at 36 months.

2. How do I know if I am eligible for a STEM extension?
The major indicated on your I-20 must coincide with the majors listed on the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement website. Majors are given numerical codes called CIP codes. Eligibility for a STEM extension is based on the CIP code assigned to your major. Check with the Designated School Official (DSO) if you would like to know the CIP code given to your major.

3. Do I have to have a job before applying?
Yes. A student must have received an offer letter from an employer before applying for the extension. The employer must be enrolled in the federal E-verify program.

4. When do I apply?
STEM extensions must be completed and received by USCIS before the end date of Post Completion OPT. Students should contact the DSO at JSU at least 90 days before the OPT end date to ensure timely processing. An application for Post Completion OPT cannot be made at the same time as the application for the STEM extension.

5. How do I apply?



Once request is completed the student should make an appointment with the Immigration Advisor to request OPT. All documents should be brought to the meeting. Incomplete application or missing documents will require the student to reschedule the meeting until they have completed application packet.

6. What happens if my OPT expires but I haven’t been approved yet for the extension?
A student can continue to work 180 days after the end date of OPT while the STEM Extension application is pending. However, the student can continue to work during this time only if the student is eligible for the STEM extension and is working with an employer approved for the STEM conditions (that is, the employer must be in the E-verify program).

*Students should be aware that if their OPT has expired and they are waiting for the STEM application approval, they cannot renew their driver’s license or travel outside the US*

7. What are the reporting requirements for students on a STEM extension?
6 Months Validation:
 Students must report employment and living address to the DSO every six months (even if the information is unchanged). The STEM Extension Reporting Form should be completed and submitted to the DSO at least 10 days before the 6th month reporting date.
Annual Self-Evaluation: Students must submit to their DSO an annual self-evaluation about the progress of the training experience. The form I-983 must be completed and signed by the student and the employer. The form must be submitted to DSO within 12 months of the listed STEM OPT start date. At the end of the STEM OPT extension, a student must conduct a second, final assessment.
Unemployment: Students and employers must provide continuous updates to the DSO which includes start dates and termination dates and if the student leaves the company. This must be reported within 10 days of the event. Students should also report the contact information of the university to the employer.
Change of the employer: Students must report information about a new employer within 10 days after the new employment begins along with a new form I-983. The new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before the student begins to work for pay.
Material Change: Students must report any changes on the information provided on original form I-983 such as:
• Any change of the employer’s EIN.
• Any reduction in student compensation that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked.
• Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity.
• Changes to the employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.
Employer Non-Compliance: Students must report the employer for non-compliance to 24 months STEM regulation and/or non-adherence to I-983 instructions.

8. Are there any rules regarding days of unemployment?
Yes. Students cannot have more than aggregate of 150 days of unemployment.

9. Do I have to stay with the same employer?
No. Students are eligible to change employers as long as all employment is through companies registered in the E-verify program.

10. Are there minimum hours that I need to work?
Yes. Students are required to work for minimum of 20 hours with each employer that are registered in the E-verify program. With this rule, students practically can have only up-to 2 employers.

11. Can 24-month extension be granted for volunteer work?
No. Students must be paid employee of the company.
F-1 students are required to report employer information in timely manner. Any changes in employer information should also be reported immediately. F-1 students will be issued another I-20 once employment information is received. It is student’s responsibility to make sure that they get the updated I-20.

The Department of Homeland Security allows J-1 students the opportunity to do academic training while in the US. During academic training, J-1 students must follow all J-1 regulations in accordance with their status and report any changes to the International House & Programs Office at JSU.