Work Authorization

Employment Options for International Students on F-1 Visas

Employment Option





Employment on campus Employment on campus with the school itself or with an independent company serving the school’s needs F-1 status Max 20 hours per week during school year, full time during vacation periods. Not required
Employment based on economic need Employment after one year of study if there has been an unforeseen change in your financial position (such as your country’s currency, loss of a scholarship, large tuition increase, etc.) F-1 status for at least one academic year, good academic standing, continued student status, unforeseen financial hardship, and/or inability to find campus employment Max 20 hours per week during school year, full time during vacation periods; permission granted for one year at a time. By USCIS
Curricular practical training (OPT) Employment as part of a student’s educational experience, offered by an employer through agreement with the school. F-1 status for at least nine months; (which can be waived for graduate student under certain circumstances), and/or continued student status. Limited to internships, co-op education, alternate work/study programs, required practicums. By designated school official
Optional practical training (OPT) Employment for up to one year after graduation in a job related to your field of study; OPT may start before graduation under specific circumstances. F-1 status for at least nine months; need not to have offer of employment. Not eligible if you have already worked for at least one year in CPT; OPT can only be for full time jobs. By USCIS and the designated school official
Employment through H-1B visa Temporary employment through H-1B visas for specialty workers; sponsoring employers must have documents on file with the U.S department of Labor certifying, among other things, that they will offer the employee on H-1B visa at least the prevailing wage paid in the same geographic area for the same type of job. Must have the offer of a specialty job from a qualified employer; must have the correct background for the job, incl. At least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience. Eligibility to work only for the H-1b sponsor; visa granted for up to three years at a time, subject to a maximum of six years. By USCIS
Off-campus employment based on economic need Permission to work off-campus if there has been unforeseen change in the student’s financial position; can be unrelated to the student’s exchange program. f-1 status; unforeseen financial hardship. Employment cannot adversely affect the student’s full-time participation in the exchange program.  

Curricular Practical Training
As an F-1 International Student you are permitted by the Immigration and Naturalization Services (USCIS) to apply for internships through a program called Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

For CPT, you must register for an internship course at Westchester Community College. You will receive credit(s) for the internship course and can be paid by the company employing you. Your CPT will NOT be deducted from the 12 months Optional Practical Training you are eligible for, as an in status full-time student.
These are the steps you must follow to qualify for the Curricular Practical Training:

If you already have a job offer:
Ask your prospective employer to write you a letter briefly describing your internship job. Make sure that the job description meets the criteria and objectives of your internship course. The letter also has to state the beginning and ending dates (15 weeks per class). 20 hours a week during the academic year, and full-time during the recess.

  • You must make an appointment with Susan Hacker Student Center Room 201, (914) 606-6760. Make sure to bring her the letter from your employer and their phone number.
  • Register for the approved course.
  • Go to the OFISS; bring the letter from the company, the approval from Susan Hacker or appropriate department head, the registration slip and your I-20 with you.
  • At the OFISS you will fill out an INS form I-538, which will permit you to accept employment.
  • If you need a social security card, the OFISS will assist in attaining one for you after you have been approved for the CPT.

Internship Courses available at Westchester Community College:

ART 131/132
Cooperative Education in Visual Arts and Design 1 & 2
Susan Hacker Coordinator of Internships and Co-op
Phone: (914) 606-6590

CIS 130/131
Co-op Education in CIS
Susan Hacker Coordinator of Internships and Co-op
Phone: (914) 606-6590

CIV 130/131
Co-op Education in Civil Technology 1 & 2
Susan Hacker Coordinator of Internships and Co-op
Phone: (914) 606-6590

Communication and Media 205A, 208A, 209A, 210A, 211A, 212A, 214A.
Communications and Media Arts Internship 1-9
Professor Bill Winters AAB 222A
Phone: (914) 606-6449

Co-op Computer Science
Susan Hacker Coordinator of Internships and Co-op
Phone: (914) 606-6590

PSCJ 230/135
Criminal Justice Internship 1 & 2
Professor Wedlick CL 29
Phone: (914) 606-6222

ELEC 130/131
Co-op Education in Electrical Technologies 1 & 2
Susan Hacker Coordinator of Internships and Co-op
Phone: (914) 606-6590

Hospitality Seminar
Daryl Nosek STC 115
Phone: (914) 606-6551

HSERV 109/146A/203/207A/214
Human Services Field Experiences
Kathleen Pressler CL 46
Phone: (914) 606-6249

LA/SS 110, 112, 114
Co-op Education in Liberal Arts / Social Science
Susan Hacker Coordinator of Internships and Co-op
Phone: (914) 606-6590

MECH 130/133
Co-op Education in Mechanical Technology 1 & 2
Susan Hacker Coordinator of Internships and Co-op
Phone: (914) 606-6590

MKT 130/131
Co-op Education in Marketing
Susan Hacker Coordinator of Internships and Co-op
Phone: (914) 606-6590

MGT 130/131
Co-op Education in Business Administration
Susan Hacker Coordinator of Internships and Co-op
Phone: (914) 606-6590

OFTEC 130/131
Co-op Education in Office Technologies 1 & 2
Susan Hacker Coordinator of Internships and Co-op
Phone: (914) 606-6590

Paralegal Intern
Professor Russell Ippolito CL 33
(914) 606-6218

RET 207
Internship in Retail Business Management
Susan Hacker Coordinator of Internships and Co-op
Phone: (914) 606-6590

If you do not have a job offer, you can make an appointment at the Career and Transfer Center STC 201 (914)-606-6960 or look at the Career & Transfer Center Website.

Registration Deadlines:
All students must register and complete the approval process no later than:
Fall: October 31st
Spring: March 31st
Summer: May 30th

Note: If you cannot find an internship course in this pamphlet within your field of study, contact your department!

Optional Practical Training
Preliminary Requirements

  • Apply for graduation at the Registrar’s Office.
  • Present the endorsed Registrar’s receipt to the OFISS in order to obtain the application package.
  • Complete the application, then make an appointment with the OFISS to complete the OPT process for employment.

NOTE: You can apply for practical training up to 60 days before completion of your studies.

Course of Action
The following documents are included in the application and needed by the OFISS to process an application for optional practical training:

  • Completed form I-765.
  • Completed form I-538 (items 1-8 and student’s signature).
  • Current I-20.
  • Two passport pictures taken at 45 degrees.

USCIS Process
The applicant must send the following documents to USCIS

  • Original I-765.
  • Original I-538 endorsed by the OFISS.
  • Copy of the front and back of the current I-20 endorsed by the OFISS.
  • Copy of any previously approved employment authorization cards.
  • Application Fee and two photos attached to the signed signature cards.

Important Information

  • It may take the INS up to 2-3 months to process your request.
  • Employment may not commence until you have obtained USCIS approval and your Employment Authorization Card (EAD).
  • If you have recently applied for optional practical training, you are strongly advised not to travel until you have received a response from USCIS.

After you have received a notice from USCIS, and if you have any further questions regarding your application status, the number to the USCIS public inquiry phone is 1-802-527-04913

On-Campus Employment
Students are eligible for on-campus employment without the authorization of USCIS. It can be with the school itself or an independent company serving the school’s needs. The student can work up to 20 hours a week during the school year and full-time during holidays and vacations. The student must be in good academic standing, which means maintaining at least a 2.0 grade point average.

To be employed on campus you must follow these steps:

  • You must first have valid F-1 Student Status (I-20).
  • You must find employment on your own by looking at the Career and Transfer Center in the Student Center, Room 201. Some past sources of employment have come from the tutoring center, library, English Language Institute, cafeteria and bookstore.
  • After you find an on-campus job, you must ask the employer to give you a letter stating the nature of the job, how many hours you will be working, and who you report to.
  • Next, you make an appointment with OFISS so they can help you with the appropriate paperwork. If you qualify for a job and you need social security card, the OFISS will help you obtain one.
  • After you have had your application for on-campus employment approved, have obtained a Social Security Card, and filled out the necessary paperwork with Human Resources, you can report to your employer to commence work.
  • You may work on campus as long as you are matriculated at Westchester Community College, remain in good academic standing, and in status. If you do not meet all three of these requirements, you may not work and if already employed, you must resign.

Extreme Hardship Employment
If you are experiencing extreme financial hardship due to an unforeseen event that has occurred to you or your sponsor, you may be eligible to apply for work authorization. In order to qualify you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have had your student status for at least 9 months
  • You must document the unforeseen event that has occurred to you or your sponsor. If you cannot document the event, immigration will not authorize you to work.
  • You must be in good academic standing.
  • You must not be in your last semester at the college.
  • You must not be engaged in any other working option.

If you meet these requirements, then make an appointment with OFISS.

A Student’s Road to Permanent Residence

F-1 Visa

  • Duration of Status (D/S): Full course of study and up to one year grace period as on I-20 plus 60 days, then extension by DSO on I-538 & new I-20AB if “compelling” academic or medical reasons.

Optional Practical Training

  • 1 year without job offer, (deduct time used prior to completion of studies), by USCIS after DSO recommendation. File 90 days prior to grad or 60 days after w/I-765 (EAD application) at USCIS/RSC.
  • It is advised that the students transfer to a four college or university and complete a Bachelor’s degree before applying for OPT if they intend to seek a working visa in the future.

H-1B Visa

  • You must have earned a Bachelor’s degree in order to apply for a working visa (H-1B).
  • “Specialty Occupation” Employer files Labor Condition Application (LCA) with U.S. DOL and awaits notice or receipt (7 working days or 2 weeks).
  • Employer files I-129 with USCIS/RSC and assumes 4 weeks to process. File prior to expiration of Practical Training as work may begin only after approval.
  • Up to 3 years each application, up to 3 years extension (6 year total). May be part-time, full-time, several part-time applications may be filed simultaneously.
  • 115,000 cap on approvals in 1999 and 2000. 107,500 cap on approvals in 2001. 65,000 cap on approvals in 2002. Start counting October 1.

Labor Certification

  • Employer files for Labor Certification Pre-advertise (or post-advertise) for 3 days (Except “Special Handling”- college faculty). Approx. 2-2 year processing time in New York and New Jersey- unless employer has been actively recruiting for 6 months. Notify Union representative and 3rd parties may contest availability. (Except no labor off for the first employment pref. Category with Nat’l. Int. Waiver, or “Schedule A” (nurses and Physical Therapists).Note: “Schedule A” requires postings.
  • 120,000 places with fall down of unused – no quota backlog in near future for the first 3 employment visa categories (except India and China), only administrative delays.
  • The final steps are filing the visa petition for the appropriate visa category with USCIS, and then making the application in the U.S or abroad for the green card.