The following information provides you with an introduction to employment issues and options for international students in F-1 status. Please note that students wishing to apply for any of these options are required to attend the Center employment workshop(s) appropriate for their needs, i.e., the On-Campus, Off-Campus and/or Post-Completion Employment workshop, before an international student adviser will meet with them individually on an employment application or issue.
Academic advisers should never advise an international student to undertake employment of any kind unless they are very clear with students that they must first obtain necessary employment authorizations through the Center for Global Services. Starting work without authorization--even if the student receives authorization later--constitutes illegal employment for an international student, and results in the student's loss of legal status in the U.S.
Definition of Employment
Employment is any type of service or activity normally performed in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit. The absence of payment for services performed does NOT make it legal; indeed, if the service is one that is normally remunerated, allowing an international student to perform the service for no pay violates not only immigration laws, but fair labor laws, as well. Certain non-paid internships (those which are designated as non-paid, even for students eligible to work in the U.S.) may be permitted, but international students should be advised to consult with their Center international student adviser prior to undertaking even a non-paid internship.
On-Campus Employment for F-1 and J-1 Students
On-campus employment is working for a department, office or unit at Rutgers-New Brunswick or working for an outside company located on-campus that provides direct services to Rutgers students (such as Szechwan Express in the campus student center). On-campus employment includes graduate and teaching assistantships, fellowships and hourly employment--and, for graduate students in dual Rutgers-UMDNJ programs, it includes employment at UMDNJ that is directly related to the student's degree program.
On-campus employment is limited to 20 hours per week when school is in session but may be unlimited during official vacation periods. Authorization for on-campus employment is automatically terminated once a student completes his/her degree requirements.
Students working on campus must obtain an International Payroll Form from the Center prior to beginning work, and the employing unit must submit the form to Payroll Services along with other standard payroll forms. International Payroll Forms are provided only to students who attend the On-Campus Employment Workshop, offered twice weekly throughout the year.
Employment for F-1 Students Only
Curricular Practical Training
Employment that is an integral part of a student's academic program may qualify for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) employment authorization. Such employment may include internships, cooperative education programs and practicum experiences and must be either (1) a required part of the academic program for all students in a particular degree program; or (2) employment for which the student will receive academic credit that specifically counts towards his or her degree program's credit requirements. In the latter case, the employment must correspond with a course for which the student is concurrently registered. CPT may be authorized on either a part-time or full-time basis and can be authorized only for a specific employer in a specific location. Students who have used 12 months of full-time CPT at a particular educational level are ineligible for OPT (see below) for that same educational level.
To be eligible for CPT students must have been enrolled in a full course of study for at least one full academic year.
Students wishing to gain CPT authorization are required to attend an Off-Campus Employment Workshop to learn the regulatory requirements and authorization procedure.
Optional Practical Training
F-1 students are eligible for up to twelve months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) per degree level. OPT provides an opportunity to apply knowledge obtained in an academic program to a practical work experience. OPT employment must be directly related to a student's field of study and commensurate with his or her degree level. OPT may be authorized as full-time or part-time prior to completion of studies, but only as full-time immediately following completion of studies. OPT employment may take place anywhere in the U.S.
To be eligible for OPT students must be enrolled in a full course of study for at least one full academic year.
OPT must be recommended by a Center adviser (designated by the USCIS for this) and then authorized directly by the USCIS before the student is eligible to begin working. As it can take 3 or more months to obtain the OPT employment authorization document (EAD), we recommend that students apply early. As with other types of employment, students may not begin OPT employment until they have received the EAD.
Students wishing to gain OPT authorization are required to attend either an Off-Campus Employment Workshop or a Post-Completion Employment Workshop, depending on whether they will undertake OPT during the course of their studies or after.
Severe Economic Hardship Employment
In some instances, a student who is able to document severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his or her control may be eligible for permission to work off campus. Students must have been in student status for one full academic year, and must be able to document the circumstances causing the severe and unforeseen economic need. If authorized, employment is limited to no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session and can be unlimited during vacation periods. Economic hardship applications must be recommended by a Center adviser and submitted to USCIS for approval. Students are required to meet with their Center adviser for more information.
Employment for J-1 Students Only
J-1 students may be authorized to participate in "Academic Training" (AT) for a total of 18 or 36 months during or after a degree program, but in any case not for a period exceeding the amount of time the student has actually participated in the J-1 program in the U.S. (Note: AT may be authorized for 36 months only for post-doctoral research positions, and even then must be granted in allotments of no more than 18 months each.)
Employment allowed under Academic Training must be directly related to the student's field of study and must be authorized by the program sponsor (a Center adviser) in writing before a student is permitted to commence employment. Unlike OPT for F-1 students, AT may be authorized only for a specific job; it is not 'blanket' work permission in one's field of study. To apply for AT, students are required to meet with their Center international student adviser.