F-1 and J-1 students may work on campus 20 hours or fewer per week while school is in session and full-time during vacation terms or any official school breaks. F-1 students do not require additional permission for on-campus work. J-1 students must have permission from their program sponsor prior to beginning on-campus employment if the employment is not listed as a source of funding on their DS-2019.
For J-1 students on exchange, CMU is your program sponsor. To work on campus, J-1 students must submit the J-1 On Campus Employment Form (pdf).
Work that takes place at Carnegie Mellon for another employer (i.e., a professor's private company or companies housed in the Collaborative Innovation Center) or work that takes place at another school is not "on campus" and would require employment authorization.
In order for F-1 students to be eligible for any type of off-campus work permission, they must be in status and have completed two consecutive academic semesters.
Students should discuss employment authorization with their OIE advisor for any employment opportunity that involves an employer other than Carnegie Mellon University.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is employment that is an integral part of an established curriculum and is directly related to the student’s major area of study. Students must be enrolled in internship or practicum units to be eligible for CPT (Independent Study does not qualify for CPT) and meet the academic enrollment requirement (one full academic year immediately preceding the CPT authorization). This work authorization is approved by OIE and is job specific. Examples include a co-op program, internship, or research that is part of a thesis or dissertation.
If you have a summer internship, you can start the CPT application process when summer course registration opens. You will receive a new CPT I-20 (which serves as work authorization for your employer) from OIE. OIE will hold CPT Information Sessions (you can register on Handshake for a mandatory session (Spring ONLY), where you will learn how to submit your CPT request to OIE.
Before attending a mandatory CPT Information Sessions, review the OIE CPT Instructions.
NOTE: CPT for Summer 2020 must occur within the CMU Academic Calendar dates. Therefore, the CPT dates for Summer 2020 are: May 18, 2020 to Aug 7, 2020. However, CPT dates might differ by academic program and also by degree level. Students should speak to their academic department about their specific summer academic calendar dates.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a work authorization for F-1 students allowing them the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in a their degree program to off-campus work. The work must be directly related to the student’s level and major field of study. OPT is recommended by OIE and authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This authorization can take 2 to 3 months to obtain. The maximum amount of time granted to work on F-1 OPT status is 12 months per advanced degree level. Students do not need a job offer to apply for OPT.
If a student does not have an internship or practicum option, Pre-Completion OPT could be an option. F-1 students may be eligible to apply for Pre-Completion OPT for summer terms or for part-time work in certain circumstances. Planning is important because OPT can take 60-90 days to be approved. During the academic year, pre-completion must be part-time (fewer than 20 hours per week). Part-time, pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months at ½ rate (i.e., using 4 months of part-time, pre-completion OPT, would deduct 2 months of the 12 month total). More detailed information can be found on the OIE Pre-Completion OPT Application PowerPoint. It is not necessary for students to attend a session to apply for pre-completion OPT. To begin the process to request Pre-Completion OPT, utilize the Pre-Completion OPT Form instructions. Remember, you must attach the Academic Advisor form to your e-form submission. If your Pre-Completion OPT is approved but you need to apply for a replacement EAD card, follow these instructions.
Most students save up their 12 months of OPT to work after they graduate, which is Post-Completion OPT (pdf). F-1 students may be eligible for 12 months of full- or part-time off-campus employment using OPT with an Employment Authorization Document (work authorization) approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To begin the process to request Post-Completion OPT, utilize the Post-Completion OPT e-Form instructions (pdf). Remember, you must attach the Academic Advisor form to your e-form submission. F-1 students may wish to refer to OIE's 2019 OPT PowerPoint.
Students on Post-Completion OPT
Once an F-1 student begins their post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM extension of OPT, they should receive an email from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regarding the launch of the SEVP Portal. The portal may be used to report changes to home address, telephone number and employer information. If your Post-Completion OPT is approved but you need to apply for a replacement EAD card, follow these instructions. NOTE: Students are responsible for providing a description of how their practical training opportunity relates to the degree/major field of study, which qualified them for OPT. The written explanation should include the student's job title, employer name, major area of study, whether full-time or the average hours worked per week, and a brief explanation of how the job is directly related to the student's degree/major field of study. You can find sample explanations here.
H-1B Cap Gap of OPT
Find out how to request an H-1B cap gap extension and more detailed information.
OPT 24-Month STEM Rule & Extension
Certain F-1 students with degrees in a Designated STEM Field may be eligible for a 24-Month extension period of Optional Practical Training (OPT). To apply for a STEM I-20, follow these steps:
- Complete an OPT STEM Request Form and send it to email@example.com with the subject line "STEM Request"
- Complete an I-983 form
- Use the 24-month STEM extension planning tool
- Have/submit copy of EAD(s)
OIE will process a new I-20 recommending the STEM extension and email you with the next steps to create a shipping label for your document. Processing time for a new STEM I-20 is 10 business days. Depending on the volume of requests, OIE will prioritize requests based upon the date a student must submit the application to USCIS. The earliest you can send your materials to OIE is 100 days before your EAD expires. Refer to the 24-Month STEM Extension PowerPoint for next steps and a list of materials to include in the STEM application to USCIS.
If your STEM-Extension OPT is approved but you need to apply for a replacement EAD card, follow these instructions.
Cap-Gap Extension I-20 Request
If your H-1B (Change of Status) petition has been filed by your employer and receipted or approved by USCIS, you are eligible for an automatic Cap Gap Extension I-20 through September 30. If your current Post-Completion OPT or STEM OPT Extension EAD has an end date on or after September 30 you are not eligible for a Cap Gap Extension I-20 as you already have valid work authorization.
To request the Cap Gap Extension I-20, submit the Cap Gap I-20 Request e-Form through your MyOIE Portal account. You MUST login through the Limited Services portal. You will need to upload the following documents:
- Copy of current EAD
- Copy of H-1B I-797 Receipt or Approval Notice
OIE will issue a new Cap Gap I-20 in approximately 10 business days. You will receive an email once your I-20 is ready. If you are in the 12-month OPT period, be sure you have updated your employer information using the OPT Reporting Portal. If you are on the STEM OPT Extension and have an employer update, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Employment Based on Severe Economic Hardship
Employment based on severe economic hardship (pdf) is designed 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 insufficient.
Employment Options for J-1 Students
Students in J-1 status may work on campus up to 20 hours per week while school is in session with the approval of their Responsible Officer. If your DS-2019 is issued by Carnegie Mellon, then your OIE advisor is your J-1 Responsible Officer (RO) and you must submit this form to the Office of International Education (OIE) for on-campus work permission. If your DS-2019 was issued by another organization, contact that organization for information about employment authorization. Complete the On-Campus Employment (pdf) form and submit to OIE.
J-1 students may only work off campus in the US with a written work authorization called Academic Training (pdf). Academic Training is the name used to describe J-1 student off-campus work authorization for certain types of study-related employment.Students must be approved for work authorization in advance from your J-1 Responsible Officer (OIE Advisor).
Volunteering vs. Employment
As outlined above, F-1 and J-1 students must have the appropriate work permission before engaging in any off-campus work opportunity. Immigration regulations do not prohibit students from volunteering their time, as long as it is truly a volunteer opportunity and does not violate US labor laws (in other words, students cannot find a regular job and simply volunteer their time for free). If you are interested in volunteering, you should be aware of the relevant regulations so that you (and the recipient of your time) do not inadvertently violate these regulations and thus be penalized for unauthorized employment. View more details about Volunteering vs. Employment (pdf).