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 time in status qualification. 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 in April 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 sessions and authorize CPT when summer registration opens. Session dates and instructions will be emailed to all students. After attending a CPT session, review the CPT PowerPoint for information about applying for an SSN, travel before/after internship, etc. View more detailed information about CPT.
An Employer Template Letter is available to CPT employers if useful.
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 of requesting Pre-Completion OPT, follow the instructions in the Pre-Completion OPT Form.
Most students save up their 12 months of OPT to work after they graduate, which is Post-Completion OPT. 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, follow the instructions in the Post-Completion OPT Form. F-1 students may wish to refer to OIE's OPT PowerPoints:
- Spring (2019) Post-Completion OPT PowerPoint (pdf)
- Summer (2018) Post-Completion OPT PowerPoint (pdf)
- Fall (2018) Post-Completion OPT PowerPoint (pdf)
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 inlcude in the STEM application to USCIS.
STEM OPT Update
The final 24-month STEM OPT rule was published in the Federal Register on March 11, 2016 and the rule went into effect May 10, 2016. View a summary of the rule and OIE's handout on Determining Eligibility (pdf) for the benefit. Use the 24-month STEM extension planning tool to determine your filing deadline. For detailed information, you may also view OIE's PowerPoint presentation about the benefit.
For those on an approved 17-month STEM extension that was approved prior to May 10, 2016, and for whom a 7-month extension has not been requested, the 17-month STEM OPT rules will continue to govern.
Cap-Gap Extension I-20 Request
If your H-1B (change-of-status) petition has been filed by your employer and receipted by USCIS, you are eligible for an automatic cap-gap extension I-20 through September 30.
To request this cap-gap extension I-20, send the following in an email to email@example.com with "Cap-Gap Extension" in the subject line:
- Full name as it appears on your passport
- Your date of birth
- Your academic department at CMU
- If you have F-2 dependents (If you have dependents, how many?)
- How your H-1B was filed:
- As a change of status, or
- Consular notification
- Scan and attach a copy of the H-1B receipt notice from USCIS (I-797C) to the email (make sure the copy is clear and legible)
- Scan and attach a copy of your EAD card to the email (make sure the copy is clear and legible)
OIE will then create and issue a new cap-gap I-20 and send you instructions via email about creating a shipping label for the document. The new I-20 will be ready in 10 business days. If you are in the 12-month OPT period, be sure you have updated your employer information using the OPT Reporting Portal.
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).