Carnegie Mellon University

Employment Options

On-Campus Employment

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.

Off-Campus Employment

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.

International students often ask how to answer the questions they encounter on employment applications and verification forms. This guide is meant to provide information so that a student can make an informed decision about how to answer.

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. For summer 2021, the earliest you can apply to CPT is March 24, 2021. You will receive a new CPT I-20 (which serves as work authorization for your employer) from OIE. 

After completing the mandatory e-learning course, prepare your CPT Academic Advisor Recommendation Form, and submit your CPT eForm Request to OIE through your MyOIE Portal account. You may also wish to share OIE's Employer Template Letter with your employer. 

REMINDER: Students will be able to apply through the MyOIE Portal only after they are registered for the summer semester, have completed the mandatory e-course and prepared all the required documents.  Full instructions for CPT can be found here

NOTE: CPT for Summer 2021 must occur within the CMU Academic Calendar dates.  As there are different summer calendars for internships in 2021, check with your academic department to determine your department's summer calendar. 

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 3 to 5 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.

Pre-Completion 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 3-5 months 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

Students are also welcome to reference our sample I-765 guide for pre or post-completion OPT.

Post-Completion OPT

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 OPT PowerPoint.

Students are also welcome to reference our sample I-765 guide for pre or post-completion OPT.

Spring 2021 New OPT Canvas Course:  Beginning in March 2021, students who have not previously attended a live OPT session (over zoom or otherwise) will be required to self-enroll in the our new OPT canvas course and pass the mandatory quiz as part of their OPT request process.

Students who plan to apply for OPT can self-enroll by searching in the CMU Public Course Index.
In the "Courses" section of your canvas, click "All Courses" and then "Browse more courses." Search for "S21 OIE Optional Practical Training (OPT) Overview" and click "Join this course." 

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 instructionsNOTE: 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

How to Request a SEVP Portal Email Change MyOIE portal:

If you would like to change the email address associated with your SEVP Portal, complete the "Change Email for SEVP Portal" e-Form in the MyOIE portal.  

H-1B Cap Gap of OPT

Find out  how to request an H-1B cap gap extension and more detailed information

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). 

How to Apply for STEM OPT I-20 in the MyOIE portal:

  1. Complete a STEM I-20 Request e-Form through the MyOIE Portal 
    1. Include the I-983 form- also accessible through the e-Form
      1. OIE will accept a verified digital signature on the I-983 from the student and employer signatory.  An example of a verified digital signature is a digital signature through the DocuSign or Adobe software.  In contrast, a typed name in a plain text field is not a verified digital signature.

      2. You can find the list of current DSOs here. Use the following contact information on your I-983 form: OIE, CMU, 5000 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, 412-268-5231, oie@andrew.cmu.edu
    2. Include the 24-month STEM extension planning tool- also accessible through the e-Form
    3. Include copy of EAD(s)

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. 

How to Request a New STEM OPT I-20 with a Change of Employer in the MyOIE portal:

If you will stop working with a STEM OPT employer, and you have a job offer for new STEM OPT employment, submit the “STEM I-20 Request” e-form in the “Limited Services” section of My OIE.

How to Complete STEM OPT Reporting Requirements in the MyOIE portal:

The federal government requires STEM OPT participants to submit a validation report to OIE every 6 months. 

Timing is critical! The regulations state that students with a STEM OPT extension must make a validation report within 10 days of the deadline of each 6 month reporting period. Failure to submit your STEM report could result in loss of your F-1 visa status and STEM OPT work authorization. 

Students can complete their requirements by submitting the submitting the "STEM OPT Report" e-Form in the MyOIE portal. 

Here is an overview of the STEM OPT reporting obligations: 

6 months Submit STEM OPT Report in the MyOIE portal. 
12 months Submit STEM OPT Report with "Evaluation on Student Progress" (top section of page 5 of Form I-983) in the MyOIE portal. 
18 months Submit STEM OPT Report in the MyOIE portal. 
24 months Submit STEM OPT Report with "Final Evaluation on Student progress" (bottom section of page 5 of Form I-983)  in the MyOIE portal. 

How to Request a SEVP Portal Email Change MyOIE portal:

If you would like to change the email address associated with your SEVP Portal, complete the "Change Email Address for SEVP Portal" e-Form in the MyOIE portal.  

How to Apply for a Replacement EAD card: 

If your STEM-Extension OPT is approved but you need to apply for a replacement EAD card, follow these instructions

Additional Resources 

For detailed instructions and extensive information regarding the 24-month STEM Extension process, refer to the following resources:

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 oie@andrew.cmu.edu

View cap-gap extension frequently asked questions (pdf)

If you have changed your status from F-1 to H-1B, please provide specific documentation to OIE by submitting the "Change of Status from F-1 (OPT/STEM OPT)" e-Form the MyOIE portal (under the biographical information section).

If you were approved for H-1B by consular processing, we need scanned copies of the following:

  • Most recent I-94 reflecting your entry as H-1B
  • H-1B approval Notice
  • EAD card
  • STEM OPT final Evaluation found on Page 5 of the I-983 (for students on the 24-month STEM OPT only)

If you were approved for H-1B as change of status, we need scanned copies of the following:

  • H-1B approval Notice
  • EAD card
  • STEM OPT final Evaluation found on Page 5 of the I-983 (for students on the 24-month STEM OPT only)

These materials are due within 10 days of your H-1B status start date and must be submitted in the MyOIE portal.  You can find the e-Form "Change of Status from F-1 (OPT/STEM OPT) located under the "biographical information section" after you have logged into the limited services section of the portal. 

Please note that your reporting requirements to OIE remain until the start of your H-1B status. After that date, you no longer needed to submit any updates to OIE, but be sure to keep all immigration documents (I-20’s, EAD cards, etc…). Example: If your status changed to H-1B on October 1, then your reporting requirments to OIE for F-1 status remained through September 30.

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.

On-Campus Employment

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. 

Academic Training

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).

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).