The guidelines listed on this page are for informational purposes only and cannot replace the advice of the staff of the Global Education Center (GEC).
F-1 and J-1 students may engage in employment without GEC authorization under the following conditions:
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined as employment that is an integral part of an established curriculum, including “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.”
Detailed informational CPT workshops are held periodically in the GEC when school is in session. It is recommended you attend one of the workshops before applying for CPT. Contact the GEC for upcoming CPT workshops.
Students must be authorized by the GEC to participate in CPT. Students may be authorized to participate in CPT only while enrolled in a program of study. CPT may be authorized only for a specific employer, location, and period; this information is noted on the I-20 upon receiving authorization for CPT.
Students may engage in CPT if practical training is "an integral part of an established curriculum." In practice, this means that a student must be participating in an internship, co-op, or the like either as part of a degree requirement or for academic credit. Please note that adding an internship, co-op, or practicum course may incur extra tuition or fees.
CPT may be paid or unpaid.
To be eligible for CPT, a student must:
Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time CPT. There is no limit on the length of time during which a student may participate in part-time CPT, but CPT must be re-authorized each term, and the student must continue to be enrolled in classes full-time.
Employment for 20 hours or more per week is considered full-time CPT. There is no limit on the duration of full-time CPT other than the length of the student's degree program. Please note that participation in 12 months or more of full-time CPT forfeits the student's eligibility for OPT at the same educational level. A student participating in full-time CPT must continue to make appropriate progress toward his or her degree in order to maintain F-1 status.
To request CPT, please submit to the GEC the following:
CPT approvals are authorized for a maximum of one semester at a time. Students must show proof of enrollment and letters from the employment and academic advisor indicating the necessity of continued employment.
OPT is defined as temporary employment directly related to a student's field of study. During OPT a student remains in F-1 status. For more information on OPT, please refer to the topics below.
Detailed informational OPT workshops are held periodically in the GEC when school is in session. It is recommended you attend one of the workshops before applying for OPT. Contact the GEC for upcoming OPT workshops.
A student must be authorized by both the GEC and U.S. Customs & Immigration Service (USCIS) to participate in OPT. A student may be authorized for OPT both during his or her course of study and after graduation.
OPT must be directly related to the student's area of study. The total amount of time a student may spend engaging in OPT is 12 months for each level of education (e.g. 12 months of OPT after a Bachelor's degree and another 12 months for a Master's degree). Students who have used CPT for one year or more are not eligible for OPT.
Students are eligible for OPT once they have been enrolled in a U.S. college or university for one year. There are three basic types of OPT: pre-completion, post-completion, and the STEM OPT extension. Pre-completion OPT refers to OPT that occurs before the student has completed his or her degree requirements. Post-completion OPT refers to OPT that occurs after a student has completed his or her degree requirements. The OPT STEM extension is a 17-month extension of OPT for which students holding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees may be eligible.
A student may submit an application for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one academic year, provided that the period of employment will not begin until the completion of the academic year.
To be eligible for OPT, a student must:
NOTE: Do not date the I-765 until you are ready to send the OPT application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Once the student's application is approved, USCIS will issue the student an Employment Authorization Document card. The student may not begin working until this card is in his or her possession and the begin date listed on the card has been reached. The student is allowed to stay in the U.S. while searching for employment.
Cancelling OPT is almost impossible once it has been approved. The amount of time listed on the EAD card will be counted regardless of the student's actual employment. Requests to cancel should be made to the GEC as soon as possible.
Students who leave the U.S. while authorized for OPT must have the following documents in order to be granted re-entry:
Failure to carry these items may result in the student being denied entry. Please consult with the GEC before travel during the OPT-authorization period.
For important information on travel during OPT, please refer to the USCIS Travel Advisory.
Students will forfeit their OPT authorization in any of the following scenarios:
Students in either of the above situations are advised to contact the GEC for further guidance.
Students who change immigration status (e.g. from F-1 to H-1B) during the period of their OPT are required to notify the GEC. To officially record your new status, the GEC will need a copy of the USCIS approval notice. Please send a copy by mail to:
Director of International Student and Faculty Scholar Services
Global Education Center
2375 Campus Box
Elon, NC 27244
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires students to report any change of address while on OPT within ten days. The student should log in to OnTrack to update his or her address.
J-1 academic training is defined as training related to a student's field of study. Academic training must be authorized by the GEC. During academic training a student remains in J-1 status. Academic training activities will vary based on discipline but may involve either paid or unpaid work. The most common academic training activity is a business internship.
A student may begin academic training during his or her program of study or within thirty days following. Academic training is authorized either for the duration of the student's exchange program or for the amount of time required to satisfy mandatory degree requirements while in the U.S., whichever is less.
Under certain circumstances students experiencing economic hardship may be authorized to seek employment other than the options listed here. Students should consult with the GEC to see if other options may be available to them.
All international students are required to file a tax return regardless of income earned during the previous year. A tax return is simply a declaration of earned income; in most cases a student will not be liable for additional taxes as a student's employer will have automatically withheld the required tax amount. Students are responsible for filing their own tax returns and should do so by the federal filing deadline of April 17, 2012.
Elon has purchased a software package from CINTAX to help students file their tax returns. Students will receive an e-mail during the spring semester with an individual access code and instructions for logging in. The software is user-friendly and will help students prepare the required documents based on their individual responses.
Information on this page was adapted from the NAFSA Adviser's Manual, retrieved 8/8/2011.