Working on Campus

There are limited work opportunities available in the United States for F-1 students.

For this reason, before coming to the United States, F-1 students must prove they have the financial ability (e.g., present bank statements) to pay for tuition and living expenses while studying. If you decide that you want to work, the first step is always to talk with your DSO.

If your DSO knows you are working without permission, they must report it through SEVIS, meaning your SEVIS record will be terminated. That means that you will have to leave the United States immediately, and you may not be allowed to return.

Depending on your status and program of study, you may be eligible for the following type of employment opportunities while you study in the United States:


On-campus employment is work that F-1 students whose status is Active in SEVIS status may apply for. On-campus employment is specific to work that takes place on campus or at an off-campus location that is affiliated with the school. Examples of on-campus employment include working at a university bookstore or cafeteria.

Active F-1 students may apply for on-campus employment up to 30 days before the start of classes. In order to apply, talk to your DSO. If approved, your DSO will provide you with a letter of approval. All students who wish to work must obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). To apply for an SSN, you will need the following documents:

  • Completed application Form SS-5
  • I-20
  • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (can be found online )
  • Official job offer letter
  • Letter from Emory & Henry showing that you are in good academic standing

You will receive your Social Security Card in about 1-2 weeks after submitting your application materials to the social security office. 

If you participate in on-campus employment, you may not work more than 20 hours per week when school is in session. 


Off-campus employment is work that that takes place outside of a school campus. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will authorize off-campus employment only in cases of severe economic hardship occurring after a student’s enrollment in an academic program and after the student has been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year, or in emergent circumstances as defined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

To apply for off-campus employment, you must explain your economic hardship situation and receive approval to work from your DSO. If your DSO determines that the situation applies, he or she will recommend you and give you an updated Form I-20.  

Once you have the new Form I-20, you must file a Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” with USCIS within 30 days of receiving your recommendation.

If USCIS approves you to work, they will send you a Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document,” (EAD) with the dates that you may work off-campus.

Please note that you cannot begin to work while the Form I-765 is pending with USCIS. If you are approved, you may work 20 hours per week when school is in session. As with on-campus employment, you must also apply for a SSN. Please see the F-1 Student Off-Campus resource page on for additional information.

Curricular and Optional Practical Training (CPT and OPT)

Some F-1 students are eligible for practical training. There are two types of F-1 practical training: curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT).

Type of Practical Training Distinction
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Training relates directly to the student’s major area of study.
  • Training is an integral part of the school’s established curriculum.
  • Designated school official (DSO) authorized CPT in SEVIS, and the authorization prints on the student’s Form I-20.
  • Occurs before the student’s program end date on the Form I-20.
  • Authorization is for one specific employer and for a specific period of time.
  • Student must secure the training opportunity before CPT can be authorized.
  • Student can have more than one CPT authorization at the same time.
  • One year of full-time CPT eliminates a student’s eligibility for OPT.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • Training relates directly to the student’s major area of study.
  • DSO recommends OPT in SEVIS.
  • Student does not have to secure training before the DSO can recommend OPT.
  • Authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and the student is issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • Allows the student to work for any employer, as long as the training relates to the student’s major course of study
  • Can occur before or after the student’s program end date.
  • Periods of OPT cannot overlap.
  • Students are eligible for an additional 12 months of OPT authorization, when they change to a higher educational level.

For more information on Optional Practical Training (OPT) see Life After Emory & Henry College.