Employment Options for F1 Students

“Employment” is work performed in exchange for compensation. Compensation can include money, room and board, or other significant benefits. Before accepting any kind of employment, be sure it is allowed by the F-1 regulations. F-1 students are legally not allowed to work off-campus without prior authorization. Note that the off-campus employment opportunities generally require you to have completed one academic year (two academic semesters) to be eligible to apply for authorization. Consult an ISS adviser with any questions related to F-1 status and employment.

Types of Employment:

Your F-1 student status permits you to work on campus at the university that issued your I-20 while you are enrolled in a full course of study. Your RCC I-20 is your proof of work eligibility for on-campus employment at RCC only. You must maintain F-1 status to be eligible for this employment benefit; maintaining status means that you are a full-time registered student (except for approved exceptions) in good academic standing with a valid I-20.

Definition of “On-Campus” Employment

On-campus employment includes:

  • On-Campus student worker jobs as approved through Career Readiness and Success
  • Work performed in a campus location for a commercial firm providing direct services to students
    Example: Bookstore, Cafeteria

Time Limits

You are allowed to work:

  • part-time (20 hours per week or less) during fall and spring semesters
  • full-time (more than 20 hours per week) during summer breaks

Expiration of On-campus Employment Eligibility

Your on-campus employment eligibility ends:

  • When you graduate. It expires the last day of your final quarter (per UW calendar), even if your I-20 expiration date is in the future.
  • If you transfer to another university; your work authorization expires on the day of your SEVIS record release date.
  • If you violate your F-1 status.

Work Study

Some campus jobs are designated as “work study” positions. The job description might include a statement such as: “position open only to RCC students who qualify for work study awards.” Work study awards are part of federal financial aid packages and are only available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. As an F-1 student, generally you are not eligible for a work study position and should not apply.

Finding a Campus Job

Students should visit Career Readiness and Success to register themselves as eligible to work on-campus. Career Readiness and Success may also have a list of jobs available, but many times job openings are not reported to them. It is advised that you visit different departments on campus to see if jobs are available. Departments may include Public Safety, computer labs, library, etc. Jobs are limited.

CPT is an off-campus paid or unpaid work experience or training available to eligible F-1 students when it is an integral part of an established curriculum or if the student receives credit for the training/work experience.  Unlike OPT, CPT does not have an application fee and is approved by International Student Services.

For more information, please see our CPT Information Packet

Who is eligible to apply for CPT?

  • Students maintaining F-1 status who have completed one academic year (Fall and Spring) of full-time study by the requested start date of the work/training experience.
  • You must be registered for a course that is approved by Career Services or your academic advisor. The course and internship must be related to your course of study.

Can I do part-time or full-time CPT?

  • A student may engage in CPT part-time (20 hours or less per week) or full-time (21 hours or more per week). If you engage in 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will be ineligible for Optional Practical Training. Part-time CPT does not affect OPT.
  • RCC limits students to 135 hours per semester for internship classes.

Do I need to apply for CPT if my opportunity is unpaid?

CPT is any paid or unpaid work/training experience. All off-campus work or training must receive CPT authorization from an ISS advisor prior to beginning the experience.

Some IMPORTANT things to consider:

  • Unauthorized employment is considered a violation of F-1 status and will result in a termination of your immigration record.
  • As always, an F-1 student must be registered full time in Fall and Spring semesters.
  • CPT eligibility and policies are determined by your academic department or Career Services. The duration of CPT is determined by your program chair or supervising professor as related to the course objective.
  • Please note that summer CPT should be initiated well in advance due to limited availability of supervising professors.
  • CPT is not a convenient way to work off campus; the work training/experience must be an integral part of your curriculum.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides F-1 students with an opportunity for hands-on work experience (work authorization) related to the academic field of study.

You are eligible to apply if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are currently in F-1 status.
  • You have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year (three quarters, including final exams weeks) or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins.
  • You have not exceeded 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization. (Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.)
  • You do not need a job offer first; you can apply for the 12-month OPT authorization without a job offer.
  • You have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the same or higher degree level.
  • You are eligible for 12 months of full-time OPT per academic level. For example, you may apply for 12 months of OPT after completing a bachelor’s degree and then another 12 months after completing a master’s degree.
  • You may apply for OPT authorization during your academic program, after your program completion, or a combination of both.
  • While approved for OPT, you are still in F-1 status and must report address changes and employment information to ISS.

Post-Completion OPT

OPT authorization that begins after completion of your academic program is called “post-completion” OPT. This is the most common type of OPT.

For more information, please see our Post-Completion OPT Information Packet

Post-completion OPT is full-time, and it can begin:

  • after you complete your degree
  • after you complete all course requirements for your degree

Pre-Completion OPT

OPT used while you are still enrolled in your course of study is called “pre-completion” OPT. If you plan to transfer to a four-year school right after you graduate, pre-completion OPT may be a good option for you. Pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months of OPT eligibility. You may start the OPT application process up to 90 days before your requested employment start date.

For more information, please see our Pre-Completion OPT Information Packet

Pre-completion OPT can be approved for different rates:

  • Full-time (more than 20 hours per week) or part-time (20 hours per week or less) during the summer and winter break.*
  • Part-time (20 hours per week or less) while enrolled in a full course of study

* If you apply to be part-time, you must remain part-time even during the breaks. If you wish to be full-time, another application and fee will need to submitted to USCIS.

If you are suffering a severe economic hardship due to unforeseen changes in your financial circumstances, you may apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to work off-campus.

For more information, please see the Severe Economic Hardship Information Packet

Examples of unforeseen circumstances:

  • Loss of financial support or on-campus employment
  • Substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate
  • Inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs
  • Unexpected changes in the financial condition of your source of support, such a loss of a family business
  • Excessive medical bills

The employment authorization is granted by USCIS in increments of one year at a time.

The authorization allows you to work for any employer up to 20 hours per week while you are registered full-time.

It also allows you to work more than 20 hours per week during quarter breaks and your annual vacation quarter.

This employment does not affect your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Employment authorization is automatically terminated if you graduate, fail to maintain status, or transfer to another school.


  • You must have been in F-1 status for one academic year
  • You must be in good academic standing
  • You must document that on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient to meet your financial needs.