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International students at Bethel who hold an F-1 or J-1 visa are allowed to work in the U.S., but only under complex guidelines issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

On-Campus Employment

On-campus employment is the most accessible kind of employment for F-1 or J-1 students.

Requirements and guidelines:

  • You must maintain valid F-1 or J-1 international student status.
  • You must obtain permission from Bethel’s international programs office prior to accepting any employment.
  • You can only work up to 20 hours per week on campus while school is in session. You can also work full time during holidays and vacation periods if you intend to register for the next academic semester.

Off-Campus Employment

There are 3 categories of off-campus jobs available to students with an F-1 visa.

Severe Economic Hardship

Any F-1 student suffering severe economic hardship as defined by USCIS is eligible to work off campus.

Requirements and guidelines:

  • You must have a valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (9 months).
  • You must be in good academic standing.
  • You must provide evidence of economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond your control.
  • You must show you have made a good-faith effort to find on-campus employment and that on-campus employment is not available or sufficient.
  • You can only work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. You can also work full time during breaks and holidays.
  • The Employment Authorization Document is valid for one year per application.

There are a number of circumstances that may qualify as a severe economic hardship, including:

  • Substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate
  • Excessive increases in tuition and/or living costs
  • Unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support
  • Medical bills or other substantial and unexpected expenses

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is employment that’s an integral part of your curriculum or academic program. This includes work study, internships, cooperative education, or other work-based learning programs. And yes, you can get paid for CPT employment. 

Requirements and guidelines:

  • You must have been enrolled in school full time for at least one year on valid F-1 status (except for graduate programs that require immediate CPT).
  • The CPT employment must be an integral part of your degree program or a requirement for a course for which you receive academic credit.
  • You must have received a job offer that qualifies before you submit your CPT authorization request.
  • Your job offer must be in your major or field of study.
  • You must submit the Curriculum Practical Training form
  • Your department chair or program director must write a recommendation letter to the PDSO.
  • You must receive prior authorization from the principal designated school officer and notification from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Once you receive CPT authorization, you can only work for the approved employer within the dates specified (unlike OPT where you can work anywhere in the U.S.). Your CPT authorization will also specify whether you are approved for part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week) employment. While in school, you can only be approved for part-time CPT if you are a College of Arts & Sciences student.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional practical training (OPT) is employment that’s related to your degree or major. You can qualify for OPT both during and after completion of your degree.

Requirements and guidelines:

  • Your employment must be “directly related” to your major.
  • You must maintain lawful F-1 status.
  • You must apply for OPT 90 days before you complete all degree work.
  • If you have engaged in 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT), you are are not eligible for OPT.
  • You can only complete a maximum of 12 months of full-time OPT. Students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and/or math (STEM) are eligible to apply for the 24 month STEM Opt Extension.

You can apply for OPT after being enrolled in your program for at least 9 months, but you cannot begin employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and have been enrolled for at least a year.

Social Security Card

If you have been authorized you to work either on- or off-campus and you meet Social Security’s eligibility requirements, you can get a Social Security number.