Work rights of international students in the USA


International students studying at a university in the USA can engage in various practical activities during their studies: from practicums and internships to employment. This can be an excellent opportunity to become more financially independent and get a range of skills and practical knowledge allowing you to secure a job offer in the USA in the future.

On this page you will find the following information:

  • Can international students work while studying?
  • Working on campus
  • CPT
  • Pre-completion OPT
  • Post-study work opportunities
  • Post-completion OPT
  • STEM OPT extension
  • Employment after OPT

Can international students work while studying at a U.S. university?

Yes! Moreover, there are multiple options for students to get a job.

1. Working on campus

According to U.S. law, international students are allowed to work on the university campus. This includes but is not limited to working in the library, student centres, book stores or cafeterias. International students can work for up to 20 hours per week during the academic year and up to 40 hours per week on vacation.

2. CPT

Getting a job off-campus during studies is possible but involves certain requirements. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program allows international students holding an F-1 visa to obtain practical experience directly related to their field of studies as part of their curriculum. This means that students are required to obtain course credits during their CPT.

International students participating in CPT can be employed, get a paid or paid internship, co-op or practicum either part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (20 hours per week or more). However, working in CPT full-time for 12 months waives eligibility for OPT.

3. Pre-completion OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a program that permits international students holding an F-1 visa to work for up to 12 months in a field related to their studies. OPT can be completed either during studies (pre-completion OPT) or after graduation (post-completion OPT) or both. Students can start their pre-completion OPT after they’ve finished one year of studies at a university or community college. The duration of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the combined allowed time period of 12 months and thus reduce the post-completion OPT duration. Under OPT students can work either part-time or full time.


Post-study work opportunities for international students

1. Post-completion OPT

Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available for all university graduates in the U.S. International students can get employment directly related to their specialization for a period of 12 months. Students willing to participate in a post-completion OPT will need to apply up to 90 days before their degree completion but no later than 60 days after graduation.

2 . STEM OPT Extension

International students with a STEM degree(science, technology, engineering and math) can get a 24-month OPT extension. The application for extension has to be made up to 90 days before the initial OPT authorization expiration date.

3. Employment after OPT

Upon expiry of the OPT authorization, international students will need to obtain an employer-sponsored visa to be able to continue working in the U.S. Usually, it’s a H1B visa linked to a specific position.

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