International Student Resources

My F1 Status

The US job market is extremely competitive with thousands of students graduating annually and looking to start a new career related to their Bachelors, Masters or MBA degree.  As an international student, you not only have to find a suitable position, but also an employer who is willing to spend the extra time and money sponsoring your visa. To realistically compete with the US citizens, you need to be able to prove that you have skill sets they don’t have. Companies need to be clear on the extra value you add over and above the value a US citizen can add for them to even contemplate the visa process.

The following list will help you to ensure you maintain a valid F-1 status:

  • Have an FIU SEVIS I-20 properly processed by travel and reentry to the United States OR processed through ISSS for an immigration School Transfer.
  • Have a machine-readable passport that is valid at all times (at least 6 months into the future).
  • Maintain full-time enrollment at FIU each Fall and Spring semesters and, if applicable, during Summer term. Undergraduates (UG) must enroll for at least 12 credits and Graduate (G) students must enroll for at least 9 graduate-level credits:

    Students admitted Summer A/C terms:
    UG - at least 12 credits 
    G - at least 6 graduate-level credits

    Students admitted Summer B term:
    UG - at least 6 credits 
    G - at least 6 graduate-level credits

    *Students graduating in Summer (August) MUST register at FIU during that term.

  • Maintain good academic standing and "make normal progress towards completing degree". Undergraduate students should maintain at least 2.00 cumulative GPA and graduate students should maintain at least 3.00 cumulative GPA.
  • Report any legal changes to your name OR any change of address within 10 days of the change to ISSS. For a name change, provide ISSS with legal documents such as your passport to request a new I-20 with the new name. To update changes in your address, log in to your Panthersoft account and make the appropriate changes to your Home address.
  • File for a program extension in a timely manner if you need more time beyond the original completion date of your program (See item #5 of your I-20.). An extension must be completed within 120 days BEFORE the original completion date expires.
  • Limit on-campus employment to a total of 20 hours per week during Fall/Spring semesters and full-time work during the summer and holidays.
  • Obtain required authorization before engaging in any off-campus employment, whether employment is paid or unpaid. Unauthorized employment is a deportable offense under the law.
  • Meet with an ISSS Advisor as soon as you fall out-of-status for appropriate advising.
  • Comply with federal tax filing requirements by applicable deadlines (refer to www.irs.gov).

F-1 nonimmigrants, as defined in section 101(a)(15)(F) of the Act, are foreign students pursuing a full course of study in a college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, private elementary school, other academic institution, or language training program in the United States that has been approved by the Service to enroll foreign students. For the purposes of this rule, the term "school" refers to all of these types of Service-approved institutions. An F-2 nonimmigrant is a foreign national who is the spouse or qualifying child (under the age of 21) of an F-1 nonimmigrant.

Source: USCIS website

Working on your F1 Visa

Companies seek more than a completed degree and good grades when they want to hire new people to join their team.  They are equally as interested in your work experience and any extra-curricular activities you undertook during your studies. It’s endeavors like these that build important work-related skills like:

  • Time management - principles and systems you use to make conscious decisions about activities that occupy your time
  • Communication - verbal and written fluency in English
  • Problem-solving – ability to objectively identify causes of a problem and propose potential, often creative, solutions
  • Team work - cooperative effort by the members of a group or team to achieve a common goal
  • Creative thinking – ability to look at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions
  • Leadership - ability to lead, including inspiring others in a shared vision

Professional skills like these are valued by all employers and are relevant regardless of your industry or role.  The better you can build and strengthen these skills during your educational journey, the greater an edge you’ll enjoy after graduation. You’ll stand out from your peers whether you seek opportunities here in the U.S. or across the globe.

There are a number of ways to develop your professional skills:

  • Managing your study commitments alongside your involvement in on-campus activities such as student societies, for example, shows strong time management skills
  • Involving yourself in volunteer work; developing fundraising ideas; or successfully encouraging others to get involved demonstrates your creative thinking and leadership skills.
  • Working on-campus in a variety of different positions may help you to develop your problem-solving and team work skills

Each experience you are able to talk about to employers will help you to:

  • Tell them something about your personality
  • Demonstrate you have more to offer than your academic ability
  • Show you can succeed outside the university environment

As an international student, your options are more limited than your American counterparts to gain some of this important experience.  The University (ISSS and Career Management Services) is here to help guide you into making smart choices within the regulations set down for you by the US Government through your F-1 visa.

Holding a non-immigrant F-1 (Student) visa means you are classified and authorized to be in the United States for the principal purpose of pursuing a full course of study as a degree-seeking student in an academic or educational institution which issued you a SEVIS Form I-20 and where you are expected to enroll on a full-time basis.

There are sections of federal law and regulations that define what F-1 students can and cannot do while in the U.S. Under such law and regulations, employment is highly regulated and very limited.

"Employment" is defined under federal regulations as a rendering of services either on a part-time basis or full-time basis for financial compensation or educational/learning compensation (academic benefits or practical experience).

Employment on-campus or off-campus, paid or unpaid, should be authorized in writing either by ISSS or by the U.S. of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Employment is a "benefit" and available only to students who maintain valid F-1 status prior to the application and through the duration of authorized employment.

Employment during Fall and Spring semesters is limited to 20 hours per week. Full-time work is only allowed at certain times of the year:

  • December break
  • Summer term
  • Spring break

On-Campus Employment

On-campus employment means work performed on school premises (UP or BBC) providing service to the students or University department or unit.

  • Employment by the University: Includes employment in any administrative department, academic department, support service office, library, computer, technical or science labs, housing or other University unit. Payment received must be in the form of an FIU paycheck. 

NOTE: Certain research work may not qualify as on-campus work (i.e. work performed off FIU premises or work with no direct affiliation with FIU).

  • Other Employment on School Premises: Includes employment with commercial firms contracted by the University to provide services directly to student and University population (e.g. cafeteria or bookstore). 

NOTE: Working for a construction company erecting a building on school premises does not qualify as on-campus employment.

You should follow the steps below to obtain an ISSS On-campus Employment Certification:

  • Find a job on-campus that meets the definition of on-campus employment.
  • Once hired for the job, complete an ISSS Document Request Form to request the On-campus Employment Certification. If you also need a Social Security letter, you must submit a letter/memo from the department/office that hired you with the completed Document Request Form (A sample Social Security letter is available at ISSS).
  • Make sure that ISSS has copies of your required documents (SEVIS I-20, valid passport, Form I-94, copy of F-1 visa). You may bring these documents with you at the time you submit your request.

ISSS will review your immigration and academic records and if you are confirmed to be in valid F-1 status, the certification will be issued. It takes at least 4 - 5 business days to process your request (longer during peak times). You can pick-up the On-campus Employment Certification from ISSS and submit it to Human Resources or the appropriate personnel handling hiring with your complete Sign-On packet, and sign-on in the department/office where you will be working.

CPT and OPT

Practical Training is employment that is directly related to your major or program of study and commensurate with your degree level.

Employment under practical training must always be authorized, either by an ISSS Advisor or USCIS. The two types of practical training are:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

You must maintain valid F-1 status at the time of your application AND throughout the duration of your practical training per immigration law and federal regulations.  In addition, you must have been enrolled full-time for at least two consecutive academic terms.

NOTE: Graduate (Masters or Doctoral) students whose programs REQUIRE them to engage in practical training during their first semester of study are exempt from the two consecutive academic term rule provided that the practical experience requirement is clearly stated in the University Graduate Catalog under program curriculum and confirmed in writing by the Academic Advisor.

CPT is employment that is performed for academic credit (part of school curriculum; commensurate to degree level; OR that is required as part of the academic plan or program curriculum). This includes:

  • Required internship, practicum, student teaching or field experience
  • Optional internships for credit (MUST be in student's major or program of study)
  • Cooperative (Co-op) education programs for credit (MUST be in student's major or program of study)

Graduate Students: 

If your internship is not required under your curriculum, you can request CPT under the following conditions only:

  • You have been enrolled full-time for at least two consecutive academic terms
  • You register for a graduate-level Internship course in your program during your course work segment
  • CPT must be requested as part of/during your regular course work OR on your FIRST semester of enrollment for THESIS credits only or DISSERTATION credits only

It is your responsibility to prove that your internship or co-op is an integral part of your established graduate curriculum and that it will be counted towards your degree.

Your CPT may be authorized for either part-time or full-time employment. Once your authorization is granted, you cannot change your CPT hours. If you received CPT authorization during fall and spring semesters, you MUST remain enrolled for a full-time course load even if your CPT was authorized for full-time employment.

Your CPT is authorized for a specific employer, location and academic periods only. If you are doing it for academic credit, CPT can only be authorized:

  • to begin by first day of classes (if authorization is received prior to or by that day) OR by date of approval, whichever is later

and

  • to end on the last day of final exam period (for Fall/Spring semesters) OR last day of classes (for Summer term).

IMPORTANT: please note the following conditions:

  • Once CPT authorization is granted, it CANNOT be cancelled, rescinded, revoked, or changed. Authorization cannot be retroactive.
  • If a change of employer is necessary, you must re-submit your CPT application (by appointment).
  • The time period and hours/week will NOT change; only the name of the employer and site can be changed.
  • ALL authorized CPT is counted and recorded in SEVIS regardless of whether you actually worked or not.
  • A student who engages in 12 months of full-time CPT will lose eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Do not begin work without the required ISSS authorization.

The CPT application packet must include the following:

  • Your registration schedule showing Internship or Co-op Ed course.
    *Undergraduates: at least a 3000-level internship or co-op course.
    *Graduate students: at least a 5000-level graduate internship or co-op course.
  • Your Graduate Program Manager's recommendation letter on department letterhead.
    Print CPT sample letters and take to your department: Academic Advisor's CPT Recommendation Letters
  • Bring your original VALID machine-readable passport and original Form I-94.If you meet all eligibility requirements and present a complete application packet, your ISSS Advisor will issue you a new SEVIS I-20 with the valid CPT authorization.
  • Your completed "Practical Training/Employment Workshop Acknowledgement" (available at the end of the F-1 Employment Online Workshop on the ISSS website).
  • OPT is recommended by an ISSS Advisor but authorization is granted through the USCIS Service Center. Official authorization comes in the form of an ID card known as Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • OPT prior to completion of degree: 
    While school is in session: Part-time OPT during the academic year
    During summer vacation: Full-time OPT during summer period
  • OPT post-completion of degree:
    Full-time OPT after completion of all degree requirements and/or graduation
  • NOTE: OPT, in this case, must be completed within a 14-month period following completion of study or degree requirements.
  • You MUST NOT begin employment until you are in possession of the EAD from USCIS. Pursuing practical training without an EAD is unauthorized employment, which is a deportable offense.
  • OPT post-completion of studies will NOT be recommended by ISSS advisors if you have outstanding incomplete courses (ex., courses with "IF", "IP" or "NR" grades) from previous semesters.
  • Students enrolled for less than full-time hours on their last term of study MUST have an "Academic Advisor's Certification of Completion of Degree Requirements for Reduced Course Load Approval" or "Advancement to Thesis or Dissertation Segment" approved by ISSS and retained in their files PRIOR to any OPT application.
  • Upon submitting your OPT application or Reduced Course Load approval, your SEVIS record will be updated: your program will be shortened to reflect the term end date.
  • Once your EAD is issued, your OPT may not be canceled, revoked or have its period changed.
  • Employment is limited to the specific dates on your EAD.
  • If you are authorized for OPT prior to completion of your degree, you must continue to maintain valid F-1 status. Failure to do so automatically invalidates OPT authorization.
  • OPT is automatically terminated when you begin study of a higher degree program (from Bachelors to Masters) or transfer to another school.

OPT is limited to an aggregate total of 12 months, unless your degree is in one of the STEM disciplines. Any period used prior to completion of the degree is deducted from the 12 months available. Part-time OPT will be deducted at one-half the full-time rate.

You are eligible for 12 months of OPT for each degree level (AA, BA, MA, PhD) that must be completed within 12 -14 months following the completion of your degree, and before you progress to a higher degree level.

Always check with ISSS for official application deadline.

IMPORTANT: Your application must be submitted to ISSS in person by appointment only. 

OPT Prior to completion of degree: 
No specific deadline. You should remember to factor in USCIS Service Center processing times when thinking about start dates.

OPT Post-completion of degree: 
Fall & Spring: No earlier than third week of classes. The official deadline set by USCIS is no later than the end of the 60-day grace period which commences from the student's actual program completion date; however; ISSS recommends submitting Post OPT applications no later than the last day of the semester in which they complete degree requirements.

You may apply during the 60 day grace period, provided you haven’t yet left the United States. Applications must be received at USCIS prior to the end of the 60-day grace period therefore students must submit their applications no later than two weeks before the end of the 60 day grace period.

USCIS processing times may vary during the year. During peak periods, processing may take at least 120 business days.

PLEASE NOTE: expediting USCIS approval of OPT applications is not possible. You must plan ahead to ensure you meet your deadlines.

SEVP has implemented a policy for students with F-1 visas traveling abroad and reentering during their Post-completion OPT period:

  • Citing 8 CFR 214.2(f)(13)(ii), SEVP's new policy designates that students with F-1 visas on Post-completion OPT who are unemployed or do not have a job offer are ineligible for readmission/reentry into the U.S.
  •  
  • ISSS recommends that all students with F-1 visas on approved Post-completion OPT make sure they travel with an employer's letter verifying employment that is: (1) related to degree just completed; and (2) valid for the period granted on EAD. Traveling without this letter poses a great risk.

If you are actively in the job search stage, you should document your employment applications, especially those submitted online.

TRAVEL DURING AUTHORIZED OPT:

To reenter the U.S. after a temporary absence, you must be in possession of the following:

  • Unexpired EAD
  • SEVIS I-20 endorsed by ISSS Advisor with the OPT remarks
  • Valid machine-readable passport
  • Form I-94
  • Unexpired F-1 visa stamp, unless otherwise exempt from visa requirements
  • Employer's letter or proof of job offer
  • If already employed, you may bring an employer's letter stating employment for the period of the authorized OPT and present such letter only if requested by U.S. of Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) Inspection Officer.

If you are on authorized post-completion OPT with an EXPIRED F-1 visa stamp and wish to travel abroad, you must do the following:

  • Be in possession of an I-20 with the ISSS Advisor's OPT recommendation on page 3.
  • Have a EAD/OPT card showing the dates of authorization.
  • Apply at the U.S. Consulate in your country of citizenship (or permanent residence).
  •  The Consulate may still require financial documents to prove available funds for living expenses during the OPT period. If you are already employed, you may bring an employer's letter stating employment (related to the degree completed) is only for the period of authorized OPT and salary.

Make sure you have the complete application packet with you at time of appointment. The OPT application packet must include the following:

  • Academic Advisor's recommendation letter on department letterhead.
  • Printed OPT sample letters to take to your department.
  • Completed Form I-765. Complete form online and print.
  • You should click on "immigration forms" and find Form I-765 by scrolling down the page. http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis
  • Specify appropriate code for Item #16
  • Two (2) immigration photos taken within 30 days before application.
  • Money order or personal check in the amount of $340.00, made payable to: Department of Homeland Security
  • Two Sets of Photocopies of the following:
  • passport identification page
  • passport page showing expiration date (if information not included in identification page)
  • F-1 visa stamp OR Approval Notice of Change of Status (COS) to F-1
  • Current/Most Recent Form I-94 (front and back)
  • Previous EAD card (only applies to students who were previously approved for OPT)
  • Proof of Application for Graduation for current semester
  • Completed "Practical Training/Employment Workshop Acknowledgement"

NOTE: DO NOT SUBMIT I-765 FORM ELECTRONICALLY.  DOWNLOAD COMPLETED FORM AND BRING TO YOUR APPOINTMENT WITH ISSS ADVISOR

Refer to the Photo Specification effective 08/02/2004:http://travel.state.gov/passport/pptphotoreq/pptphotoreq_5333.html

You are also responsible for doing the following:

  • Mail OPT application to USCIS - TSC by Certified/Return-Receipt at the U.S. Post Office. If moving to another state/region, you may use ISSS address on the I-765 as follows:

If your file is at ISSS-BBC:
Florida International Univ. - ISSS
3000 N.E. 151st Street, WUC 363
North Miami, FL 33181

If your file is at ISSS-UP:
Florida International Univ. - ISSS
11200 S.W. 8th Street, GC 355
Miami, FL 33199

  • Provide ISSS with your new contact information (address and email) so we can notify you when your EAD arrives.
  • When Form I-797 (Notice of Action: Receipt Notice) is obtained, you must keep it in a safe place as it contains the reference number (SRC#) for the application. Submit a copy of Form I-797 to ISSS as soon as possible.
  • Once you receive the EAD, you must check the personal information on it. If there are any errors, you must notify ISSS immediately.
  • You must also submit a copy of the EAD to ISSS.
  • Money order or personal check in the amount of $340.00, made payable to: Department of Homeland Security
  • Two Sets of Photocopies of the following:
  • passport identification page
  • passport page showing expiration date (if information not included in identification page)
  • F-1 visa stamp OR Approval Notice of Change of Status (COS) to F-1
  • Current/Most Recent Form I-94 (front and back)
  • Previous EAD card (only applies to students who were previously approved for OPT)
  • Proof of Application for Graduation for current semester.
  • Completed "Practical Training/Employment Workshop Acknowledgement".

Other

Your income earnings in the U.S. may be subject to Social Security taxes and federal taxes. State and local taxes may also apply depending on where you are working.  By federal law, all F-1 students must file income tax returns each year with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Tax filing deadline is April 15th.

Since U.S. tax laws and tax treaties are very complex and change often, ISSS advisors cannot provide you with tax advice or assistance. You are encouraged to consult with Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) that specialize in non-resident tax or attend an IRS Non-Resident Tax Workshop offered by ISSS each Spring semester.

As an admitted University student with a Form I-20, you have shown that you have sufficient financial funding (provided through family funds, financial sponsors, etc.) to cover your educational expenses throughout your studies at Florida International University. As an F-1 student, you are fully aware that your employment options are very limited.

However, an F-1 student who suffered a SEVERE ECONOMIC HARDSHIP or a serious and extreme financial emergency that is:

[1] UNFORESEEN and 
[2] BEYOND THEIR CONTROL

may be eligible to apply for Off-Campus Employment Due To Severe Economic Necessity. 
The ISSS' recommendation is required and application is made with US of Citizenship and Immigration Services- Texas Service Center (USCIS-TSC). Official authorization is granted by USCIS.

You MUST meet the following qualifications to be eligible to request this off-campus employment:

  • You have been enrolled and completed at least one full academic year at FIU.
  • You are maintaining your legal F-1 non-immigrant status.
  • You are in good academic standing. Your cumulative G.P.A. must be at least a 2.00 if you are an undergraduate student or a 3.00 if you are a graduate (Master's, EdD, or PhD) student. If you are on academic warning, probation or dismissal, you would not be eligible.
  • You must be able to show that the factors which caused your severe economic hardship developed AFTER you acquired F-1 status under FIU I-20. You MUST be able to document and/or prove existence of these factors.
  • Your severe economic hardship was caused by factors which were unforeseen at the time you acquired F-1 status and beyond your control. NOTE: Increase of tuition fees is NOT an unforeseen circumstance.
  • You must demonstrate that the proposed employment will not interfere with your studies and will not cause you to reduce your course load below the full-time requirement.
  • You are unable to secure any on-campus employment.

Although the USCIS regulations may establish eligibility for off-campus employment based on your initial acquisition of F-1 status, FIU ISSS advisors generally evaluate your situation based on the date of initial entry into FIU. Since you were required to document finances before you received your FIU I-20, ISSS advisors assume that any severe economic hardship or extreme emergency must have occurred AFTER you submitted the financial documents to the FIU Office of Admissions. ISSS advisors will NOT recommend to USCIS that you be authorized to continue off-campus employment which was authorized at your previous school.

If you believe you may qualify for off-campus employment due to severe economic necessity, you must schedule an appointment with an ISSS advisor to assess your eligibility and clarify related issues.

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