Working in the U.S.

Employment/Practical Training and Volunteering\

Any F-1 students working off-campus must be authorized. Without proper work authorization, off-campus employment would be considered a violation the student’s F-1 status. Consequences include loss of legal immigration status in the U.S., possible deportation, and an impact on future attempts to request for another visa to enter into the U.S.

In order to maintain valid F-1 status, a student must not work in the United States, unless the employment is specifically authorized under one of the following categories:

  • Employment authorized because of severe economic hardship
  • Special Student Relief program employment, which is based on the on-campus and economic hardship
  • employment categories
  • Certain employment sponsored by international organizations
  • Curricular (CPT) and/or Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Practical Training

Practical training may be authorized to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled in a full course load for one full academic year. Students can be authorized for 12 months of practical training and become eligible for another 12 months of practical training. An employment authorization for practical training can be requested if the position is directly related to his or her degree. The two types of practical training available are Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT is authorized by the PDSO/DSO who updates the student’s SEVIS record with the student’s employment start and end date; employer name and address; whether the authorization is for part-time or full-time CPT; and an explanation of how the employment is integral to the degree.

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is authorized by USCIS. There are two types of OPT that CIBU offers:

  • Pre-completion OPT
  • Standard post-completion OPT

Curricular Practical Training

CPT is an on or off-campus employment option for F-1 students, when the practical training is an integral part of the established curriculum or academic program. CPT employment is defined as “alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” To qualify, the work experience must be related to the student’s degree and he/she must enroll in an internship course. CPT can be paid or unpaid and part-time or full-time as determined by the employer. SEVP guidance states “compensation is not a consideration when determining whether an opportunity qualifies as CPT,” but federal and state labor and wage/hour laws do still apply. Prior authorization by the Dean and PDSO/DSO is required before engaging in CPT.

According to NAFSA Adviser’s Manual 360, there is no regulatory limit on either the number of times or the length of time a student may engage in either part-time or full-time CPT. In addition, regulations do not prohibit multiple or concurrent CPT employers. However, F-1 students engaging in an aggregate of 12 months or more of full-time CPT (over 20 hours of work per week) will not be eligible for OPT. Engaging in part-time CPT (less than 20 hours of work per week) does not affect eligibility for post-completion OPT. The use of 12 months of full-time CPT only affects eligibility for optional practical training (OPT) at the same educational level.

Quick Facts of CPT at CIBU

  • Preconditions: Undergraduate students must have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student for one full academic year before being eligible for CPT. Graduate students can start CPT immediately if required by the
  • Location: Students may engage in CPT at the employment location specified in the Employee Offer Letter provided to the Dean and the DSO during the CPT approval
  • Duration: The DSO grants CPT for the duration of one full semester in which the students can request to renew their CPT every
  • Hours per week: Students who want to engage in part-time CPT are highly recommended to work 20 hours or less since full-time CPT can be considered if it is over 20 hours. It is between the employer and the student to determine whether the employment is part-time or full-time.
  • Field/level of work: Must be an integral part of the student’s established curriculum and related to the student’s major field of
  • Offer letter from employer: Must have an offer letter of employment signed by the employer describing the details of the student’s job and
  • Effect on other work: Use of full-time CPT for one year or more will affect the student’s eligibility for OPT. Use of part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for
  • Approval process: The student must submit the required documents (see below) to The Dean and PDSO/DSO will approve the CPT documents. Upon approval, the DSO will update the student’s I-20 with CPT authorization. The student cannot begin CPT until the CPT employment start date is recorded in SEVIS. The DSO will also print out the updated Form I-20 reflecting the CPT

Eligibility Requirements

Regulations require undergraduate students to complete one full academic year of study before engaging in CPT. Graduate level students may be required to start CPT immediately if it is integral to the program. In these instances, CPT is allowed in the first year of study. All students engaging in CPT must be enrolled in an internship course within the program of study.

Undergraduate Degree Level Students:

Undergraduate students must have been enrolled in school full-time for at least one academic and must have maintained attendance with a valid F-1 status. Transfer credits from other U.S. educational institution may satisfy this requirement.

GPA Requirement for Undergraduate students

Student eligibility to participate in CPT while attending CIBU subject to the following GPA requirements:

  • Students earning a GPA of 2.50 or above are eligible for Full Time or Part Time CPT
  • Students earning a GPA of 1.50 – 2.49 are eligible for Part Time CPT only
  • Students earning a GPA of 1.49 and below are not eligible for CPT

Graduate Degree Level Students:

Graduate students may begin CPT immediately during their first semester, if CPT is required by their program.

GPA Requirement for Graduate students

Student eligibility to participate in CPT while attending CIBU is subject to the following GPA requirements:

  • Students earning a GPA of 3.00 or above are eligible for Full Time or Part Time CPT
  • Students earning a GPA of 2.50 – 2.99 are eligible for Part Time CPT only
  • Students earning a GPA of 2.49 and below are not eligible for CPT

Duration of CPT and Course Requirements

CPT authorization will only be given for one semester if the student applies for CPT from the first session. However, if the student applies for CPT from the second session the CPT authorization will be given for one session. CPT can be renewed every semester by submitting a CPT Renewal form.

Optional Practical Training

International students in the U.S. in valid F-1 immigration status are permitted to work off-campus in

Optional Practical Training (OPT) status both during and after completion of their degree. According to USCIS, a student can be granted authorization to engage in temporary employment for OPT (1) during the student’s annual vacation and at the other times when school is not in session, if the student is currently enrolled, eligible for registration, and intends to register for the next semester, (2) while school is in session the student does not work more than 20 hours a week, (3) after completion of the degree program. Rules established by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) government. The implementation of OPT, and all OPT employment requires prior authorization from USCIS and from the University.

Students can apply for OPT after being enrolled for at least 9 months, but cannot begin employment until they receive their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and have been enrolled for at least one year. Students also do not need to have a job offer to apply for OPT EAD, and OPT employment can occur anywhere in the U.S. Nonetheless, students are recommended to start early since USCIS takes up to 2-4 months to process the application. Moreover, the students should make sure to work closely with University. As with everything students will do while in the U.S., permission is based on maintaining lawful F-1 status and the University is there to help them maintain that status throughout their stay.

Eligibility Requirement

  • Employment must be “directly related” to the student’s major
  • Student must maintain lawful F-1 status
  • Student must apply for OPT before completion of all work towards a degree
  • Students who have engaged in 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are not eligible for OPT
  • OPT is permitted for up to 12 months full-time in total – part-time OPT (while still in school) reduces available full-time OPT by half of the amount of part-time work (for instance, if the student works part time for 6 months, h/she can work full-time for up to 9 months)

If students drop below the required credit load for any other reason, they put themselves out-of-status, which affects their employment and practical training eligibility, and they will need to be reinstated to proper immigration status. Please discuss any course load reduction with the University.


Students who wish to engage in any ‘volunteer’ work must be sure it would not impact their immigration tatus. It is a very complex area in which immigration regulations and labor laws intersect. A common misconception between employment and volunteering is that employment is paid and volunteering is unpaid. However, based on U.S. labor laws, there is more to distinguish between employment and volunteering. Unpaid work may still be considered employment that necessitates F-1 off-campus work authorization.

According to the Department of Labor, a volunteer is an “individual who performs hours of service… for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered.”

The Department of Labor considers a number of factors to determine whether an individual is a true volunteer. No single factor is determinative.  Below list include the factors:

  • Is the entity where the one plans to volunteer a nonprofit organization?
  • Is the activity part-time?
  • Are the services offered freely and without pressure or coercion?
  • Are the services of the kind typically associated with volunteer work?
  • Have regular employees been displaced to accommodate the volunteer?
  • Does the worker receive (or expect) any benefit from the entity to which it is providing services?

To be considered a volunteer, the work performed by the student must meet the following criteria:

  • No expectation of compensation,
  • The services provided by the volunteer should not be the same services for which he or she was previously paid and/or expects to be hired and paid for in the future and the volunteer cannot displace a genuine employee;
  • Services are performed for a non-profit organization for public service, religious or humanitarian objective. Work for a for-profit entity is considered employment and must be paid. The only exception is made for training programs where the trainee functions are supervised and provides no significant measurable work for the employer. The trainee must not take the place of a paid employee. There is also a difference between volunteer work and unpaid

Volunteering refers to donating time with an organization whose primary purpose is charitable or humanitarian in nature, without remuneration or any other type of compensation (i.e. local homeless shelter, charitable food pantry, etc.).

On the other hand, an internship can be paid or unpaid, and must be authorized and related to the student’s major field of study. Please refer back to CPT in the previous section.