The following information will provide students with a better understanding of the regulations that govern on-campus and off-campus employment.

What is Employment?

Employment Authorization
The most important employment issue that you always need to keep in mind is the issue of legal (or "authorized") versus illegal (or "unauthorized") employment. You must always make sure that any employment you plan to engage in is legal employment. Any unauthorized (i.e. illegal) employment - even for one day - even if you did not know it was illegal - poses a grave threat to your ability to remain in or return to the United States. And you must always make sure that you have the necessary employment authorization before you begin work, since starting work without prior authorization-even if you receive authorization later-constitutes illegal employment. 

You should always consult with the ISPS Advisor before beginning any employment.

Definition of Employment
Employment is any type of work performed for services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit. If you receive no pay or other benefits for the work performed, this activity is not generally defined as employment but can be considered to be volunteer work.

On-Campus Employment
Different requirements exist for each type of F-1 employment, but there is one basic requirement that must be met for any F-1 employment: You must be enrolled in a full course of study. Once employment is authorized you must maintain eligibility or you will lose your right to continue employment, even if it was authorized in writing.

Students in F-1 status may work "on campus" up to 20 hours per week (each week) when school is in session and up to 29 hours per week during official holiday and vacation periods designated by ECU. A new F-1 student who has been issued a form I-20 may work prior to the commencement of classes, but for no more than 30 days prior to the actual start date of classes.

Note: F-1 students are eligible for "Regular" pay on-campus positions only. On-campus positions listed as "Work-Study" are only available to students who are eligible to receive federal financial funding as a portion of their hourly wage is funded by the United States government. 

USCIS defines on-campus employment as the following:

Type 1: Employment at ECU: Any on-campus work for which you receive a paycheck (or other compensation, such as room and board, etc.) from ECU.
Type 2: On-Campus Work affiliated with an On-Site Commercial Firm on ECU's Premises. This includes work on ECU's campus for a commercial firm if and only if this work provides direct services to ECU students.
Type 3: Certain Off-Campus Employment where there is an official educational relationship between ECU and the off-campus employer. USCIS regulations allow work at an off-campus location provided the:

  1. location is educationally affiliated with ECU,
  2. educational affiliation is associated with your school's established curriculum or is related to a graduate level research project which your school has contracted to perform, and
  3. work is an integral or important part of your program of study.

Curricular Practical Training

What is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?
Curricular Practical Training is an employment option available to F-1 students when the practical training employment is considered to be an integral part of the curriculum or academic program. At ECU, the use of CPT is available in the two circumstances listed below:

  1. The employment (usually an internship or practicum) is a degree requirement of all students in the program.
  2. You will receive academic credit for your proposed CPT employment.  Included in this category is employment for an established course listed in the ECU Catalog which is specifically designed to award academic credit for an employment experience.
  3. Is offered under an official cooperative agreement between ECU and the employer.

Criteria for Curricular Practical Training Eligibility
You must have been in lawful F-1 status for at least one academic year.
You must have an offer of employment that qualifies for CPT.
You must provide proof that the proposed employment is either a degree requirement for all students in your program or that you will receive academic credit based on your proposed employment experience.

Applying for Curricular Practical Training
Your first step is to obtain the CPT Request Form from the ISPS Forms webpage or the ISPS Office. Then contact meet with your academic advisor to evaluate your eligibility for curricular practical training. If all eligibility requirements are met, you will need to present the ISPS Advisor with a completed CPT Request Form signed by your academic adviser. 

Curricular practical training is authorized by the International Director; it does not require approval from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). A new SEVIS I-20 will be issued denoting employment authorization, including the employer and the dates authorized, on page three. You may not change employers or continue employment beyond the date authorized unless you apply and are granted an extension of your CPT.  Work undertaken after the expiration date of your CPT will be considered unauthorized employment.

The Relationship between CPT and OPT
The time you spend in full time curricular practical training will not be deducted from the twelve months of allowable optional practical training (OPT) UNLESS you use 365 days or more of full-time curricular practical training. Part-time CPT has no effect on eligibility for OPT.

Working with CPT
Your I-20 form authorized for CPT is all you will need to provide your employer. Within the first three days of beginning work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled Employment Eligibility Verification, USCIS Form I-9. Your I-20 with curricular practical training employment page (Page 3) and your unexpired passport should meet the documentation requirements of the I-9.

If you don’t have a U.S. Social Security Number, you should apply for one while using your CPT documentation.

Optional Practical Training

Introduction
F-1 students who plan to work in the U.S. can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), a temporary employment authorization that provides an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off campus. Most students are eligible to apply for a total of 12 months of OPT at each degree level (e.g. OPT after a Bachelor’s degree and then OPT for a Master’s degree). You do not need to have a job offer before applying for OPT. Obtain the OPT Application Packet from the ISPS Forms webpage or in the ISPS Office. 

OPT Eligibility
The student must be enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year, be physically present in the United States, be maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of application, and intend to work or volunteer in a professional development opportunity directly related to the major field of study.

Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (Pre-OPT)
Pre-Completion OPT is temporary employment available to F-1 students prior to completion of the course of study (i.e. prior to the program end date on the I-20).

The employment must be directly related to the student’s field of study. A student may be eligible for up to 12 months of Pre-OPT per degree level. Therefore, time in Pre-OPT is deducted from Post-OPT. Example: If a student is approved for 3 months of Pre-OPT, they will have 9 months remaining under Post-OPT. A student must receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card from the USCIS Service Center and the start date on the EAD card must arrive before they may begin their OPT employment. Students on Pre-OPT are no longer eligible for on-campus employment until the Pre-OPT approval ends.

Eligibility for Pre-Completion OPT

  • An F-1 student who has completed full-time enrollment for at least one Fall and one Spring semester or who is within 90 days of doing so.
  • A student who still has coursework remaining to complete his/her educational objective or degree program is limited to 20 hours per week of Pre-Completion OPT during the Fall and Spring semesters.
  • Students may apply up to 120 days prior to their requested Pre-Completion OPT start date as long as they are within 90 days of attaining a complete academic year of full-time enrollment or they have already attained it.
  • Students who have worked full-time on Curricular Practical Training (CPT) of 365 days or more are not eligible for OPT.

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (Post-OPT)
Post-completion OPT is used after graduation (minus any OPT time used previously at the same degree level). OPT gives F-1 students an opportunity to apply knowledge from the classroom to a practical work experience off campus for a 12 month authorization period. If you have had more than 12 months of curricular practical training (CPT) you are not eligible for OPT. You do not need a job offer when you apply for OPT.

OPT Application Process
Obtain a copy of the appropriate OPT application forms by going to the ISPS Important Forms, Links, and Resources webpage OR the ISPS Office.

  1. Provide the Int’l Director with copies of the OPT Advisor Certification of Graduation Form & OPT Agreement Form (can be dropped off, e-mailed, or faxed)
  2. Indicate whether you will be picking up your new I-20s or if you would like them to be mailed to you.
    • If mailed, then provide a mailing address.
    • You will receive two I-20s. One you keep as your new current I-20. The second, you sign and send to USCIS along with your other required documents.
  3. Mail your new I-20 and OPT application documents to USCIS within 30 days of receiving the new I-20.
  4. If mailing from within Oklahoma or Texas: Mail your package to one of the addresses below, depending on your selection of shipping. (Visit USCIS website Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 for other state address lockbox locations.)
U.S. Postal Service
USCIS
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
OR Courier service: (FedEx or UPS)
USCIS
Business Suite 400
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Lewisville, TX 75067

 

 

 


Reporting Requirements and the SEVP Portal
F-1 students who are on OPT or STEM are still required to report changes to their contact information and current employer within 10 days of the change.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) provides students with a self-help tool, referred to as the SEVP Portal, that allows students on OPT and STEM the option to update the following information on their own and without relying on the school's DSO to update the below information for them:

Physical home address
Mailing address
Telephone numbers
Employer information (not available for STEM students)
Once the student's OPT request has been approved and the OPT start date has been reached, SEVP will send the student an account creation link to the e-mail listed on their SEVIS record. Therefore, you should always make sure that your DSO has your current e-mail address listed in SEVIS. If you do not receive the link and/or you are locked out of your account contact the ISPS Office.

To view tutorial videos and to learn more about the SEVP Portal visit the Study in the States website. If the ISPS Office is unable to resolve issues with your SEVP Portal account, then you should contact the SEVP Response Center.

Taxes

As an international student (F-1, J-1) in the United States, you are required to file US tax documents by April 15th each year. The following guide will answer the most important questions about filing taxes in the US and will help you start the process.

Summary
Most international students are considered non-residents for tax purposes.
If you have not received any source of income - then you’ll need to file Form 8843.
If you have received income in the last calendar year - then you will need to file Form 8843 and most likely Form 1040NR-EZ.
Every international student along with their dependents will need to file Form 8843. Every individual, regardless of whether they are one family, will need to file their own Form 8843. For more information, read on for more specifics on filing your taxes in the US.

Why should I file taxes?
Every international student and their dependents (including spouses and children of all ages) are required to file their taxes if they were in the US during the previous calendar year. While filing your taxes may sound difficult, there are a number of benefits to filing your taxes other than it’s the law:

  • You might get a refund. Some international students will qualify for a refund due to tax treaties and a lack of serious income if they’ve earned income in the US.
  • Protect taxation of your worldwide income.
  • You fulfill your visa obligations. All international students must file at least Form 8843 (see below) in order to remain legal under F and J visas, even if you didn’t earn any money in the US.

The American Tax System - An Overview
Americans and others residing in this country must pay taxes to the state and federal government, and the process is completed through an agency called the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Usually, when someone earns money a portion of it is automatically deducted and sent directly to the government. Organizations that pay individuals send a summary of how much money they paid you every January or so, as well as how much of that was sent to the government. The purpose of filing your taxes is to report all your sources of income to the government, what you already paid, and what you still owe. It is also an opportunity to claim deductions or exemptions you may qualify for. At the end of the process, you calculate how much in total you should have paid. If you paid more than what you owe during the year, you get a refund. On the other hand, if you did not pay enough then you have to pay the difference.

How do I file taxes?
There are many ways to file your taxes. You can file the proper forms on your own, you can hire a tax attorney, or you can purchase tax preparation software. For a complete step-by-step process to apply click the following link (internationalstudent.com).

Where can I get more information?
For more information on taxation as a foreign student in the US, consult the IRS website.

Disclaimer: This is general information and does not provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice. The services of a competent professional should be engaged with whom your particular situation can be discussed if legal, accounting or other professional advice is needed. Please be informed that any tax information contained herein cannot be relied on for the purpose of avoiding U.S. federal tax penalties. If tax advice is needed the services of a competent professional should be sought. East Central University (ECU) does not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes, or services. Therefore, mention of commercial products, processes, or services herein cannot be construed as an endorsement or recommendation. ECU is not liable for losses, hardship, or legal ramifications resulting in users electing to utilize information provided herein.