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F-1 Employment Options

Here's the basic information

F-1 students are automatically allowed to work on the campus of the college that they're attending.  You don't need to apply for any special authorization, and you can begin looking for a job as soon as you get to campus.  You will need to complete some forms in the Business Office, and you'll have to apply for a US Social Security Number if you don't already have one.

Immigration regulations say that while classes are in session, you will need to limit your on-campus employment to 20 hours per week.  You can work full-time during school breaks or during summer vacation (up to 40 hours per week).

Further Details about how to apply for On-Campus Employment and a U.S. Social Security Number:

  • If you would like to work in a WISE (on-campus employment) position Wabash College, here’s what you need to know:
    • You do not need to apply for work authorization, as F-1 students are automatically allowed to work on the campus where they study.
    • You need to claim your profile in Handshake, including creating a resume and a cover letter.  See the Quick Start Guide on the Professional Development website for more information on how to create your profile.
    • Once you have claimed your profile in Handshake, you can look and apply for on-campus jobs.  (Remember—F-1 students may only work 20 hours per week while classes are in session!)
    • Once you have located a job, it’s very important that you and your supervisor complete the form mentioned under the second bullet under the “Social Security Number” tab at this site and return it to Amy Weir right away so you can apply for a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN). 
    • Finally, once you’ve received an SSN, you need to show your card to Ms. Misty Cassida or Ms. Cathy Metz in the Business Office (Center Hall, Room 105).

F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

What is CPT?

Curricular Practical Training (or CPT) is a type of temporary, off-campus employment authorization available to F-1 students who are still working towards the completion of their degree.  According to immigration regulations, CPT must be an integral part of the established curriculum required for your degreeCPT must be for a job related to your major field of study. See below to learn more about CPT:

  • You must have been an F-1 student for 2 semesters before you are eligible to apply for CPT
  • CPT may be a good option for summer employment authorization if you have found an internship in the US
  • CPT may be paid or unpaid
  • CPT may be awarded on a part-time or on a full-time basis
    • Part-time = working 20 hours/week or LESS
    • Full-time = working MORE than 20 hours/week
  • You may apply for CPT more than once, as long as you are eligible each time
  • If a student uses more than 12 months of FULL-TIME CPT, he will lose his OPT!  Part-time CPT is unlimited, as long as you’re otherwise eligible
  • CPT authorization will appear on page 2 of your I-20 (once approved); show this to your employer to confirm your employment authorization
  • CPT is strict in its authorization, and you must have a job offer to apply—
    • you may only work for the employer listed on the I-20,
    • at that specific address,
    • for that specific period of time
  • You may not begin working until you have completed the CPT application process and received your new I-20!  In addition, you cannot work prior to the CPT start date listed on your I-20

Remember, to work in a paid position in the US off of Wabash’s campus, you must always apply for employment authorization.  F-1 students are only allowed to work on campus without seeking specific permission for employment authorization.

Within the limitations of the regulations, schools are allowed to create their own criteria for CPT and their own CPT application process, since it is the school that recommends CPT to students.  Therefore, students do NOT need to apply to the USCIS for CPT, and your CPT process as a Wabash student may not look like the CPT process your friend has at another school.

Wabash College’s 3-step CPT application process:

Find an internship, apply to it, and get accepted.   The Professional Development Office and your academic departments are the best resources in helping you locate and apply for an internship.  Then, once you’ve secured an internship, obtain the details about it.  You’ll need to collect the following:

  1. A job offer letter containing:
    1. Employer’s name (company name, not your supervisor’s name)
    2. Actual physical address where you will be doing the work
    3. Start date of your internship (month/day/year)
    4. End date of your internship (month/day/year)
    5. Number of hours per week that you’ll be working
  2. Description of the duties you’ll be performing in the internship (a few sentences is fine), preferably in the job offer letter, but they may have appeared in the job posting you saw
  3. Explanation of how the duties tie into your curriculum here at Wabash (a sentence or two is fine)

Apply to earn ½ or a full Wabash credit for completing the internship.  Complete the form called “CPT” that is available in the menu called “Forms” on the right-hand side of the Registrar’s Office’s website.  You will need to work with a faculty member who will serve as your “supervisor” for the internship, and s/he will help you with the form. 

The faculty member will require you to report back to her or him (by making a portfolio, writing a report, giving a presentation, etc.) either during your internship or when it’s finished to demonstrate what you learned for the Wabash credit you will receive. 

Important note:  The full or half Wabash credit you receive for your internship will not count toward the 34 credits you need in total to graduate, so please plan accordingly!  The credit/s will make you eligible for CPT, though.

If you have questions about the “Application for F-1 Curricular Practical Training” form or selecting a supervising faculty member, please address them to the Registrar and your academic advisor, since they control this part of the process.

Upon the approval of credit from the Registrar’s Office, bring these materials to Amy Weir for review.

  • Copy of identity/validity page of your passport
  • Copy of your most recently-issued F-1 visa stamp
  • Copy of your I-94 information
  • Copy of your job offer letter, as well as any other documents that confirm your employment details listed at 1.a. above

I will make sure you have collected all the information necessary for SEVIS and will enter it into your SEVIS record.  Then, Amy will produce a new I-20 for you that will have the CPT employment information printed on page 2.  When you start your internship, you’ll have to show this new I-20 to your employer to confirm your employment authorization for the I-9 Form. 

Remember, you cannot begin working until you’ve seen me AND I’ve produced the new I-20 for you.

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is OPT?

OPT is an employment benefit for F-1 students who will be completing a program of study.  To be eligible, you must have been enrolled full-time at Wabash College for the 2 semesters leading up to your OPT application. See below to learn more:


  • You do NOT need a job offer to apply for OPT!
  • You must apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to request OPT.
  • Once your application is approved, you will receive an Employment Authorization (EAD) card, also called an OPT card.  You will be authorized to work in the US for up to 12 months.
  • You are not allowed to work until you receive your OPT card, AND you may only work during the dates listed on the card (unless your employer has submitted an H-1B petition on your behalf).
  • ALL OPT employment MUST be related to your major field of study.  If you have more than one major, then you can search for jobs relating to any of your majors.  You do NOT have employment authorization for jobs related to your minor/s!
  • You must work at least 21 hours per week to meet the OPT full-time employment requirement.  There is no maximum number of hours you can work per week.
  • Students on F-1 OPT are limited to a total of 90 days of unemployment for the 12 months of OPT.  This counts Saturdays and Sundays and any days you spend abroad while unemployed and on OPT.  You’ll want to track days of unemployment closely; the clock starts counting on the first day your EAD card is valid.

When should I apply for OPT?

There’s a 5-month filing window for OPT.  A student may apply for OPT up to 90 days before his graduation date, and no later than 60 days after his graduation date. 

In addition, once Amy Weir has recommended OPT in your SEVIS record and made you a new I-20, your OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days.

Choosing an OPT start date

The start date you select must fall into a 2-month window.  The window opens the first day AFTER your graduation from Wabash and runs for 60 days.  If you’re worried about finding a job, be sure to pick a date closer to the 60th day.

How long will it take for my OPT application to be processed?

It will probably take USCIS around 90 days (3 months) to process your application.  This is why it’s imperative to plan ahead!

  • UNDER CONSTRUCTION.  Ask Amy Weir for guidance.
  • UNDER CONSTRUCTION.  Ask Amy Weir for guidance.

Finalizing your application:

Once you turn in all the required materials to Amy Weir, she can make you a new I-20 which recommends OPT on page 2.  You will need to sign the new I-20, make a copy, and include the copy of the new I-20 with the rest of the application.  You will then need to submit the I-765 application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) online

IMPORTANT:  Once Amy has created a new I-20 for you, you MUST submit your I-765 within 30 days to the USCIS or it will expire!

Checking the status of your application:

When you submit USCIS form I-765 online,  the USCIS should immediately confirm receipt of your filing by email, text, or both.  This is a Receipt Notice, and it includes your Receipt Number.  Please share your Receipt Number with Amy, so she can enter it into her portfolio and track it for you.

You may use the Receipt Number to track your case online at

Please note:  The USCIS cannot tell you exactly when your OPT will be approved.  Amy also cannot predict when it will be approved.  You must understand that this process is outside of our control, and your application will be adjudicated in roughly 90 days.  If you’re lucky, it may be sooner than that.

Travel abroad after graduation while awaiting OPT approval:

After you finish up your final exams and attend graduation, do NOT plan to leave the US without first speaking with Amy Weir.  Travel abroad while OPT is pending can be risky, particularly if you have an expired F-1 visa stamp.  There is a chance that you would not be approved for a new F-1 visa to reenter the US and begin OPT.  Then you must decide how urgent the need to travel is.  Amy will be glad to advise you further.  

You may only begin your OPT employment once you have the actual card in your possession.  Neither the OPT Approval Notice nor a web confirmation will suffice as evidence of eligibility for employment.  You must have your OPT card in your hand to complete the I-9 form for your OPT employer.

  • In addition, you may only work within the dates that are printed toward the bottom of your OPT card (also called an EAD card). 
  • Graduating students are NOT permitted to work on campus after graduation, unless the job qualifies under OPT AND falls within the dates listed on the OPT card.

OPT reporting requirements:

During your approved period of OPT, you continue to be in F-1 status through Wabash College.  Though your I-20 may appear to be expired, your OPT card effectively serves as the extension of your F-1 status. 

As an F-1 student, there are still updates that you are required to make to SEVIS every 6 months, even though you are no longer attending classes.  Students will report via the SEVP Portal, and you’ll receive an email from SEVP when your OPT card is approved with information on how to log into and use the Portal.  Refusal to report on schedule to SEVP may result in a denial of future benefits, such as H-1B status, permanent residency, etc.

The SEVP Portal collects personal and employer information for SEVP.  Through the Portal, you will:

  • Add or edit your current address (where you physically reside) within 10 days of any move
  • Add or edit your current telephone number
  • Add or edit your current email address
  • Add or edit the name of your OPT employer
  • Add or edit the address of your OPT employer (the physical address where you actually work—not the company headquarters’ address)
  • Add or edit your job title
  • Add or edit the start date of your OPT employment with this employer
  • If you change employers, then you also need to report the end date of the previous employment, as well as the start date of the new employment
  • Any impending change in your immigration status (likely filed through your employer)

The SEVP Portal Help Site has more information for students and may answer many of your questions:

The only exception is that STEM OPT students are unable to add or change their own employer information.  The Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” requires the student’s international student advisor to add employer information.  Every 6 months, students participating in STEM OPT must work with their advisors to confirm that their record in SEVIS accurately reflects their current circumstance.  Please visit the STEM OPT Hub for more information about reporting requirement for STEM OPT students.

Traveling while on OPT:

If traveling outside the U.S., it is very important for you to have with you all of the following documents:

  • valid passport
  • valid SEVIS I-20 signed by Amy Weir, Jon Jump, or Chris Dixon within the past 6 months
  • valid F-1 visa
  • your EAD card
  • a job offer letter (or job confirmation letter)

If you do not have one of these items, it is possible that you will be denied entry back into the U.S.  If you need to apply for a new visa while you are abroad, please remember that there is always a chance that your visa will be denied.

Travel outside the U.S. while unemployed will count towards your 90-day unemployment limit.  If you travel while employed either during a period of leave authorized by your employer or as part of your employment, the time spent outside the U.S. does not count as unemployment.

Studying while on OPT:

Part Time

You may study part time while on OPT, but you should be cautious.  Any courses taken should not apply towards a degree program and should be “incidental” to your OPT employment; that is, you need to continue full-time OPT employment as your primary activity.

New Degree Program

You may not engage in study towards a new degree program while on OPT.  If you are admitted to a new degree program that begins during the dates listed on your EAD, you will be expected to transfer your SEVIS record to the new school so a new program I-20 can be issued for you.  On the day your SEVIS record is released, your OPT will be terminated.

Options at the end of OPT:

You automatically receive a 60-day grace period following the expiration of your EAD.  During this time, you may stay in the U.S., but may not study, work, or leave and re-enter.  You have the following options at the end of your OPT period:

  • Depart the US:  If you do not plan to stay in the US, you must depart by the end of the 60-day grace period.
  • Begin a new degree program:  If you begin a new degree program at another school, you must be accepted to the new school and request that Wabash College release your SEVIS record to that school before the end of the 60-day grace period.  You can wait a maximum of 5 months from your OPT end date before you must begin classes.
  • Change to a new visa type:  You must file the proper paperwork prior to the end of the 60-day grace period.  If you hope to obtain an employment-based visa (H-1B visa) you should be aware of the process early so that you can plan many months in advance.
  • Extend your OPT for 24 months:  This option is not available to everyone.  The government has identified certain degrees in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) that are eligible.  If your degree is on this list, you may be eligible.  Ask Amy Weir for confirmation. 
    • In order to qualify for the STEM extension, you must be employed by a company that uses the E-Verify database to verify the status of employees.
    • Unpaid employment does not support the 24-month extension.
    • During the 24-month extension you may only work for employers who use E-Verify.
    • You must apply for the extension prior to the expiration of your current OPT.

To Apply for a U.S. Social Security Number

Please note that the local Social Security Administration Office is moving toward an online application.  The directions below are helpful, but you'll need to see Amy Weir for the most current set of application instructions.

1. First, you have to complete the following two forms:

  • Form SS-5—I have hard-copy forms in my office, or you can find it online here.
    • At Item 1, be sure to list your name EXACTLY as it appears in your passport!
    • Skip Item 2.
    • At Item 4, be sure to note you must list your birthdate at MONTH, then DAY, then YEAR.
    • At Item 5, check the box to the left of the phrase, “Legal Alien Allowed to Work.”
    • Items 6 and 7 are VOLUNTARY—you may response only if you wish to.
    • For Item 9, provide your mother’s name and SKIP Part B.
    • For Item 10, provide your father’s name and SKIP Part B.
    • For Item 11, please check the box to the left of “No.”
    • Use your Wabash College (including mailbox number)/fraternity house mailing address for Item 16.
    • Sign at Item 17.
    • Check the box to the left of “Self” for Item 18.

  • Letter from Wabash to the Social Security Administration (SSA)this form needs to be completed by 3 people:  you, your employer on campus, and me.  Make sure the letter has been printed out on Wabash letterhead.  Fill out your part at the top FIRST, and then move down the form.  Next, you employer fills out the employment details and signs below on the left-hand side.  Finally, bring the letter to me for signature.  Remember, I cannot complete my part until your employer has completed his/her part. Download the Form

2. Second, once you have completed the 2 forms listed above, plan a trip to the local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office.  The Social Security Administration Office in Crawfordsville is just up Grant Street (1515 S. Grant Avenue), which is the street that the Fine Arts Building is on.  Walk south to get to the SSA Office, and be sure to check in advance on the hours for the local office before you go. 

Please remember that the SSA is a public office—there will likely be a line when you get there, and you have to sign in on a computer kiosk, take your assigned number, and wait for your assigned number to be called.  You will probably want to bring something to read (like a magazine) because I think the SSA officers get a little upset if you’re playing on your phone too much.

3. Third, once you have established a good date and time to make your visit, take the following original documents with you to the Social Security Administration (SSA):

  • Passport
  • F-1 visa stamp (if not in current passport)
  • Most recently-issued I-20
  • I-94, recently printed out from this site
  • Completed Form SS-5
  • Completed Letter from Wabash to the Social Security Administration

4. Fourth, wait for your card to arrive.  It generally takes 2-4 weeks for the SSA to issue your Social Security Number.  Please be patient and check your campus mailbox regularly!  Remember, you are allowed to work on campus prior to receiving your card.

5.  Fifth, share a copy of your card with the Business OfficeThe Wabash College Business Office needs a copy of your Social Security Card for tax purposes.  Please take your new card over to Center Hall, Room 105 to give them a copy.  Once you’ve shared a copy with the Business Office, keep your new card in a safe place where you keep your other important documents.