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Off-Campus Employers

International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) is always glad to answer questions within our scopt of knowledge from an employer or a student on CPT. Please feel free to e-mail us.

The majority of the following information is geared towards situations with international students on an F-1 visa. Should you have questions about students on a J-1 category, please contact our office regarding the eligibility of a J-1 Student visa holder interning or being hired in your office.

Internships for international students on F-1 (student) visas are allowed under immigration regulations which permit Curricular Practical Training (CPT). As described in the Code of Federal Regulations [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)], this employment is "alternate work/study, internship, (or) cooperative education" which is "an integral part of the established curriculum." Old Dominion University offers all students the opportunity to undertake internships as part of their degree programs, and this is the area of federal law which permits F-1 visa students to participate in such learning experiences.

As CPT is considered a part of the student's course of study, and permission is given only for a specific employer and not for employment in general, students on CPT are not required to obtain the I-688B, Employment Authorization Document, which is required by most other non-resident aliens who may work. Instead, the regulations specify that an authorized official at the student's school may evaluate the application for training and, if it meets the requirements of the law, endorse his/her immigration document (called Form I-20) with the specific training approval [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10(i)]. This endorsement will state the conditions on the CPT.

If the student is authorized for part-time CPT, he/she may not work more than 20 hours per week during the period for which training has been approved. Students who have been authorized for full-time training may work any number of hours desired by the employer.

CPT is granted for a specific employer, which is also noted on the endorsement. If a student wishes to change employers for his/her training, he/she must get permission from the University for the new employer and have the I-20 endorsed with the change.

CPT is also granted for specific dates, which correspond to the University's academic terms. Many times, this authorization can be extended for another semester, but the student must complete a new application with our office.

If the student has been in the United States for five or fewer years, authorized employment under curricular practical training is exempt from FICA (Social Security) taxes for both the student and employer. (Section 3121 (b)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986) IRS Publication 515 (Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Corporations) provides further information on taxation.

Information for Employers of International Students on Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has created this immigration benefit to allow individuals on an F-1 Student visa to work in a position directly related to their degree. These positions are not part of their academic curriculum and take place after the student has completed his/her coursework. Students are able to work up to one year on "Regular" OPT.

USCIS has also established a second type of OPT known as STEM OPT (for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math degrees). This new OPT allows students who graduated with majors in one of these areas to work for an additional 17 months.

Can a student extend his/her OPT?

Regular OPT authorizations are only granted for 12 months. If, as mentioned above, the student majored in one of the STEM degrees, an additional 17 months can be authorized--allowing a total of 29 months.

Even if the student you hire is only eligible for Regular OPT, there are options for keeping an individual employed with your company after the 12 months ends. See below for further information ("What if our company would like to hire this student for permanent employment?").

How do students apply for OPT

Students must first attend a workshop at ODU that explains their rights and responsibilities with regard to OPT. Afterward, they can submit the paperwork to ISSS and, if all requirements are met, a new F-1 visa document is used to show our office's endorsement of the application. This part of the process can take up to ten business days.

Next, the student sends the paperwork to Immigration where it can take up to approximately 90 days for the employment permission to be granted. Upon approval, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD or I-766) is issued. In order to avoid Department of Labor and Immigration violations, students cannot work--even as a volunteer--before they receive their EAD and/or before the EAD start date has arrived.

How do I validate a student's I-9?

Documentation used for I-9 validation will include the student's passport, as well as the EAD card's number and expiration date. Documentation examples can be found below.

Are students on OPT exempt from being taxed?

For more information on taxation for F-1 visa holders, please visit the resources complied by the IRS.

Are students eligible to work if the visa in their passport has expired?

Yes. An expired visa stamp does not indicate a violation of a visa status as the visa stamp is issued for entry purposes only. A valid EAD, a properly endorsed I-20 and a valid passport are the only documents required to maintain status while on OPT.

How many hours per week can a student work?

There is no limit to the number of hours per week or the number of employers s/he may have. A student can be a volunteer for at least 20 hours per week, provided that the work does not violate any labor laws. Our office recommends students contact a labor lawyer or a company's HR office to verify whether or not their volunteer work is in compliance.

What if our company would like to hire this student for permanent employment?

The most common immigration step following OPT is an H-1B visa, which allows an individual to work at your company up to six additional years. This process is relatively simple and requires assistance from an immigration attorney who can guide you through the application. ODU policy prevents us from recommending a lawyer, but we can suggest the following criteria for assistance in selecting legal counsel for immigration purposes:

  • is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)

  • has a fixed--not hourly--fee for services like an H-1B employment visa application

  • practices immigration law only

The visa status change takes anywhere from three to seven months, depending on the processing you choose--normal or expedited.

Here is a typical progression of employment options that most students take:

  1. Regular OPT: 12 months of employment

  2. STEM OPT (if eligible): 17 months of employment

  3. H-1B: 6 years of employment

Immigration and tax laws are subject to change; therefore, we recommend you stay in touch with legal counsel who specialize in this area of the law.

F-1 Student Visa Documentation

Documentation used for I-9 validation will include the student's passport, as well as the EAD card's number and expiration date. Further documentation examples of the EAD (also known as Employment Authorization Document or I-766), I-94 card and I-20 F-1 Student visa document can be found below.

USCIS image
Sample I-94
Sample I-20