7.4.2 F-1 and M-1 Nonimmigrant Students

7.4.2 F-1 and M-1 Nonimmigrant Students

Foreign students pursuing academic studies and/ or language training programs are classified as F-1 nonimmigrants, while foreign students pursuing nonacademic or vocational studies are classified as M-1 nonimmigrants. Designated school officials (DSO) at certified schools issue Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1)/(M-1) Students.

F-1 nonimmigrant foreign students may be eligible to work under certain conditions. There are several types of employment authorization for students, including:

  • On-campus employment,
  • Curricular practical training,
  • Off-campus employment based on severe economic hardship,
  • Employment sponsored by an international organization, and
  • Optional practical training.

Foreign students in F-1 nonimmigrant status may work on campus without the approval of a DSO or USCIS.

On-campus employment is authorized until the student completes their course of study. The F-1 nonimmigrant admission notation on Form I-94/I-94A Arrival Departure Record usually states “D/S” indicating duration of status. The F-1 student’s Form I-20 bears the latest date they can complete their studies. Enter this date in Section 1 as the date employment authorization expires.

To complete Section 2, the combination of the F-1 student’s unexpired foreign passport and Form I-94/94A Arrival Departure Record indicating F-1 nonimmigrant status is a List A document for on-campus employment. Employers are not required to record information from the student’s Form I-20 in Section 2.

Foreign students in F-1 nonimmigrant status may work:

  • On the school’s premises, including on-location commercial firms that provide services for students on campus, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria
  • At an off-campus location that is educationally affiliated with the school.

Employment that does not provide direct services to students is not on-campus employment. For example, an on-campus commercial firm, such as a construction company that builds a school building, does not provide direct student services. Guidelines for on-campus employment are available at ice.gov/sevis/employment.

On-campus employment is limited to 20 hours a week when school is in session. An exception to this limitation applies in cases of emergent circumstances announced by DHS in a notice published in the Federal Register.

Curricular practical training (CPT) allows students to accept paid 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. The curricular practical training program must be an integral part of the curriculum of the student’s degree program. The DSO must authorize CPT on the student’s Form I-20. The employment end date shown in the employment authorization section of the Form I-20 should be entered in Section 1 as the date employment authorization expires.

The following documents establish the student’s identity and employment authorization for Form I-9 purposes and should be entered in Section 2:

List A documents include the combination of:

  • Unexpired foreign passport;
  • Form I-20 with the DSO endorsement for employment; and
  • Form I-94/Form I-94A indicating F-1 nonimmigrant status.


List B and List C documents. The F-1 student could present a List B document (such as a state driver’s license) and under List C #7, Form I-94 indicating F-1 nonimmigrant status with a properly endorsed Form I-20. The documents by themselves do not qualify.

An acceptable Form I-20 for CPT must have all employment authorization fields completed. These fields include employment status, employment type, start and end date of employment, and the employer’s name and location.

For the other types of employment available to certain foreign students, such as optional practical training (OPT) employment authorization, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), OPT extension, or off-campus employment based on severe economic hardship, employment authorization must be granted by USCIS and will be evidenced by an EAD issued by USCIS.

Border commuter students who enter the United States as an F-1 nonimmigrant may only work as part of their curricular practical training or post-completion optional practical training (OPT).

M-1 students may only accept employment if it is part of a practical training program after completion of their course of study. USCIS will issue the EAD with authorization granted for a maximum period of six months of full-time practical training, depending on the length of the students’ full-time study.

Dependents of F-1 and M-1 foreign students have an F-2 or M-2 status and are not eligible for employment authorization.


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