Foreign Academic Students

Foreign academic or vocational students may work in the United States under certain circumstances. DHS issues documents showing employment authorization based on the type of student they are and the type of employment they have.

Foreign Vocational Students: Students in M-1 Nonimmigrant Status

Vocational students in M-1 nonimmigrant status may only accept employment if it is part of a practical training program after they complete their course of study. They must receive Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document (EAD), to begin working and can only work for a maximum of six months of practical training. Students can present their EAD to establish identity and employment authorization for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, purposes. For students who present an EAD, you should enter their EAD information including the Alien Number (A-Number), EAD card number and expiration date under List A in Section 2 of Form I-9.

Foreign Academic Students: Students in F-1 Nonimmigrant Status

F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. After the first academic year, F-1 students can seek off-campus employment through a variety of programs. The following table shows where students can locate their “Authorized to Work Until” date for Section 1, as well as the types of documents they may receive and could present to you for Form I-9 purposes.

F-1 Employment Type

Students: Where to Find Your “Authorized to work until” Date for Section 1

Employers: Section 2 Acceptable Documents

On campus

Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, program end date

Unexpired foreign passport and Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record

Curricular practical training (CPT)

Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, CPT end date from the employment authorization field

Unexpired foreign passport, Form I-94, and Form I-20 or List B and List C documents (unexpired Form I-94 with Form I-20)

Off-campus severe economic hardship

EAD “card expires” date

EAD

Off-campus sponsored by an international organization

EAD “card expires” date

EAD

Optional practical training (OPT)

EAD “card expires” date

EAD

OPT science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)

EAD “card expires” date

EAD

STEM OPT extension

EAD “card expires” date or Expired EAD “card expires” date plus 180 days.

EAD or Expired EAD* with Form I-20 endorsed by a designated school official for STEM extension.

Cap-gap F-1 with pending H-1B petition

Enter Sept. 30 and the year the H-1B petition was filed.

EAD and Form I-797C, Notice of Action

*In limited circumstances, employers may accept an EAD that appears to be expired for Form I-9 verification. See F-1 STEM OPT Extension below.

Foreign Students in F-1 Nonimmigrant Status Working in On-Campus Employment

Foreign students in F-1 nonimmigrant status may work on campus without the approval of a designated school official (DSO) or USCIS. To complete Form I-9, these students may present a combination of their unexpired foreign passport and Form I-94 indicating F-1 nonimmigrant status as an acceptable List A document.

Locations where F-1 students may work include:

  • The school’s premises, including on-location commercial firms that provide services for students on campus, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria; and
  • Somewhere off campus 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. Find guidelines for on-campus employment on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program webpage.

Foreign students may work on campus for up to 20 hours a week when school is in session. DHS will publish a Federal Register notice to announce any exceptions to this limitation that may apply in cases of emergent circumstances.

Foreign Students in F-1 Nonimmigrant Status Participating in Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

An F-1 nonimmigrant student may begin CPT after the designated school official (DSO) has authorized CPT on the student’s Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. CPT is any alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or other type of required internship or practicum offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. CPT must be an integral part of an established curriculum. These students should enter the CPT employment end date from the employment authorization section of their Form I-20 in Section 1 as the date employment authorization expires.

F-1 students participating in CPT must present the following documents to establish identity and employment authorization for Section 2:

  • A List A document, including the combination of:
    • Unexpired foreign passport;
    • Form I-20 with the DSO endorsement for employment; and
    • Form I-94 indicating F-1 nonimmigrant status.

Or

  • List B and List C documents:
  • For example, a state driver’s license (List B document) and, under List C #7, a Form I-94 indicating F-1 nonimmigrant status with a properly endorsed Form I-20.

When completing Section 2 with List A documents, you should enter the student’s:

  • Foreign passport information;
  • Form I-94 information; and
  • Form I-20 information, including the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) number and CPT employment authorization end date (not the program expiration date).

Foreign Students in F-1 Nonimmigrant Status Participating in Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT provides a practical training experience that directly relates to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Foreign students in F-1 nonimmigrant status participating in OPT must obtain an EAD from USCIS before they are authorized to work. The student may not begin employment until the date indicated on the EAD. While still in school, a student authorized for OPT may work:

  • For up to 20 hours per week while school is in session; and
  • Full-time during the student’s annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session.

After finishing a course of study, we may authorize an F-1 student up to 12 months of OPT. Please see the USCIS OPT for F-1 Students webpage for the types of OPT. Some F-1 students may be eligible for an extension of their OPT. (See F-1 STEM OPT Extension.)

F-1 students must enter the “Card Expires” date from their EAD in the Authorized to Work Until field in Section 1. The EAD establishes their identity and employment authorization for Form I-9 purposes. You should enter the card information including the number and expiration date under List A in Section 2 of Form I-9.

When the EAD expires, you must reverify the F-1 student’s employment authorization in Section 3. The employee may choose to present any List A or List C document that shows that he or she continues to be authorized to work in the U.S.

F-1 STEM OPT Extension

F-1 students who received a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM (PDF)) from an accredited Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school may apply for an extension of their OPT while in a period of post-completion OPT. STEM OPT students must work for an employer that is enrolled and in good standing with E-Verify, the electronic employment eligibility verification program administered by USCIS. While a STEM OPT student may change employers, the new employer must be enrolled and in good standing with E-Verify before the student begins STEM OPT employment. EADs issued to F-1 STEM OPT students state “STU: STEM OPT ONLY.”

The following documents establish the student’s identity and employment authorization for Form I-9 purposes:

  • Unexpired EAD (List A); or
  • Expired EAD presented with Form I-20 endorsed by the student’s designated school official (DSO)(List A). This is acceptable for 180 days from the expiration date on the EAD, after which you must reverify the student’s work authorization.

If the student presents an expired EAD and an endorsed Form I-20 as described above, you should enter the following information under List A in Section 2 of Form I-9:

  • EAD as the document title;
  • DHS as the issuing authority;
  • The EAD document number;
  • The date the EAD expired in the expiration date space, and
  • “180-day Ext.”

Cap-Gap Extension

The term “cap-gap” refers to the period between the time a nonimmigrant’s F-1 student status would ordinarily end and their H-1B status begins. F-1 students who seek to change to H-1B status may be eligible for a cap-gap extension of status and employment authorization through Sept. 30 of the calendar year you filed Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (H-1B petition) but only if the student’s H-1B status begins on Oct. 1.

If you employ an F-1 nonimmigrant student in OPT and you timely filed an H-1B petition for that student, they may be able to continue working beyond the expiration date on their OPT EAD while waiting for the start date of an approved or pending H-1B petition.

There are two types of cap-gap extensions:

  • Extensions of F-1 status only (without OPT): If a student is in F-1 status when you file an H-1B petition with an Oct. 1 start date, but the student is not currently participating in OPT, they will receive a cap-gap extension of their F-1 status but will not be authorized to work until we approve the petition and their H-1B status begins on Oct. 1.
     
  • Extensions of F-1 status and OPT: If a student is in F-1 status when you file an H-1B petition with an Oct. 1 start date and is currently participating in post-completion OPT, they will receive an automatic cap-gap extension of both their F-1 student status and their authorized period of post-completion OPT. If we select their petition and it remains pending or we approve it, the student will remain authorized to work as an F-1 student with OPT through Sept. 30.

Cap-Gap Automatic Extension Based on Timely Requests to Change Status

For an eligible F-1 student to receive an automatic EAD extension, you must:

  • Timely file a petition to change the student’s status to H-1B; and
  • State the student’s employment start date is Oct. 1 of the year you filed the H-1B petition.

The employee’s expired EAD in combination with your Form I-797C, Notice of Action, showing the above requirements is an unexpired EAD under List A. This automatic extension ends if the H-1B petition is rejected, denied, revoked, or withdrawn.

Timely filed means you submitted the H-1B petition (indicating change of status rather than consular processing) during the acceptance period while the student’s authorized F-1 duration of status admission was still in effect. This includes any period of time during the academic course of study, any authorized periods of post-completion OPT, and the 60-day departure preparation period.

How to Complete Form I-9

In Section 1, a new employee should:

  • Select “An alien authorized to work until;” and
  • Enter Sept. 30 and the year the H-1B change of status petition was filed as the expiration date.

In Section 2, for a new employee, you should enter:

  • EAD as the document title;
  • DHS as the issuing authority;
  • The receipt number of Form I-797C in the document number field;
  • Sept. 30 and the year you filed the petition in the expiration date field; and
  • CAP-GAP in the additional information field.

To update Section 2 for a current employee eligible for a cap-gap extension once you receive Form I-797C, enter CAP-GAP and Sept. 30 and the year you filed the petition in the Additional Information field. For example, CAP-GAP 09/30/yyyy.

Cap-Gap Reverification

If an employee’s EAD automatic extension expires on Oct. 1, you must reverify their employment authorization in Section 3 by Sept. 30 of the year you filed the petition. When we approve the H-1B petition you will receive a Form I-797 with your employee’s new Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. Enter the Form I-94 document title, number, and expiration date in Section 3 to complete reverification. The employee may also present any document from List A or C, or an acceptable List A or C receipt described in Section 4.3, Acceptable Receipts, to reverify their employment authorization.

Accruing Unlawful Presence

On Aug. 9, 2018, we issued a policy memorandum (Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants  (PDF, 138 KB) changing how we calculate unlawful presence for students and exchange visitors in F, J, and M nonimmigrant status, including F-2, J-2, and M-2 dependents, who fail to maintain status in the United States. Additional information is available on the Unlawful Presence and Bars to Admissibility page

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