Foreign Students

Foreign Students

Foreign academic or vocational students may be allowed to work in the U.S. under certain circumstances. Depending on the type of student and type of employment, the student will be issued different documents that show employment authorization.

Find on this page:

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 the students complete their course of study. The student must receive an Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766) before working and can only work for a maximum of 6 months of practical training. The Employment Authorization Document (EAD) can be used to establish the student’s identity and employment authorization for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, purposes. If presented with an EAD, the employer should enter the Alien Number, 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. There are various programs available for F-1 students to seek off-campus employment after the first academic year. The following table shows the types of documents that a foreign student in F-1 nonimmigrant status may be issued and could present to an employer for Form I-9 purposes.

On-Campus Employment

Curricular Practical Training 

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) OPT

Cap-Gap

\Off-Campus Employment Based on Severe Economic Hardship

Employment Sponsored by an International Organization\

Foreign passport

Foreign passport

EAD

EAD

EAD

EAD

Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record

Form I-94 with Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status

EAD (expired on its face) with Form I-20 endorsed by the designated school official

EAD (expired on its face) with Form I-20 endorsed by the designated school official

 

 

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, the combination of the F-1 student’s unexpired foreign passport and Form I-94 or Form 94A indicating F-1 nonimmigrant is an acceptable List A document.

Locations where foreign students in F-1 nonimmigrant status 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
  • 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. Guidelines for on-campus employment are available 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. An exception to this limitation applies in cases of emergent circumstances announced by DHS in a notice published in the Federal Register.

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 completed the Form I-20 endorsement page. CPT is any alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. CPT must be an integral part of an established curriculum.

F-1 nonimmigrant students participating in CPT must present the following three documents to establish identity and employment authorization: 

  • Unexpired foreign passport
  • Form I-20 with the DSO’s endorsement for employment
  • Form I-94 or Form I-94A indicating F-1 nonimmigrant status

When completing Form I-9 for an F-1 student in CPT, in Section 2 under List A, employers should enter the student’s:

  • Foreign passport number
  • Form I-94 number, and
  • Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) number and program expiration date from Form I-20

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. A foreign student 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
  • Full-time during the student’s annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session

After finishing a course of study, a student must complete all practical training within a 14-month period. Please see the USCIS OPT for F-1 Students webpage for the types of OPT. Some foreign students may be eligible for an extension of their OPT. (See F-1 STEM OPT Extension.)

The EAD establishes the student’s identity and employment authorization for Form I-9 purposes. The employer should enter the card number and expiration date under List A in Section 2 of Form I-9.

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

F-1 STEM OPT Extension

A foreign student 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 (PDF) 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. 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). Note: this is acceptable for 180 days from the expiration date on the card and work authorization must be reverified after 180 days for employment to continue.

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

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

Cap-Gap Extension

A cap-gap extension extends an eligible F-1 student's status and post-completion OPT period to bridge the gap between the end of F-1 status and start of H-1B status. This allows the student to remain and work in the U.S. during the "gap." The cap-gap extension is available to students who, as of April 1 of the current calendar year:

  • Are either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period; and
  • Have a pending or approved H-1B change-of-status petition with an Oct. 1 start date that was filed prior to the expiration of their OPT or 60-day grace period. 

The documents below establish identity and employment authorization for Form I-9 purposes by students who have had their status and employment authorization extended through cap-gap:

  • Expired EAD; and
  • Form I-20 endorsed by the DSO recommending the cap-gap extension.

Such documentation is acceptable through Sept. 30 of the year in which the employer filed the H-1B petition unless the H-1B petition is rejected, not selected, denied, revoked or withdrawn before Oct. 1 of that calendar year.

To verify employment authorization in Section 2 or conduct reverification in Section 3 during the cap-gap period, the employer should:

  • Enter the EAD document title;
  • Enter the EAD document number;
  • Enter the date the EAD expired in the expiration date space; and
  • Enter “Cap-Gap.”
Last Reviewed/Updated:

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION