Employment While on an F-1 Student Visa

Can I work while I am on an F-1 student visa?

The purpose of an F-1 student visa is for an international student to study full-time in the United States, with plans to return to their home country once their education and international experience is achieved, not to work or seek employment.

In cases of unforeseen, extreme financial hardship, you may be eligible for on-campus employment only, which may not be available. At EMCC, on-campus employment opportunities are rare and highly competitive. Please do not include being employed on or off campus as part of your plan to attend EMCC or to contribute to your cost-of-living budget.

You may not engage in off-campus employment without proper authorization from Immigration and Naturalization Services. Failure to follow the F-1 visa guidelines may lead to forfeiture of your F-1 visa status and your required, immediate departure from the United States.


Yes. Per the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as an F-1 student, you may have the option of working in the United States by participating in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program.

This is a program that some students like to take advantage of after they receive their associate degree from the community college and before they transfer to the university or return to their home country.

OPT allows a student to work in the same field as their degree, giving them some valuable work experience before they continue their education or career path.

When do I apply for OPT?

The earliest you can file your application with USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) is 90 days prior to the completion of your studies (the end date on your Form I-20). Keep in mind, it can take up to three (3) months for USCIS to approve your application and send your card. If you do not plan well, it may reduce the 12-months of OPT eligibility accordingly.

You are responsible for finding an OPT opportunity. Although EMCC does not locate or place students in OPT jobs, you are welcome to visit the EMCC Career & Transfer Center for guidance and assistance or the following link for information regarding Internships.

Please review the following items for eligibility requirements and instruction:

  • OPT must relate to your program of study (major) and appropriate to level of education.
  • You do not need a job offer prior to applying for OPT.
  • Your job may be anywhere in the United States.
  • You must find the OPT work opportunity on your own.
  • You can apply for up to 12 months of OPT at the attainment of each education level (i.e., 12 months at the associate’s degree level, and 12 months at the bachelor’s degree level, etc.).
  • You must request OPT through your school Advisor/DSO.
  • You must report any change of name, address, status, or employment to Advisor/DSO immediately.

My DSO said I could apply for OPT… Now what?

Complete your Form I-767 "Application for Employment Authorization" (e-file).

If approved, your DSO will provide you with a new Form I-20 with updated recommendation for this type of employment program (OPT). It is highly encouraged that you read the following INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE you apply online.


You must apply for work authorization by filing a Form I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization” with USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). You will be required to include the Form I-20 (endorsed by DSO within past 30 days), pay the $410 filing fee, and include various supporting documents as required.

AFTER YOU SUBMIT YOUR FORM I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization”…

Once you have submitted your application and paid the filing fee, USCIS will provide you with an electronic confirmation receipt that includes the following:

  • Your receipt number
  • Where to mail the required supporting documents listed in the form instructions. If you do not send the required documents to the address listed on the confirmation receipt, your application may be delayed or denied.
    • See page 6 – 7, #1 – 2 (A – C) of Form I-765 Instructions (04/01/13). Be sure to see section C regarding strict photograph requirements.
    • USCIS will mail you a Form I-797, “Notice of Action”. This is an important document that you should use as evidence that you filed for this application.
    • The USCIS office where your case is assigned will adjudicate (review and judge) your application.

If your application is approved by USCIS, they will send you a Form I-766 “Employment Authorization Document” (EAD).

Now you will need to apply for a Social Security Card.

Apply for your Social Security Card

A Social Security number is assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. This number is printed on their Social Security Card and should be kept in a safe place. Social Security numbers are used by your employer to report your wages earned to the U.S. government.

See the INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO APPLY for your Social Security Card and what documents you will need to present to the Social Security Administration.

See the Social Security Administration APPLICATION for a Social Security Card.

In order for you to apply for a Social Security Card, you will need to take the application and supporting documents to the nearest Social Security Office.

DO NOT START WORK UNTIL YOUR REQUEST IS APPROVED by uscis (u.s. citizenship & immigration services)!!

For information regarding a 17-Month OPT STEM Extension.