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Work Authorization for Off-Campus Jobs, Internships and Research

By Rachel Portwood, International Advisor

Every semester OISS advisors assist many international students with authorization for positions related to their academic curricula. These work experiences range from part-time internships during the school year to jobs during academic breaks to research or full-time employment after graduation. Obtaining work authorization for F-1 and J-1 students will require some effort and preparation in advance, but the process can be pain-free if you attend one of our workshops and are diligent about following the standard procedures.

All off-campus practical training, internships, research and work experience must be approved prior to rendering services.

 What about On-Campus Work? F-1 students do not need separate authorization to work on campus in most situations. Generally speaking, on campus work up to 20 hours per week during the academic semester is permitted. However, J-1 students do require authorization for all on-campus work. Please contact OISS for details or if you are unsure if your work constitutes as “on campus.”

 What kind of Authorization do I need? Generally speaking, F-1 students will apply for CPT to work during their studies, and apply for OPT in their last semester in order to work after graduation. J-1 students need to apply for Academic Training.

Curricular Practical Training*: CPT is authorization for F-1 students to work during your degree program at Rice. You must already have a job offer in order to apply for CPT. It can be approved by OISS within a few days once you have completed the required paperwork. You will need to provide the OISS with approval from your professor/academic advisor, proof the experience is part of your curriculum, verification of your degree program, and an offer letter.  In order for your application to be processed efficiently, please note that the offer letter from your employer must contain the start and end dates of your position, how many hours per week you will work, a brief description of your duties, and the address where you will be working.

Even if you have applied for CPT before, you may wish to attend one of our workshops again as our processes have changed with tightening immigration compliance. OISS has outlined guidelines and procedures for CPT on our website at http://oiss.rice.edu/studentwork/.

Optional Practical Training*: OPT is authorization for F-1 students to work after you complete your degree program with Rice. Although you do not need to have a job offer in order to apply, OPT requires more planning than CPT since it involves an application to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and can take an average of three months to be approved. We encourage you to begin your application before you complete your Rice degree requirements – as early as 90 days before you finish. More details about the OPT process can be found on our website at http://oiss.rice.edu/studentwork/.

You might hear friends say that they received their EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) in just a few weeks, but it often takes USCIS a full three months  to process OPT applications. Without your EAD card in-hand, you may not start an OPT job (even unpaid) after graduation.

Academic Training (AT) J-1 students use Academic Training for work permission, both during and after their Rice degree programs. Please see OISS’ “J-1 Academic Training Handout” for details and make an appointment to discuss your situation with an advisor.

F-1 CPT/OPT Workshops: OISS holds 10 – 15 workshops each semester in which we discuss CPT and OPT requirements and procedures in detail. We also address staying in the U.S. beyond OPT (STEM OPT extension, H-1B, and other visa categories).

Please plan to attend a workshop before you need work authorization. Visit our website to see the most up to date information on our workshops.


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