Work Options for International Students
Please be advised that working off-campus without authorization is illegal.
If you already have a social security number and if you are in current F-1 status, you can potentially work on-campus as early as your first quarter at BC. However, please do not count on this employment to figure into your budget, since you will need to compete with many other students to be hired for a position and the pay, on average, is $8.00 per hour. If your status is B-2, E-2, F-2, H-4, J-2, L-2, M-1, or M-2, as well as potentially other statuses, you can’t work on-campus or off-campus.
You can look for an on-campus job by going to different departments to ask if they have a student help position available. Here are some departments that have hired international students and which you may want to try:
The Jibsheet (student newspaper); Bookstore; Cafeteria; Campus Operations; Early Learning, Family & Child Care Center; Computer Lab; Gym; Library Media Center; Printing Services; Student Programs; Academic Success Center.
If you are hired, you must submit an On-Campus Employment Authorization form (which will be completed by you and your supervisor), to the ISP office for work authorization before
you begin to work. This On-Campus Employment Authorization form can be downloaded from this website, or is available at the ISP front desk.
We ask that you please do this as soon as possible and allow us at least three working-days to complete the authorization. Once we complete this On-Campus Employment Authorization form, you need to submit its copy to your supervisor and bring the original with your passport and I-20 to the Social Security Administration office to apply for a Social Security card. Please see the section marked,
How to Apply for a Social Security Number,
on this page. You may work up to 19 hours per week (part-time) while school is in session; up to 40 hours per week (full-time) when school is on break or vacation. You can work in more than one department as long as you don’t exceed the maximum amount of hours per week.
Unfortunately, working off-campus is very limited for students in F-1 status. However, here are some guidelines for practical training and severe economic work authorization that you can read to see if you qualify. Please come to our office to make an appointment to ask any questions and to apply for practical training or severe economic hardship.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
There are two types of practical training for students in F-1 status. Practical training allows students to work in their field of study for a specified period of time, depending on which type is authorized. Each requires that you have attended at least a full academic year of studies and have maintained your F1 status. A student in an intensive English-language program is not eligible for practical training.
Practical training is usually most applicable if you are pursuing a professional program. Occasionally, students pursuing a transfer degree maybe eligible, but it is not advisable for these students to use their practical training until they have completed a Baccalaureate or graduate degree. Please see the section marked
Optional Practical Training for more information.
To apply for both types of practical training, you must make an appointment with Ms. Diem O'Rourke at the ISP office approximately three months in advance of your internship class or your graduation. Please know that we review your request for practical training completely based on whether or not you meet requirement of the Immigration regulations and BC policies.
How to Apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Several professional programs, such as Digital Media Arts or Interior Design, have an internship requirement to complete the degree.
Curricular practical training is reviewed and authorized by our ISP office. The amount of time that we can authorize depends upon the work required to complete the course, so it varies by your program. Curricular practical training is usually part-time and is not subtracted from your one-year of full-time work upon your graduation, which is called "Optional Practical Training". However, if you engage in an aggregate of 12 months or more of
full-time curricular practical training, you become ineligible for optional practical training, (8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i). There are very few instances when we can grant full-time curricular practical training, but again, it depends upon your class and degree requirements.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- Make an appointment to meet with your program advisor and follow the necessary guidelines to take the internship class. Your program advisor needs to approve your registration for the internship class.
- Register for the internship class;
- Make an appointment with Diem O'Rourke at our ISP office approximately one month before your internship class or graduation commences;
- Work with your program advisor to find an appropriate place of employment;
- Have your program advisor write a verification letter to or e-mail Diem O'Rourke at Diem.ORourke@bellevuecollege.edu to let her know that he or she approves your enrollment in the class and place of employment, and that it will satisfy the class requirement. For some programs, such as Digital Media Arts, a copy of the completed Internship Agreement Contract is fine instead of an e-mail or a verification letter from your program advisor;
- Bring a letter from your employer on the company’s letterhead, briefly describing your job duties. Be sure to bring the company’s address and telephone number. If you will be working at a company’s branch office, be sure to bring this address and telephone number;
- Write a letter to an "International Student Advisor", or complete a "CPT/OPT Request" form, requesting part-time curricular practical training - this is your formal file request;
- Bring all of your original I-20s and passport(s);
- After we complete the CPT work authorization, bring your I-20 and passport to the Social Security Administration office to apply for a social security number. Please see the section marked, How to Apply for a Social Security Number, for more information.
Practical training is most applicable if you are pursuing a professional program. Occasionally, students pursuing a transfer degree may be eligible, but it is not advisable for these students to use their practical training until they have completed a baccalaureate or graduate degree.
Generally, the reason for this is that you only receive one-year full-time practical training per each educational level. More often than not, transfer degree students do not have enough credits in a specified area of study for us to recommend to the Immigration office that they be granted a practical training in their field of study. In addition, students have a better chance of a higher position and pay after they complete a baccalaureate or graduate degree than if they have only completed an associate degree. However, your situation maybe an exception, please make an appointment with Diem O'Rourke in our ISP office to discuss your particular situation.
You are potentially eligible to apply for OPT if you meet the following criteria:
- You are on BC Academic programs I-20;
- You have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year;
- You have maintained your F-1 status, (at least a full academic year);
- You have not exceeded 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization. (Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.);
- You will complete an Associate in Arts (AA) degree-Professional;
an Achievement (at least 45-credit) professional certificate program;
a combination of an Associate in Arts General Studies degree (AAGS) and an Achievement (at least 45-credit) professional certificate program;
a combination of an Associate in Arts and Sciences transfer degree (AAS) and an Achievement (at least 45-credit) professional certificate program;
a combination of two or more Accomplishment certificates in the same major program with the accumulative earned credits of these certificates equal to at least 45 credits;
after you finished your OPT in a certificate level (while on BC I-20) and are now graduating with an AA professional degree program in the same or different major program
with your previous certificate program;
- You are required to complete at least your last 15 credits for an Achievement (45-credit) professional certificate program OR your last 30 credits for an AA professional
degree program at BC.
How to Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
After OPT Approval
- Call 425-564-3052 or email Diem O'Rourke at
to make an appointment to meet with her, one quarter prior
to your graduation. Be sure to apply for graduation on time! Please see the section
marked Graduation on this page.
There are important filing dates that you need to follow when you apply for your
practical training. Usually, you can apply up to 90 days before your graduation date or up to 60 days after your graduation date.
However, we strongly recommend you to apply for OPT before your program end date although recent OPT rule changes allow you to apply
up to 60 days after your program end date. But please note that you cannot begin to work until you receive an approval, and applying after
your graduation date might result in a loss of full eligibility (12 months) due to 3-4 month processing time.
ISP will give you forms that you need to complete, and ISP will tell you by what date we need to file your
request for practical training;
- Complete a CPT/OPT Request form---this is your formal file request;
- Complete the given forms and bring back to our office with all of your original I-20s, passports,
a check of $380 (subject to change without notice from USCIS) for application fee,
and Washington driver’s license or I.D. card;
- Once completed, we will mail the documents to USCIS on your behalf;
- Within one month after we mail your request, you should receive a letter from USCIS by mail called a
Notice of Action. This notice confirms that USCIS received your request and tells you approximately
the length of time it will take for USCIS to review. We will contact you as soon as we receive this notice.
Please be sure to update your email, phone number, and mailing address with our ISP office within 10 days of your
change. If you do not receive this letter within one month, please let our office know. In this case, it
could mean that your request was lost in the mail or that USCIS didn’t process the request;
- Mark the approximate USCIS review date on your calendar and wait;
- If the approximate USCIS review date has passed and you still have not received any further correspondence
from USCIS, please let our office know and we will help you find out the status of your request;
After we file your request with USCIS, we strongly recommend
that you do not leave the U.S. to travel to Canada or
another country. If you leave the country before receiving
your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, USCIS may
consider that you have abandoned your
request for practical training. You may lose the right to
practical training and you can’t file again. In the worst case
scenario, you may not be able to re-enter the U.S.
The good news is that you can travel anywhere in the U.S.
after we file your request and before you receive your
EAD card. Please see the section marked
Travel During Optional Practical Training
for more information.
If you don’t already have a resume prepared, you should
create a resume. Please contact the Center for Career Connections to
get more assistance. You should begin to look for
employment in your field of study, but you can’t begin to
work until you receive your EAD card which shows the date you can begin working. You can tell a
potential employer that you have filed for your practical
training request and that you are waiting for a
response from USCIS. Employment must be related to your field of study!
(Please see the After OPT Approval section for more details.)
Normally, it takes approximately 80-90 days to receive
your EAD card from USCIS. However, it can take longer,
especially during Spring and Summer quarters. This is due
to the fact that thousands of international students
throughout the U.S. graduate at this time. Therefore,
USCIS has more applications to review and process.
Hopefully, this process will go smoothly and you will receive
your EAD card. Once we receive your EAD card, we will contact you.
Then you will go immediately to apply for a Social Security Number.
Please see the section marked How to Apply for a Social
Security Number for more information.
New OPT rules went into effect on April 25, 2008. They are incorporated into these instructions.
However, please note that many details continue to be under discussion. ISP will continue posting updates as we receive more information.
Travel During Optional Practical Training
- OPT Employment/Job must be directly related to your field of study and commensurate with your level of education.
You should obtain a signed letter from the employer’s hiring official, supervisor, or manager stating how your degree is related to the work performed.
- You can work at a full- or part-time job, whichever is related to your field of study. For a part-time job, it must be at least 20 hours per week.
- Multiple employers are fine as long as all of them are related to your major program.
- Self-employment is allowed. You must work full time and prove that you have the proper business licenses and are actively engaged in work related to your field of study.
- Volunteer work or unpaid internships that do not violate U.S. labor laws are okay. Your work must be at least 20 hours per week.
- Limits on Period of Unemployment While on Post-Completion OPT
- Reporting Requirements to ISP
You are required to report to Ms. Diem O’Rourke via email (Diem.ORourke@bellevuecollege.edu)
or fax (425-641-0246) within 10 days of your change:
- Personal contact information, such as name, address, phone number, and email address;
- Employment information:
- Name of employer
- Start date of employment
- Clarifying if it's a paid or unpaid employment
- How many working hours per week?
- Your supervisor’s mailing address, phone number, fax number, and email address
- Describe how this job is directly related to your field of study
- Change of employer, with end date of the previous employment and start date of new employment
- Indicate “unemployed” and the end date of your last job if it’s more than 10 days of unemployment
- If you decide to go home (i.e., giving up your OPT) and complete your F1 status prior to the OPT expiration date,
please fill out and submit your “Withdrawal” form to ISP before you leave the U.S.
Severe Economic Hardship
Once you have received your EAD card from USCIS, it is
possible for you to travel outside of the U.S. The
procedures are basically the same as when you were
studying full-time. A common misconception by students
is that practical training changes your visa. Practical
training isn’t a type of work visa. Instead, practical
training is a type of work authorization and status
You are still in F-1 status, but you are no longer a
student pursuing full-time studies. Now, you are pursuing
full-time work-your status is F-1 on optional practical
training. This means that you are still required to notify
our office within 10 days when you change your address,
when you travel abroad, and the name and location of the company where you are working.
To travel outside of the U.S. and reenter, you still need
to have a valid passport, a valid F-1 visa, and a
signature on page 3 of your I-20 from our office.
The difference is that you need to carry your EAD card
with you, also. You also need to have your employer
write a letter on your behalf verifying that you are an
employee. You need to have found a job before you can
leave the U.S. If you are in the process of looking for
a job, let us know so we can advise you. If your F-1 visa
is expired, you will need to renew it at the U.S. consulate
or embassy in your country before you can reenter the U.S.
Your EAD card will say that it is not valid for reentry
into the U.S. This just means that you can’t reenter the
U.S. only using your EAD card, but that you also need
your valid I-20 and passport.
Students in F-1 status who have an unforeseen change
in their economic situation such as substantial
fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange
rate, unexpected changes in the financial condition
of the student’s source of support, medical bills,
or other substantial and unexpected expenses, and
have maintained status for a full academic year,
may potentially be eligible for severe economic
hardship work authorization. If approved by USCIS,
this authorization allows students to work off-campus
for a maximum of 19 hours per week (part-time work)
while school is in session, and a maximum of 40 hours
per week (full-time work) while school is on
vacation or break.Severe economic hardship work authorization can be
potentially issued for a maximum of one-year or
until the end of your studies, whichever comes
first. It does not affect your ability to apply
for optional practical training or subtract
from the employment time.
How to Apply for Severe Economic Hardship
- Come and talk to an ISP advisor. We will give you forms that you need to complete;
- Write a letter to USCIS, requesting severe economic hardship and explaining your circumstances. Be sure
to include supporting documents that will demonstrate to USCIS that you have an unforeseen change in your financial situation;
- Write a letter to International Student Programs requesting severe economic hardship--
this is your formal file request;
- Complete the given forms and bring back to our office with all of your original I-20s, passport(s), a check of $340 (subject to change without notice
from the Immigration Office) for the application fee, and a copy of your Washington driver’s license
or I.D. card;
- Once completed, we will mail the documents to USCIS on your behalf;
- Within one month after we mail your request, you should receive a letter from USCIS by mail called a Notice of
Action. This notice confirms that USCIS received your request and tells you approximately the length of time
it will take for USCIS to review. We will contact you as soon as we receive this notice. Please be sure to update
your email, phone number and mailing address with our office within 10 days of your change. If you do not receive this
letter within one month, please let our office know. In this case, it could mean that your request was lost in
the mail or that USCIS didn’t process the request;
- Mark the approximate USCIS review date on your calendar and wait;
- If the approximate USCIS review date has passed and you still have not received any further correspondence from
USCIS, please let our office know and we will help you find out the status of your request;
Applying for a Social Security Number
You should begin to look for employment, but you can't begin
to work until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
from USCIS, and the beginning date noted on the card. You can tell a potential
employer that you have filed for severe economic hardship
and that you are waiting for a response from USCIS.
Normally, it takes approximately 90-120 days to receive your EAD card from USCIS.
Hopefully, this process will go smoothly and you will receive your EAD. Once we receive your EAD card, we will contact you.
Go immediately apply for a social security number. Please see the section marked How to Apply for a Social Security Number for more information.
If You Already Have a Social Security Number
You must have work authorization from our office for an on-campus
employment or have received your EAD card from USCIS, to apply
for a social security number. Please see the above sections for
information on how to apply for work authorization. The Social
Security Administration will not issue a number for any other
If you have received a completed On-Campus Employment Authorization form from our
office, take this form, your I-20, and passport to the Social Security Administration to apply for a social security number. You will
need a social security number to be able to work.
If you have received your EAD card from USCIS, take your EAD card,
I-20, and passport to the Social Security Administration to
apply for a social security number. In this case, you do not
need any letter nor an Employment Authorization form from our office to apply.
The Social Security Administration is located at:
The Commerce Building
505 106th Avenue Northeast, Bellevue
(Between 4th & 8th Street)
It usually takes approximately 2-3 weeks to receive your number.
Please check your social security card to make sure your
number is valid for employment with USCIS authorization.
You do not need to apply for a new social security card
in this case. If your social security number is not valid
for employment, you do need to follow the above guidelines
to apply for a new card that will be valid for employment.