The F-1 Student Visa is designated specifically for pursuing and completing a program of study. For this reason, the F-1 visa does not authorize you to work off campus except in very specific situations and usually just related to your studies. For On-Campus Employment you may apply for student worker positions (non-Work Study positions) and then immediately request the required On-Campus Verification Form from your International Advisor. For all other authorizations, which are off-campus, please first consult with your International Advisor to confirm eligibility.
If you are currently studying on an F-1 Student Visa, you can work on the Bellevue College campus while you are a full-time student. You can work up to 20 hours per week only. You can look for an on-campus job by going to the different college departments to ask if they have available student positions. Some of the departments that hire students are: Bookstore; Cafeteria; Campus Operations; Early Learning, Family & Child Care Center; Computer Lab; Gym; Library Media Center; Printing Services; Student Programs; Academic Success Center. Please note that any position designated “Work Study” is not available to you as an International Student. Work Study positions are designated for students eligible to receive U.S. Financial Aid.
If you are hired, you must submit an On-Campus Employment Authorization form (which will be completed by you and your supervisor) to your international advisor and await approval before you begin working. You can request the On-Campus Employment Authorization form from your International Advisor.
Once we complete the On-Campus Employment Authorization form, you need to submit a copy to your job supervisor at Bellevue College and bring the original form with your passport and I-20 to the Social Security Administration office to apply for a Social Security card.
You may work up to 20 hours per week (part-time) while school is in session; up to 40 hours per week (full-time) during school breaks, or when you are on an authorized vacation quarter. You can work at more than one department as long as you don’t exceed twenty (20) hours per week (40 on breaks and Summer Vacation).
Important Notice: All on-campus employment must end when you graduate from Bellevue College. Once you are no longer studying at BC you must immediately cease any further work on-campus, even if you have applied for Optional Practical Training (see below).
Note: The off-campus work options’ information below are general guidelines. There are sometimes specific reasons that IE may not be able to approve Practical Training and eligibility is at the discretion of IE and your International Student Advisor. Students in the Intensive English Language Program are not eligible for practical training.
*** Please be advised that working off-campus without authorization is illegal. ***
Curricular practical training is reviewed and authorized by IE. The amount of time that we can authorize depends upon the work required to complete the course, so it varies by your program. The required internship hours must be finished before the completion of your program. Curricular practical training is usually part-time and is not subtracted from your one-year of full-time optional practical training after graduation. 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). Also make sure the major on your I-20 must be matched with the program you are pursuing. There are very few instances when we can grant full-time curricular practical training and this is usually only during an approved Vacation Quarter. Unless on an approved Vacation Quarter, you would still be required to study full-time, which would prohibit pursuing a full-time internship (CPT).
Students must meet all of the following requirements in order to be eligible to apply for Curricular Practical Training:
- You are currently enrolled in a full-time program of study that has a content major which is listed on page one of your I-20. Note: General AAS Transfer Degrees and Certificates may not be eligible for CPT.
- You have maintained your F-1 status and have enrolled full time on your I-20 for at least one full academic year (e.g., 3 consecutive quarters);
- An internship or practicum class/course is either a requirement of your degree or meets approval as being directly related to your major (#2 below)
- You have received a detailed offer letter from a company or organization that will provide you with the internship opportunity and it clearly states it is an internship with practical ‘training’ implications. Though you may be paid as an intern, the offer cannot simply be for employment or as an independent contractor position. As well the letter must specific start and end dates that correspond with the quarter for which you are applying.
How to Apply for Curricular Practical Training
Review the eligibility requirements above before beginning the process. If you meet all of the above requirements then you can begin by seeking an internship for a quarter that you are eligible. If you have any questions about eligibility, then make an appointment with your primary international advisor before beginning process.
Once you have received an internship offer you can request a Curricular Practical Training Request form from your International Advisor and begin the process outlined on the form:
- Complete the Student Section and attach a copy of your internship offer
- Meet with the Academic Advisor for your major to confirm the internship relates directly to your studies. If it is not integrally related, you may not be eligible.
- Meet with an Experiential Learning Coordinator in Center for Career Connections to confirm process and timing for enrollment in EXPRL class
- Submit your completed Internship Request Form to your International Advisor at least two weeks before the date that your internship offer begins.
- Pick-up your new I-20 from Office of International Education. Review page two of the document to confirm proper location and start/end dates of your internship.
Important Information about CPT:
- Your offer letter must clearly explain that the opportunity is an internship and there must be correctly corresponding start and end dates.
- You must register for the required EXPRL or other credits designated for your CPT in order to fulfill your obligation for the authorization
- CPT can be for a paid or unpaid internship. Even if the offer is unpaid, you are still required to have approved CPT before performing any off-campus learning, internships, practicum or employment
- If approved for Part-Time CPT then you cannot work more than 20 hours during any week of your CPT approval
- You are not authorized to work beyond your CPT approval dates and must apply for another approval if you are interested in extending
- You will be required to apply for a Social Security Number with your new I-20 in order to be paid for your employment – Please see the section marked, How to Apply for a Social Security Number
- Curricular Practical Training approval does not transfer to any other employment authorization and is only approved for the specific employer for the time designated on the updated I-20
- Final approval of Curricular Practical Training is decided by a Designated School Official (International Advisor) in International Education and any violation of employment policies could impact eligibility for future CPT requests, OPT or other F-1 visa benefits
You can Print the CPT Request Form here: BC CPT Form
OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an F-1 status benefit that is recommended by a Designated School Official for DHS (your international student advisor) and is then reviewed for approval by United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). OPT authorizes students in F-1 status who complete eligible degrees to seek employment and training opportunities in the U.S. for 12 months. Students with specific STEM majors may be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT after the initial 12 months. There are two types of OPT, Pre-Completion and Post-Completion. Most students apply only for Post-Completion OPT, which is used after completing their program of study.
Eligibility requirements to apply for Optional Practical Training:
- You are currently in F-1 status.
- You have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year (three quarters, including final exams weeks) or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins.
- You are enrolled in a specific professional technical program or other major related degree
- You are pursuing an Associates of Arts & Sciences Transfer Degree with no specific major but you will also complete the equivalent of a 20 credit concentration in an area of study (BUS, ECON, ART, etc) in which you will seek employment.
- You are not pursuing a Certificate of Achievement or other program that takes less than one year to complete.
- You have not been authorized for a total of 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Multiple overlapping, part-time CPTs would count toward this limit; otherwise, part-time CPT does not affect OPT.
- You do not need a job offer first; you can apply for the 12-month OPT authorization without a job offer.
- You have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the same degree level.
- You are eligible for 12 months of full-time OPT per academic level, when changing to a higher educational level. For example, you may apply for 12 months of OPT after completing a bachelor’s degree and then another 12 months after completing a master’s degree.
- You may apply for OPT authorization during your academic program, after your program completion, or a combination of both.
Please Note: You are required to first request an OPT Recommendation I-20 from your International Advisor before you are then able to submit an application for OPT to USCIS, either online or via postal mail.
Planning for OPT and Graduation:
- Begin planning for OPT at least one quarter before you plan to graduate – you can also start this discussion at your Second Year Advising meeting an earlier time in your studies.
- Attend an OPT workshop or make an appointment with your International Student Advisor
- If you meet the eligibility requirements you will be assigned the OPT Request Record in your International Student Portal account where you will be able to begin the process and prepare the requirements for the application.
- Be sure to apply for graduation on time! Please check the Graduation page for more details about graduation deadline
- Once you complete the application requirements (below) and your advisor creates a new I-20 with the recommended OPT start dates and end dates on page two, you are required to send the application to USCIS within 30 days. If the entire OPT application is not received within 30 days the application will be denied.
The Steps to Apply for Optional Practical Training:
Please Note: If you are planning to apply by postal mail, please consult with your advisor for a separate process. Additionally, if you are wanting to apply for Pre-Completion OPT or for an OPT STEM extension, please contact your advisor directly as the steps would be different.
- Contact your International Advisor to determine eligibility for OPT – If you are deemed eligible you will continue to Step 2.
- Review and complete the OPT Request requirements added by your International Student Advisor in the International Student Portal – This step is your official request for the OPT I-20. The request includes information about the OPT application process, an agreement regarding the requirements while on OPT, and instructions on how to create your USCIS Online Account.
- Receive an I-20 with OPT recommendation from your international advisor once all requirements are completed in the OPT Request in your International Portal. This I-20 will be needed before you can submit your request in the USCIS Online Account.
- Prepare and review your USCIS Online OPT Application – Prepare the entire draft, including uploading required uploading all required documents and share the PDF of your application with your International Advisor for review. Because no edits can be made once you have paid and submitted your application, only complete these final steps once you’ve allowed your advisor to review.
- Review and Submit – Once you had had your application draft (above) reviewed by your international advisor and made any required edits, pay and submit your application online in your USCIS Online Account.
Items you will need to apply for OPT:
This is just to get you thinking about requirements, since each requirement is clearly outlined as well in the USCIS Online Application.
- Completed Bellevue College OPT Request Form in the International Student Portal
- Completed I-765 Form via your USCIS Online Account or on paper
- New OPT Recommended I-20 with requested start and end dates (issued by your International Advisor)
- Photocopy of any previous I-20s that denoted you had CPT or OPT authorization
- Photocopy of your passport identification page
- Photocopy of F-1 visa page
- Passport-style photo (U.S. State Department Photo info)
- Copy of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at CBP.gov/I94
- Photocopy of previously issued EAD/employment card (if applicable)
- $410 payment in USCIS Account with a credit card or bank routing number or via check or money order if sending by postal mail
Note: USCIS reviews and approves or denies OPT applications and they have rather strict procedures and time lines. For this reason, we recommend that you review all OPT information and application instructions carefully and ask your advisor if you have questions. Your International Student Advisor can make the I-20 recommendation, if you are eligible. However, they do not approve OPT and cannot influence any decision by USCIS.
Important Filing Deadlines and Timing:
There are important filing dates that you need to follow when you apply for your practical training. The earliest you can apply is up to 90 days before your graduation date or up to 60 days after your graduation date. Although USCIS allows you to apply up to 60 days after your program end date, it is recommended that you apply for practical training at least 2 weeks before the end of your 60 day grace period, at the very latest. Due to the approximately 75 – 90 day application review timeline, applying after graduation is risky and could cause you to lose some or all of your OPT time. When submitting your OPT application, remember that the application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date the I-20 is issued by your international advisor. You are only authorized to begin working once the OPT application is approved, you have possession of the Employment Authorization Document (OPT card) and you have reached the approved start date listed on the card.
After you file your request with USCIS, we strongly recommend that you do not leave the U.S. to travel to Canada or another country (you are allowed to travel is within the U.S.). If you leave the U.S. before receiving your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, USCIS may consider that you have abandoned your request for practical training. Normally, it usually takes approximately 75-90 days to receive your EAD card from USCIS. Once we receive your EAD card, we will contact you.
While you wait for OPT application review
You can go to USCIS Processing Times site to check current time for Form I-765.
If you do not receive any information from USCIS within the stated processing times, you can go to their Request Inquiry page to check-in about your application. When USCIS makes a determination on your case or if they need something from you, they will contact you by mail and also make an update in the USCIS Online system.
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 it. Once you receive this notice, you will need to contact your advisor and upload a copy to your portal account
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, contact your advisor and they can assist you in checking on your application status. You can also check any USCIS case status here as long as you have your receipt number.
Request for Evidence
If USCIS has any problems with your application they may send a notice that asks for something to be resubmitted for your application. This is not common, but if you receive a notice, inform your international advisor immediately so they can review the requirements with you.
Approval and EAD arrival
Once your application is processed by USCIS you will receive a Notice of Approval and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for OPT. The two documents will arrive separately by postal mail. Please inform your International Advisor when you receive any updates and also provide a copy of the approval and EAD to be saved in your student records.
After Optional Practical Training Approval
You are required to report your employment and other personal contact information within 10 days of any changes. If your OPT is approved you will also receive an email from USCIS with instructions on how to create your own SEVP Portal Account that is used specifically for you to report additions and changes to employment information. Besides updating the portal, you should also share any updates with your International Advisor. The required employment information is as follows:
- Personal contact information, such as name, address, phone number, and email address
- Employment information:
- Name of employer/company;
- Start date and end dates of employment;
- Paid or unpaid employment;
- Number of 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 (maximum 1000 letters);
- If you change employer/job, please report the end date of the previous employment and start date of new employment and the new job’s information list above
SEVP Portal for OPT updates
Students use the SEVP Portal to report OPT employer information. Students must check their BC email so you don’t miss your invitation to activate your SEVP Portal account. If you have any questions about your SEVP Portal account (including SEVP Portal account reset requests), you should contact your International Advisor. Students are required to update their OPT employer information in the SEVP Portal within 10 days of hiring or any employment changes. Failure to set up your SEVP Portal account or failure to update your OPT employer information could be considered a violation of F-1 status and result in a terminated SEVIS record.
90 Day Unemployment limit
You may have up to 90 days of unemployment and still maintain your F-1 status. During your OPT period, (i.e., from the beginning date to the ending date of OPT stated on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card), each day that you do not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. The only exception is that periods of up to 10 days between the end of one job and the beginning of the next job will not be included in the calculation for time spent unemployed.
If you decide to go home before your OPT ends, (i.e., giving up your OPT), or after you finish your OPT, please fill out and submit your Withdrawal Form to IE before you leave the U.S.
Travel during OPT
Travel and re-entry into the U.S. while on OPT requires that you have your OPT I-20 with a travel signature (only good for six months on OPT), your passport, valid F-1 visa, your Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card) and a letter from your employer stating that you are currently employed. 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, passport, EAD and offer letter.
Resume and Job Search Support
It is recommended that you either create a resume or update your current resume prior to submitting job applications for OPT. You can consult with the Center for Career Connections to get assistance resume development and job searching. You have access to their services after you graduate. Information on the Center for Career Connections can be found on the following here You can begin searching for job leads and employment opportunities before you graduate, but you can’t begin to work until you receive your EAD card which shows the date you can begin working.
Explaining OPT to potential employers
Your OPT employment authorization is a benefit of your F-1 status, not a different type of employment status. It is recommended you be very clear in explaining to potential employers that you expect to soon be authorized for employment while on OPT for up to one year. 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.
Receiving a Social Security Number
If you had not previously been assigned a Social Security Number for prior employment in the U.S., you should apply for a Social Security Card. Within the USCIS Online Application for OPT, you are able to also apply for your Social Security Card. You can also wait to apply after you receive your OPT card, but that is a bit less convenient. If you have other questions about the Social Security Card process, you can contact the local Social Security Office
Insurance Coverage during OPT
As part of your OPT application process, you should contact Firebird International Insurance Group to continue your BC Foundation Insurance. Following that first quarter you will be responsible for continuing to purchase insurance for each subsequent quarter while you are on OPT. If you neglect to purchase insurance for subsequent quarters you may have a gap in coverage and potentially be billed very high fees for any medical visits or procedures.
Unless you have adequate health insurance from your employer, it is recommended to enroll in and pay for health insurance every quarter while on OPT. Please be sure to contact Firebird each quarter to request your insurance coverage. We recommend you contact Firebird on this timeline:
- Fall Quarter – contact Firebird and pay for insurance by mid-July
- Winter Quarter – contact Firebird and pay for insurance by mid-October
- Spring Quarter – contact Firebird and pay by mid-February
- Summer Quarter – contact Firebird insurance and pay by mid-June
Keeping your EAD Card Safe/Secure
The EAD card must be shown to your employer as proof of your eligibility to work in the U.S. We recommend that you keep the card in a safe place at home rather than carrying it around in your wallet. If it is lost, a new application and fee must be submitted to USCIS to replace the card.
OPT STEM Extensions, H1-B sponsorship and Cap Gap I-20s
Students who have specific STEM-designated programs of study may be eligible to continue OPT or an additional 24 months past their first 12 months, if they completed a Bachelor’s Degree and if they are hired by an E-Verify certified employer. As well, some workers on OPT may be sponsored by their employer for an H1-B Work Visa, which also requires a Bachelor’s Degree or higher-level degree for eligibility. F-1 students on OPT who have a filed H1-B application and are awaiting for their application to be reviewed by USCIS may be eligible for a special I-20 while they wait called a Cap Gap I-20. For any of these above options, please consult with your International Advisor.
Useful Resources related to Optional Practical Training:
Overview of Severe Economic Hardship:
If you are suffering a severe economic hardship due to unforeseen changes in your financial circumstances, you may apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to work off-campus.
Some examples of unforeseen circumstances:
- Loss of financial support or on-campus employment
- Substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate
- Inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs
- Unexpected changes in the financial condition of your source of support, such a loss of a family business
- Excessive medical bills
Severe Economic Hardship Employment Authorization is granted by USCIS in increments of one year at a time.
The authorization allows you to work for any employer up to 20 hours per week while you are registered full-time.
It also allows you to work more than 20 hours per week during quarter breaks and your annual vacation quarter.
Severe Economic Hardship employment, if approved, does not affect your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Employment authorization is automatically terminated if you fail to maintain status, transfer to another school or reach the end-date on your current program I-20.
- You must have been in F-1 status for one academic year
- You must be in good academic standing
- You must document that on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient to meet your financial needs
How to apply:
- Meet with your International Advisor to discuss your situation and determine eligibility
- Prepare the application documents to submit by postal mail to USCIS as indicated on the USCIS website. At time of posting the requirements are:
- Form I-765 (write (c)(3)(iii) in item 27)
- Form I-765 filing fee paid by money order, personal check, cashier’s check, credit card or bank account routing number using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check or money-order, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- Photocopy of Form I-20, with your international adviser’s recommendation for economic hardship employment
- Two passport style photos (U.S. State Department Photo info)
- Copy of most recent I-94 – downloaded from I-94 Site or on I-797 issued to you by USCIS
- A letter describing your financial difficulties and why on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient; include supporting evidence
- Photocopy of passport identification page
- Photocopy of visa page
- Photocopies of any previously-issued EAD cards
- Copy of NEW Endorsed I-20 with Severe Economic Hardship – request from advisor after gathering all other materials
Review the USCIS mailing instructions to find the correct filing location.
Application processing times vary between two to four months. You are not eligible to begin working until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
If you have approved Practical Training (CPT or OPT above), On-Campus Employment or an Employment Authorization Document from USCIS, you will also need to have 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 purposes.
Employers will require a social security number to complete the hiring process and be paid.
If You Already Have a Social Security Number
If you have been issued a social security number in the U.S. in the past, you do not need to apply for a new social security card. 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. Possession of a Social Security Number in itself does not make you eligible for employment while on an F-1 visa.
You can locate the nearest Social Security Administration Office using your Postal Zip Code.
What to take to your appointment:
If you have applied for on-campus employment:
- Your completed On-Campus Employment Verification Form signed by your International Advisor
- Your current I-20 endorsed by your advisor and yourself on page one
- Your current unexpired Passport
If you have received other employment authorization:
- Your EAD (OPT Card or Severe Econ. Hardship Card) or I-20 with Curricular Practical Training endorsement on page 2.
- Your current I-20 endorsed by your advisor and yourself on page one
- Your current unexpired Passport
Last Updated October 21, 2021