Employment for F-1 Degree-Seeking Students

On-Campus Employment

  • F-1 students can engage in casual, part-time (not to exceed 20 hours per week) employment on campus when it is “incidental” to their status and they are maintaining their lawful F-1 status. F-1 students do not need additional written authorization from OISS to work on campus.
  • Students can find on-campus jobs by using the Career Center's Handshake Job Portal, and by directly contacting UNCW departments. Note: Handshake includes off-campus job postings, which F-1 students are not eligible for unless they receive the appropriate work authorization for CPT or OPT before beginning employment.
  • On-campus employment is not required to be directly related to a student's major field of study.
  • On-campus employment can be full-time (greater than 20 hours per week) during summer for students who plan to enroll for the fall semester and as long as the employment begins after the graduation date for the spring semester and ends prior to the first day of classes for the fall semester.
    • If the spring semester ends mid-week or the fall semester begins mid-week, do not exceed 20 hours of work during those weeks.
    • If you are beginning your program in the summer, or completing your program in a summer semester, you are limited to 20 hours per week because you are not in a “vacation” term.
  • All students are required to meet with Ms. Lisa Eakins in UNCW's Tax Compliance Office before beginning on-campus employment. Email eakinsl@uncw.edu to schedule an appointment.
  • F-1 students cannot work on campus after the program end date on their I-20.

Off-Campus Employment

Off-campus employment for F-1 students is called “Practical Training." All off-campus employment must be approved by OISS or U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) before beginning employment, and must be directly related to your major field of study.

What is Practical Training?

The term “Practical Training” refers to two specific types of employment authorization which enable F-1 students to work off campus to gain employment experience or additional knowledge in their field of study. There are two types of practical training:

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT):
    • Practical work experience that is directly related to your field of study and commensurate with your level of study. OPT can include:
      • Pre-Completion OPT: authorized before completing program of study
        • Full-time or part-time during winter or summer breaks
        • Part-time while classes are in session (no more than 20 hours per week)
      • Post-Completion OPT: authorized after completing all coursework
        • Post-Completion OPT must be full-time (at least 20 hours per week)
        • Graduate students who have completed all coursework and only have their thesis, dissertation or the equivalent to complete may apply for Post-Completion OPT
      • STEM Extension: an additional 24 months of OPT for students with degrees in eligible STEM fields

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT): an integral part of an established curriculum, directly related to the student's major field of study.
    • Work experience required to complete one’s degree program
    • Students must receive academic credit specifically for participating in CPT
    • May include internships, cooperative education programs, thesis research, or independent study

  • Note: the distinction between Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is that the former enhances or enriches an academic experience, while the latter is required to meet the academic or curricular degree requirements. 

How Much Time Am I Allowed on Practical Training?

  • F-1 students are granted a maximum of 12 months of full-time Optional Practical Training during or following each advancing degree level.
  • Students with degrees in designated STEM fields may eligible for a 24-month STEM extension beyond the initial 12 months of OPT.
  • Part-time OPT accrues at a rate of 50%. If a student works on part-time OPT for 4 months, only 2 months of OPT is deducted from the 12 months of available OPT.
  • There is no time limitation for Curricular Practical Training, however a student who participates in full-time CPT for 12 or more months loses their eligibility for OPT at the same degree level.
  • Note: USCIS defines part-time employment as 20 hours per week or less, and full-time employment as anything over 20 hours per week.

How Do I Know if I Am Eligible for Practical Training?

To be eligible for CPT or OPT, F-1 students must:

  • have been in active F-1 status for at least one continuous academic year (fall and spring semester)
  • be in good academic standing as defined by UNCW policy
  • be maintaining lawful F-1 status, including but not limited to:
    • keeping your passport and I-20 valid at all times during your program of study
    • maintaining full-time enrollment
    • reporting all U.S. address changes to OISS within 10 days of moving

What is the Process to Apply for Practical Training? 

Click Links to Learn More Application
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Pre-Completion OPT
Post-Completion OPT
STEM OPT Extension
Cap-Gap Extension

Social Security Number (SSN)

International students must have a Social Security Number (SSN) to accept wages from a U.S. employer. F-1 students are required to have a job offer to apply for the SSN.