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Working Legally in the United States

If you are eligible to work while at UCR, you must follow U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of State regulations. Accepting a job without proper authorization has severe consequences. Let us help you with legal employment.

Use this page to discover:

  • How to work on-campus
  • How to work off-campus
  • How to participate in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • How to get a social security number
  • How your dependents can work in the U.S.
  • Which employment workshops we offer
  • What to do if you are an employer of international students

You may:

  • Work part-time (20 hours per week) while class is in session. No special authorization is needed.
  • Work full-time (up to 40 hours per week) during academic breaks if you are returning to UCR the following term.

You must maintain your F-1 visa status to work on-campus.

Search on-campus jobs.

You must:

  • Get authorizations before starting any employment.
  • Meet F-1 employment eligibility requirements.

Get Practical Training in Your Field

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

  • With CPT, your training is part of your curriculum. You enroll in an internship course offered by your academic program and earn credit towards your degree.
  • The first step is to talk to your advisor to see if your program has an internship, and then you must obtain an internship offer. Alternatively, you may find an internship on your own, but must receive confirmation from your academic advisor that the internship is an integral part of your curriculum (for example, provides an opportunity to apply principles learned through your program or to assist with your research).
  • Once you have an internship offer, you must apply to the International Affairs office for work authorization before you start your job.
  • You may work part-time or full-time during academic breaks, according to the CPT authorization for which you are approved.
  • Please note that if you work full-time using CPT for more than 12 months, you will lose your chance for Optional Practical Training (see below).

Read CPT FAQs.
View a CPT Workshop Presentation

CPT Form - Please download


Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • You must maintain your F-1 student status for at least one academic year, have a recommendation from an international student advisor, and have applied (and been approved) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • If approved, you are eligible to work for up to 12 months of training for each level of education that you complete in the U.S.
  • You may pursue OPT during your studies, after completing your studies, or both.
  • If you haven’t completed your studies, you can apply to work part-time on Pre-Completion OPT. The part-time hours will be deducted at a half-time rate from the total 12 months available. Most students wait and use their 12 months of OPT after they graduate (Post-Completion OPT). 

See an OPT Tutorial.
Download an OPT - I-765 Form.
STEM Extension FAQ's.

Employment Authorization to Ease Economic Hardship

To work off-campus due to economic hardship, you must:

  • Provide documentation that demonstrates your economic hardship.
  • Have been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year.
  • Maintain your F-1 status
  • Wait to start your employment until the USCIS approves your application and issues you an employment authorization card (EAC).

You may:

  • Work part-time when school is in session.
  • Work full-time during breaks and holidays.

For more information about applying for working authorization due to economic hardship, you must schedule an appointment to meet with an international student advisor.

Important Note about the OPT STEM Extensions: The ISS office is aware of the WashTech Lawsuit August 12, 2015 OPT STEM Extension Summary Judgement ruling and is following the situation closely as more information becomes available. Since the ruling does not go into effect until February 12, 2016, the ISRC is continuing OPT STEM Extension processing as usual until further notice. For background information on the lawsuit and possible impact see the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Focus on STEM summary.

  • You must have prior approval from your exchange program’s responsible officer and report any on-campus employment to an international student advisor.
  • You may work part-time during the academic year (up to 20 hours per week) and full-time (up to 40 hours per week) during academic breaks if you are returning to UCR the following term.
  • After your program ends, you may work on-campus only if you have U.S. Department of Homeland Security authorization.

Please contact us for J-1 employment procedures. 

Search on-campus jobs.

After completing your studies, you may work off-campus for up to 18 months, if the job qualifies as academic training.

You will need:

  • A recommendation from your dean or academic advisor saying you can benefit from academic training.
  • Written authorization from your exchange program’s responsible officer (an updated DS-2019 validating your academic training).
  • Proof of insurance and financial support (if applicable)
  • An updated J-1 regulatory acknowledgement form

Once your authorization is approved, you will receive an updated DS-2019 and your 18-month work period begins. 

See academic training FAQs.

J-1 Reciprocity Students

If you want to participate in an academic training internship after completing your program, please contact an international student advisor.

Acceptable Passport-Style Photos

Many applications, such as OPT packets, require you to submit passport-style photos. We do encourage students to get these done somewhere that advertises taking them, however, they still do not always meet regulations. Below is the official Department of State guidelines for your passport-style photos. Be sure to understand the guidelines and, if necessary, show them to the representative taking your photo. If they do not meet these specifications, they should be able to re-do them for free.

Passport-Style Photo Guidelines

How to Obtain a Social Security Number (SSN)

Applying for an SSN is free. You must apply in person. You are eligible for a SSN only if you are employed or have the appropriate work authorization. If you do not meet one of this criteria, you will not qualify for a SSN.  

Locate a Social Security Office near you.

You must bring:

  • Your passport
  • Your certificate of eligibility (an I-20 or DS-2019)
  • A photo ID
  • Your I-94 card
  • A completed SSN application
  • Your department must issue you one of the following letters certifying your employment. The letter must be on UCR department letterhead. Both your department and a designated school official (DSO) must sign the letter before you take it to the Social Security Office to apply for an SSN.

All of our international student advisors are DSOs. Drop off your form at the front desk to request a signature. It normally takes three days.

Can My Dependents Work?

  • Dependents of F-1 students (F-2 dependents) may not work in the U.S.
  • Dependents of J-1 students (J-2 dependents) may work only after obtaining an employment authorization card from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It can take up to three months. Please contact an international student advisor for more details.
  • If your visa is not F-1 or J-1, please talk to an  international student advisor to see if your dependents are eligible to work in the U.S.

Come to an Employment Workshop!

  • We host workshops every quarter in conjunction with UCR’s Career Center. Get help with your resume, interview tips and more!
  • You’re also invited to our practical and academic training workshops (offered quarterly). 
  • Offered once a year, our “Beyond OPT: Employment Opportunities in the United States” workshop is presented by an immigration attorney and can help you with post-graduation employment.

See our calendar for upcoming employment workshops.

Tips from the Career Center

  • View the slides from the very helpful presentation given by the career center about job search strategies, marketing yourself, and finding a job in the United States here.

Attention Employers

Are you an employer of an international student attending UCR? If so, read “What Employers Should Know About Hiring International Students.” 


Graduate and Post-Doctoral Scholarships and Fellowships That Do Not Require U.S. Citizenship or Permanent Residency

In Fall 2018, our colleagues in the GradSuccess Center created a list of scholarships and fellowships that do not require U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. We hope you find this resource helpful. Graduate and Post-Doctoral Scholarships and Fellowships That Do Not Require U.S. Citizenship or Permanent Residency 

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