International Student Employment Regulations

Working in the United States

If you are eligible to work during your studies 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 on your immigration status. The UCR International Students and Scholars office has many resources and guidelines to help you obtain the proper authorization to work in the U.S.

  • F-1 Visa Holders

    On-Campus Employment/Internship

    F-1 international students, who are maintaining their F-1 student status, are eligible to work on-campus. The employment/internship does not need to be directly related to your program of study and does not need special authorization. However, there are certain requirements to follow for on-campus work opportunities.

    On-Campus Employment/Internship Requirements 
    If you have an opportunities to work on campus: 

    • You may work part-time (20 hours per week) while class is in session. 
    • You may work full-time (up to 40 hours per week) during academic breaks if you are returning to UCR the following term.
    • You must continue to maintain your F-1 visa status when engaging in to on-campus employment/internship.


    Off-Campus Employment/Internship

    In order to participate in off-campus employment/internship during their program of study at UCR, F-1 international students must obtain temporary work authorization called Curricular Practical Training (CPT) from the ISS office at UCR. CPT allows F-1 students to gain practical experience through the off-campus employment/internship must be integral to their program of study. Please note: there are requirements and eligibility criteria that must be met before applying for CPT.

    CPT Eligibility

    • Must be in valid F-1 student status
    • Must have completed one academic year as a full-time student (with the exception of certain programs)
    • Must currently be enrolled in a full-course load of study (with the exception of the summer)

    CPT Requirements

    • Part-time (20 hours per week): During the academic term, students may only work part-time CPT. 
    • Full-Time (more than 20 hours per week): During the summer and school breaks, students may apply for full-time CPT. 
    • Must receive authorization before starting any employment. 
    • Must enroll into an internship course assigned by your Academic Advisor (undergraduate students) or Graduate Advisors (graduate students) 
    • Employment/Internship position must be related to your field of study
    • CPT is authorized one quarter at a time per the duration of the internship course. 
    • If you work full-time using CPT for more than 12 months, you will lose your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). 

    CPT Application Process

    • Step 1: Obtain a job/internship offer letter from your prospective employer
    • Offer letter must be on official company letterhead, include job title, indicate part-time/full-time, specify job responsibilities, and include dates of employment. 
    • Step 2: Complete the CPT Request Form
    • Step 3: Make an appointment with your Academic Advisor (undergraduate students) or Graduate Advisor (graduate students) and receive approval signatures on the CPT Request Form. Important note: Please note that the Graduate Advisor is NOT your faculty advisor. 
    • Step 4: Enroll in the assigned internship course. 
    • Step 5: Submit required CPT documents to the ISS office in person or by email:
    • Step 6: ISS Advisor will authorize your CPT by issuing and updating your Form I-20 with CPT authorization and will notify you to pick up your new I-20 at the ISS office. 
    • Step 7: Once you receive your CPT I-20, you are authorized to work per the authorized information. 

    For more information and resources on CPT, please refer to the links below:

    Read CPT FAQs.
    View a CPT Workshop Presentation
    Download the CPT Form


    Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for eligible F-1 students that is directly related to their major area of study. This can be obtained during the program of study or after the completion of the program of study. Similar to Curricular Practical Training (CPT), it gives students an opportunity to receive practical work-experience off campus to contribute to their field of study. OPT is an optional method and does not require students to be enrolled in an internship course. Please refer below for the requirements and eligibility criteria to apply for OPT.


    Standard Types of OPT

    Pre-Completion OPT: Any portion of the standard OPT that F-1 students may use during the student’s program of study. Students may work part-time (20 hours per week) during the academic term and full-time (more than 20 hours per week) during school breaks. 

    Post-Completion OPT: Any portion of the standard OPT that F-1 students may use after the student’s program of study. 

    *Note: The student is only granted 12 months aggregate for the standard OPT including Pre-Completion OPT & Post-Completion OPT. Any Pre-completion time used will be deducted from the 12 months with remainder months to be used for Post-completion OPT.


    OPT Eligibility 

    • Must be currently in valid F-1 status.
    • Must have been enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year.
    • Must not have exceeded 12 months of full-time CPT.
    • Must not have been participating in OPT for the same degree level or at a higher degree level. 
    • Do not need a job offer before applying for OPT.

    OPT Application Time

    • Pre-Completion OPT: USCIS will accept Pre-Completion OPT application documents as early as 90 days to the intended OPT start date.
    • Post--Completion OPT: The earliest date that USCIS will accept Post-Completion OPT application documents is 90 days before the students' program completion date. Any applications earlier will be denied. USCIS will accept document no later than the 60 days after the program completion date. 

    OPT Application Process
    Please refer to the OPT Tutorial for detailed information on the OPT Application Process. 

    See OPT FAQs.
    See an OPT Tutorial.
    Download an OPT - I-765 Form.
    STEM Extension FAQs.

    Employment Authorization to Ease Economic Hardship

    According to 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(C), “If other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, an eligible F-1 student may request off-campus employment work authorization based upon severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control.” 

    Examples of Economic Hardships may include: 

    • Loss of financial aid 
    • Loss of on-campus employment
    • Inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs
    • Unexpected changes in financial condition of the student’s source of support

    If you are an F-1 international students and you are experiencing any of the examples listed above, you can apply for off-campus employment authorization due to severe economic hardship. This type of authorization is authorized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

    Before you send your application for off-campus employment authorization due to economic hardship to USCIS, you must:

    • Receive recommendation from an ISS International Student Advisor 
    • Gather documentation that demonstrates your economic hardship
    • Must have been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year
    • Must be currently maintaining your F-1 status
    • Must be in good academic standing and have a full course load of study

    If USCIS approves your application, they will issue you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. Once received, you may:  

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

    For more information about applying for off-campus employment authorization due to economic hardship, please schedule an appointment to meet with an ISS International Student Advisor.


    F-2 Visa Holders (F-1 Dependents)

    Dependents of F-1 students (F-2 visa holders) may not work in the U.S.

  • J-1 Visa Holders

    Work on campus

    • 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.


    Work off campus

    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. 

    J-1 Reciprocity Students

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


    J-2 Visa Holders (J-1 Dependents)

    Dependents of J-1 students (J-2 visa holders) 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.

  • E, O, T, and H Visa Holders

    See the Employment sections on the Immigration information pages.

Acceptable Passport-Style Photos

Many applications, such as OPT application packets, require you to submit passport-style photos. We encourage students to get these done somewhere that advertises taking passport photos as there are many places that still do not meet regulations. It will be important and helpful to understand the official guidelines (please see below) before getting your passport photos taken. If necessary, please show the guidelines to the representative taking your photo. If they do not meet these specifications, they should be able to re-do them for free.

Please see below for the official U.S. Department of State guidelines for passport-style photos: Passport-Style Photo Guidelines


How to Obtain a Social Security Number (SSN)

Social Security Number (SSN) is generally assigned to people by the Social Security Administration (SSA) who are authorized to work in the United States. The SSN is a way to report wages to the U.S. government.

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 these 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 business days.


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 For Students

The UCR Career Center  hosts workshops and presentations to help students learn more about job search strategies, marketing yourself, and finding a job in the United States.

The UCR Career Center also hosts the Get HIRED program. Get HIRED (Help International students Reach Employment Destinations) is a career-development program that aims to provide career-related, skills-building workshops, information and resources to international students in support of their U.S. and global job searches. For more information, contact: Vanessa Lee,, (951) 827-2827.


For Employers

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


Funding Opportunities

In Fall 2018, our colleagues in the GradSuccess Center in the Graduate Division 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 

For more information on fellowships and grants for graduate students, you can visit the Graduate Division's website.