International Students’ Work Options Marilyn Vogler, PhD Immigration Advisor Associate Director, IPS Spring 2009
Employment Authorization – Some Basics • Unauthorized work can get both the student and the employer in trouble. • “Authorized” means the work documents are in hand. • Students must follow multiple sets of rules: Homeland Security, MTU, Career Center, Graduate School & Employer.
This Presentation • This presentation is about F-1 student employment. I will discuss J-1 regulations in a separate workshop. • I will address only Homeland Security / USCIS rules – not Career Center, Graduate School, or Employer rules.
More Basics … Student on authorized off-campus work remain Michigan Tech students. You must keep in touch with IPS: • Update address changes • Update employer / unemployment • Update visa status changes • IPS signs your I-20 for travel if necessary. • IPS transfers your SEVIS record for continued education.
Staying in Touch – MTU Email • Current practice is that your MTU email will remain active as long as you use/check it regularly. • Please check it at least weekly for IPS updates. • IFyou have graduated, you may have your MTU email forwarded to another address: https://emailinfo.mtu.edu/docs/public/forward/index.html
On-Campus Employment • “On-Campus” means • MTU cuts the check (MTU or sponsor money) • Agency, e.g., Argonne, sets up contract through MTU to pay student for co-op or internship • Does not require any authorization beyond student status & normal employment forms • 20 hours / week when school is in session • 40 hours / week during breaks and vacation
Off-Campus Employment • Requires authorization from or through International Programs & Services (IPS) • Authorization is formal – shows up on the student’s immigration papers (I-20) • Can be full- or part-time • Off-campus means someone else cuts the check • Corporate, government, etc. employer • Faculty with consulting business
Types of Off-Campus Employment • CPT – Curricular Practical Training • OPT – Optional Practical Training • Unforeseen Severe Economic Hardship
Why work off-campus? • Try out employment in your major • Employer gets to know you – some only hire from co-op pool • Experience other areas of the US • Earn extra $$s • Looks good on your resumé • Follow family while you finish up • No courses that you need are being offered • Unforeseen Severe Economic Hardship • Etc.
General Requirements – OPT/CPT and Academic Training • Student must have been full-time student in US at least one full academic year. • Employment may be called “co-op,” “internship,” “full-time,” etc. • Must be related to student’s program.
General Requirements – “Unforeseen Severe Economic Hardship” • Student must have been full-time student in US at least one full academic year • Does not need to be related to student’s program • 20 hours per week during academic year • 40 hours per week when school is not in session: breaks, vacations, summer • Requires unexpected hardship • File I-765 like OPT
General Requirements – “Unforeseen Severe Economic Hardship” • To get student status you had to show the ability to pay for your education and support while in the United States. • But … • Financial need beyond the student's control • Unforeseen at the time the student applied to the school he or she is currently attending • All other potential employment opportunities have proven to be insufficient
General Requirements – “Unforeseen Severe Economic Hardship” • Examples include • “Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, • 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 the student's source of support, • Medical bills, • Other substantial and unexpected expenses."
Is there a “bottom line?” … YES • You cannot, must not, MAY NOT work off-campus without authorization from the IPS Immigration Advisor • Any employer that hires you without authorization on your paperwork is paying you illegally. • Working illegally could jeopardize your future status in the US.
How Do I Get Work Authorization? • Check the IPS website: www.ips.mtu.edu • Details vary, but in general … • Initiate job hunt • Gather necessary paperwork • Contact IPS • Bring in your paperwork for CPT • Make appointment for OPT / Academic Training / Economic Hardship
How do I know if I’m “authorized”? • Registering for co-op credits does NOT mean you have employment authorization. • Sending off an I-765 application does NOT mean you have employment authorization. • Work Authorization must be recorded on your I-20 (page 3) or on an EAD card, but … • You can apply for jobs in your area of study and tell the employer that you ARE eligible to work in the US, because …
CPT/OPT are promised benefits for which you can apply.However, Economic Hardship authorization is not guaranteed or promised.
Economic Hardship?Do not tell an off-campus employer you are authorized to work at a job that is outside your major area of study until you have your EAD card in hand.
CPT – Curricular Practical Training • Must have job offer in hand to apply • If you quit or are fired you must return to MTU to complete the credits and maintain status.
OPT – Optional Practical Training • Student doesn’t need job offer to apply • Student can remain unemployed for a limited time (90 days limit in 1 year) • Generally post-completion, but can be pre-completion if necessary • CPT time exhausted • Employer requires it • 12-month original limit, pre- and post- combined • Extensions available for post-completion OPT
Where to find information … www.ips.mtu.edu
Roles in the Authorization Process • Student • Academic Advisor • Career Center • IPS Immigration Advisor
What the student needs to do: • Meet with academic advisor to get her/his approval or completion date • Search for a job at the Career Center, the job fair, on-line, etc. • Remember, the job must be related to your major unless you have an Economic Hardship EAD, but … • You can apply for OPT without a job offer in hand.
Student’s tasks (continued) • Complete the required paperwork for the Career Center and/or IPS – including signatures • CPT – bring your paperwork to IPS and leave it • OPT / Economic Hardship – make an appointment to see the IPS Immigration Advisor
Academic Advisor’s Role • S/he can help you decide • Which job offer to take • How to meet the Career Center report requirements • How long you should work • What semester(s) would be best • Your academic advisor’s approval is required for co-op, but … • Your advisor’s approval is not required for other off-campus employment.
Career Center Role • Employment search assistance • Employability skills training • Resumes, cover letters, mock interviews, etc. • Help with required paperwork • Verify major-relatedness • Collect student assignment materials • Assign a grade (undergrad)
Your IPS Advisor will … • Review all the documents & paperwork • Check to see if you’re eligible to work • Issue the appropriate I-20 with work authorization noted • Assist with preparation and mailing of applications (OPT / Economic Hardship) • Helps track and follow-up on applications sent to USCIS • Assist with extensions as requested
CPT Authorization • Authorization is internal to MTU • Requires processing through Career Center • Completion of paperwork • Registration for Co-op credit(s) fall and spring • Requires authorization of IPS • Completion of paperwork • Confirmation of registration if required • Processing a new I-20 • Can be done “same day” if necessary
OPT – Authorization • Authorization is granted by USCIS. • IPS assists with the application process. • Approval takes 1-1/2 to 3 months. • Having a job offer speeds up approval. • It costs the student $340 to apply. • The advisor must project a completion date as part of the OPT application process. • For undergrads, this is the standard end-of-term. • For grad students, it can be anytime.
CPT – More details • Can be full- or part-time, but … • Students taking a full course of study (12 or 9 credits) are not eligible for full-time employment. • No limit on the amount of CPT available, but … • 365 days of full-time CPT disqualifies you for OPT. • Generally authorized on a semester-by-semester basis.
Applying for OPT • You may apply anytime within 90 days of your completion date. • You may apply up to 60 days after completion of your program (I-20 date). • USCIS in Lincoln, NE, must RECEIVE your application by the 60th day. • You will have to pick a start date for your employment authorization.
When to apply for OPT … If you’re sure you’re graduating in … Spring apply beginning early Feb Summer apply beginning late May Fall apply beginning late Sept BUT … do not apply unless you’re sure you’re going to graduate.
What does it mean to “complete” a degree? • You do not “complete” simply because you walk in graduation. • Undergrads complete on the last day of the term in which they finish all requirements. • Grad students complete when they turn in all their paperwork to the Graduate School.
OPT … Do I wait for a job offer? • You don’t have to have a job offer in hand to apply for OPT. • Your application will be expedited if you include a copy of an offer letter. • On the company’s letterhead • Offers your name a job • Describes the type of work you will be doing
Random Bits of Information about Practical Training • OPT is a benefit. You earn 12 months of OPT per degree level. • After an Associate Degree • After a Bachelor’s • After a Master’s • After a PhD • You can earn as many as 4 years of OPT, but you cannot accumulate years to use all at once. • You get only ONE 17-month extension.
More random bits… • 365+ days of full-time CPT will make you absolutely ineligible for OPT. • Part-time CPT does not add up to any “equivalent” number of full-time days. • It’s the student’s responsibility to calculate days (but there’s a tool on the IPS web to help).
And still more … • Students on OPT: • If post-completion, work must be full-time • If coursework remains, it’s pre-completion & work must be part-time • If you’re a Grad Student & only research and/or revisions, OPT is defined as “post-completion” – even if you haven’t completed. So …
Grad students … • It’s okay if you miss the completion date on the I-20 by a little. The degree must, however, be completed before the OPT period expires!
While you are waiting for your EAD card … You are still an F-1 student. • You can’t work on campus after you complete your degree. • So you must have enough money for your living expenses while you are waiting. • You cannot start a new degree.
While you’re waiting … • You may not start working until you receive your card. Check the date on your card when it arrives. • You may not start working until the start date listed on the EAD card.
OPT and Travel • Traveling and OPT present some unique problems. • First, getting your F-1 visa renewed while on OPT is next to impossible.
OPT and Travel • Do not re-enter the US as a Tourist (B1/B2 status) or any other visa status, or you will lose the chance to use your OPT. • You must enter as an F-1 Student.
OPT and Travel If you travel after graduation, you MUST have all the usual F-1 travel documents, including a valid visa, plus … • An EAD card or • The USCIS receipt for your OPT application and • Proof of employment
You can travel without a job offer letter, but it’s tricky! • If you travel without a job offer letter, you must return to the country BEFORE your EAD card is issued. The time it takes is unpredictable at best! • If you have an EAD card but no job, DO NOT TRAVEL.
OPT and Travel – after you start working You may travel after you start working. • Your employer should provide a travel letter saying clearly that • You are an F-1 student on OPT • You are returning to resume employment with the employer • You may even be able to get an expired visa renewed if your employer requires travel and will write a letter saying so.