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International students are permitted to work in the United States, though firm immigration regulations apply to all employment options. Any unauthorized employment violates your legal status and compromises your ability to remain in or return to the United States.

On & Off Campus Work

On-Campus Work

  • You are automatically eligible to work on campus for Davidson College for up to 20 hours per week during the spring and fall semesters.
  • Working for a vendor operating on campus (e.g. Campus Summit) is not allowed.
  • You are eligible to work full-time on campus during vacation periods and during the summer session.

Off-Campus Work

  • You must receive official work authorization prior to working anywhere off-campus.
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) can be granted for internship experience within your major field of study. Optional Practical Training (OPT) grants work authorization for one year after graduation (STEM majors are eligible for two additional years).
  • You must be in status for nine months (two semesters) to be eligible for CPT or OPT.
  • You will be out of status and eligible for deportation if you work without authorization. Do not risk it.
  • Work is considered anything for which you are compensated, such as money, food, or room/board. Volunteering may be considered employment as well, so please check with the ISO before accepting any position.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an employment authorization available to F-1 students for work experience that is considered an integral part of a student's curriculum or academic program. CPT can only be authorized before graduation and is generally used for summer research or internships.


  • Nine months in F-1 status
  • Declared major

Step 1: Find an internship. If you have questions about how your internship relates to your major, please see your academic advisor. The Center for Career Development is a great resource as well.

Step 2: Gather Documents:

  • XPL 099 credit from Academic Affairs
  • CPT Authorization form
  • Offer letter from employer:
    • Job title
    • Start and end dates of employment
    • Rate of pay
    • Number of hours per week to be worked
    • Address of the location at which you will physically be working
    • A brief description of your job duties

Step 3: Visit the International Student Services office during walk-in hours or make an appointment to have your CPT authorization added to your I-20.

Other Considerations:

  • Part time CPT does not take away any time from OPT. You can work up to 12 months of full time CPT without affecting OPT eligibility. However, completing 12 months of full time CPT invalidates your post completion OPT eligibility.
  • Once you have been in status for 9 months, part time CPT is unlimited. A new CPT endorsement on your I-20 and XPL 099 credit.

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment authorization most students use to gain work experience in their field of study after graduation. OPT is granted for a duration of 12 months (extensions are available in certain cases) per educational level. Steps for gaining OPT authorization include:

  1. With your academic advisor, complete this OPT request form
  2. Complete Form I-765
  3. Bring both forms, along with your immigration documents, to International Student Services. OPT request will be entered in SEVIS. A new I-20 will be returned to you.
  4. Mail copies of everything, along with a $380 application fee and two passport-sized photos to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  5. Wait. You may not begin working until you receive your Employment Authorization Document from the government. Note:  the government can take three months to process OPT applications.

While on OPT, students are required to report any of the following within 10 days:

  • A change in name or address of residence
  • The name and address of your employer. If you have more than one employer, you must provide each employer's name and address.
  • The name and address of any new employer
  • Any change to any employer's name or address
  • Any period of unemployment, including those days between the end of one job and the beginning of the new job
  • If you decide not to use OPT and depart the U.S. to return home or to another country.
  • If you change to another nonimmigrant status in the U.S., such as H-1, E-3, G-4, TN, etc. or obtain Permanent Resident status.

Students may report any of these updates.

For more information about OPT, visit International Student Services and attend an OPT workshop.

Severe Economic Hardship

If something severe and unforeseen happens to your financial situation, you may apply for a Severe Economic Hardship (SEH) work permit.  Employment on SHE does not have to be related to your major.  Steps for gaining SEH authorization include:

  1. Meet with International Student Services to determine your eligibility
  2. Write a cover letter to USCIS explaining your situation, noting the severity of the circumstances and how the situation is out of your control
  3. Collect documents (medical bills, bank statements, etc.) to support your case
  4. Complete Form I-765
  5. Bring documents back to International Student Services for the SHE request to be entered in SEVIS. A new I-20 will be returned to you.
  6. Mail copies of everything, along with a $380 application fee and two passport-sized photos to USCIS
  7. Wait. You may not begin working until you receive your Employment Authorization Document from the government. Note: the government can take 3 months to process SHE applications.

International Organizations

Special work permits are also available for F-1 students offered employment with certain international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, International Monetary Fund, etc. Learn more about the application process for this work permit.