Employment Authorization

In order to work legally in the U.S., international students must satisfy a number of eligibility requirements. Let the International Student Services Office (ISSO) at Suffolk guide you through the process so you can secure a job on- or off-campus.

Please keep in mind, when exploring employment options in the U.S., the issue of legal, (or "authorized") versus illegal, (or "unauthorized") employment. International students must always ensure that any employment they plan to engage in is legal employment.

Employment for F-1 Students

Different requirements exist for each type of F-1 employment, but there is one basic requirement that must be met for any F-1 employment: You must be enrolled in a full course of study.

Once employment is authorized you must maintain eligibility or you will lose your right to continue employment, even if it was authorized in writing. Suffolk students in F-1 status may work on-campus up to 20 hours per week when school is in session, and may work full-time during holiday and vacation periods.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines on-campus employment as one of two types:

  • Type 1: Employment on-campus at Suffolk University for which you receive a paycheck, (or other compensation, such as room and board, etc.) from Suffolk University.
  • Type 2: Certain off-campus employment where there is an official educational relationship between Suffolk and the off-campus employer.

USCIS regulations allow work at an off-campus location provided that:

  • The location is educationally affiliated with Suffolk
  • The educational affiliation is associated with your school's established curriculum or is related to a graduate level research project which your school has contracted to perform
  • The work is an integral part of your program of study 


Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization that gives F-1 students an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off-campus.

  • You don't need a job to apply for OPT.
  • Most students are eligible to apply for a total 12 months of OPT.
  • You can use OPT during your program of study, (pre-completion OPT) or after you complete your program of study, (post-completion OPT).
  • Students can use pre-completion OPT full-time, (at least 20 hours per week) or part-time, (less than 20 hours per week) and deduct it at a half-time rate. Note that full-time work is not permitted while school is in session.
  • Post-completion employment must be full-time, (at least 20 hours per week).
  • Students who remain in the U.S. to pursue a second higher degree may be eligible for an additional period of OPT, (e.g. OPT after a BA and then OPT after a masters or PhD.). 


  • To be eligible for the initial 12 month OPT period, the student must:
  • Be a full-time registered student for at least one full academic year
  • Be physically present in the U.S.
  • Have a valid F-1 status at the time of application
  • Intend to work or volunteer in a professional development opportunity directly related to the major field of study 

OPT Application and Supporting Immigration Documents

Forms and requirements are frequently subject to change. Please attend an OPT Workshop or email our office for the most updated information about this immigration benefit.

What is Curricular Practical Training?

Curricular Practical Training, (CPT) is an employment option available to F-1 students when the practical training employment is considered to be an integral part of the curriculum or academic program. The employment, (usually an internship or practicum) is a degree requirement of all students in the program. Each school and each degree program within the school has different requirements that affect your eligibility for CPT. Please check with ISSO for specific requirements.

Please come to ISSO, located on the ninth floor of 73 Tremont, to pick up a CPT form.  

Criteria for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Eligibility

Students must meet the following criteria:

  • Been in lawful F-1 status for at least one academic year
  • Have an offer of employment that qualifies for CPT
  • Be able to provide proof that the proposed employment is either a degree requirement for all students in your program, or that you will receive academic credit based on your proposed employment experience

Applying for Curricular Practical Training

Your first step is to contact your academic department chair, faculty advisor, or designated internship coordinator to evaluate your eligibility for curricular practical training. If all eligibility requirements are met, you will need to present ISSO with a completed CPT Request Form signed by your academic adviser. CPT request forms are available in the ISSO office and on SUConnect.

Curricular practical training is authorized by ISSO; it does not require approval from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). A new SEVIS I-20 will be issued denoting employment authorization, including the employer and the dates authorized, on page three. You may not change employers or continue employment beyond the date authorized unless you apply and are granted an extension of your CPT. Work undertaken after the expiration date of your CPT will be considered unauthorized employment.

Part-time vs. Full-time CPT

During the academic year, CPT employment is limited to part time, i.e. no more than 20 hours per week and you must continue to be enrolled as a full time student. Full time CPT, which is more than 20 hours per week, is generally available to students only during the summer break. In your CPT authorization which appears on page three of your I-20, it will be noted whether your CPT is part-time or full-time. 

The Relationship Between CPT and OPT

The time you spend in full-time curricular practical training will not be deducted from the twelve months of allowable optional practical training unless you use 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training. 

Working with CPT

Your I-20 form authorized for CPT is all you will need to provide your employer. Within the first three days of beginning work you and your employer must complete a form entitled Employment Eligibility Verification, USCIS Form I-9. Your I-20 with curricular practical training employment page, (page 3) and your unexpired passport should meet the documentation requirements of the I-9. If you don’t have a U.S. Social Security Number, you should apply for one while using CPT. 


In some instances, a student who is able to prove severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his or her control which arose after obtaining the F-1 students status, may be eligible for permission to work off-campus. Students must have been in student status for one full academic year, and must be able to document the circumstances causing the economic need. If authorized, employment is limited to no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session, and full-time during breaks or vacation periods. Applications must be endorsed by ISSO and submitted to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for approval. This application may take up to ninety days to process. Email ISSO for more information.