International students on F and M visas are not generally allowed to work off-campus in the United States. However, student visa holders may be eligible to apply for certain benefits that will allow for off-campus employment. These benefits normally relate to a student’s program of study. Click on the tabs below to find out more.

On-Campus Employment

The actual physical location of the school you are currently attending (the school that issued your I-20 form) is considered on campus. However, you may work for a company operating on your campus providing direct services to students. For example, employment at the Seattle Central Bookstore, which is owned and operated by Barnes & Noble, is regarded as “on campus”. Although you do not need authorization from the U.S. government to work on campus, please see an advisor at the International Programs (IP) Office to make certain you are eligible.

F-1 students may work on campus up to 20 hours a week while school is in session and full time during breaks and vacations. Please note, however, that the Seattle College District Human Resources has additional restrictions related to hourly work.

M-1 visa holders are not allowed to work on campus.

For more information on finding on-campus employment, visit our Working on Campus webpage.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.

CPT permits eligible, in-status F-1 students to engage in a formal training program or internship while receiving credits that count toward completion of the degree or educational objective.

- May be paid or unpaid
- May be part-time while pursuing a full course load, or full-time during an approved vacation
- Must qualify as an “integral part of the established curriculum” (students must earn credit that will count toward completion of the degree or educational objective); and,
- Must be approved by the appropriate program counselor and an IP advisor.

A request for CPT authorization must be submitted and approved by an IP advisor before class registration. Upon approval, a new I-20 form will be issued with a special CPT endorsement on page 2. Students may NOT engage in practical training without written authorization in their I-20 form.

Students who have received one year or more of full-time CPT are not eligible for post-completion Optional Practical Training.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an option for F-1 or M-1 students to pursue a paid internship or employment, to gain practical on-the-job experience relevant to their field of study. Employment authorization is available as either part-time Pre-Completion or full-time Post-Completion OPT.

Students may apply for part-time Pre-Completion OPT as soon as they are eligible to take an internship class or a practicum. They should first check with their program counselor and/or IP advisor to learn if they have earned enough credits and have the skills necessary for work experience.

Students may apply for full-time Post-Completion OPT up to 90 days before their program completion date (graduation), or 60 days after. Students are encouraged to apply for OPT as soon as possible during their final quarter because U.S. immigration may require several months to process the application.

OPT Requests must be submitted to the International Programs (IP) Office. For more details, refer to our OPT Guide.

Economic Hardship

In some cases, students who suffered severe economic hardship may be able to get permission from USCIS to work off-campus part-time. Normally, the circumstances must be severe enough to prevent the student’s sponsor from continuing to provide adequate financial support, and must be out of the sponsor’s control. Examples might include a severe natural disaster, sudden economic crisis, or severe medical issues that affect the sponsor’s business.

If you have questions about applying for work permission based on severe economic hardship, please contact your advisor in the International Programs Office.