There are strict rules defining when employment is prohibited for a student in F-1 status and when that student is permitted to accept employment. These rules are categorized in various ways, including whether it will be on or off-campus employment, whether the employment will occur before or after graduation, and whether it is related to the student's major or not. Below you will find the rules related to most employment scenarios. Please contact ISSS for any questions you may have BEFORE accepting employment. In addition, you are encouraged to attend the International Employment Workshops that ISSS hosts each semester. This workshop will provide information about writing resumes, finding jobs after graduation, completing OPT applications, etc.
International students holding F-1 visas are eligible for any on-campus employment while they remain full-time students in good status, provided their program sponsor approves this employment. Any employment must be limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, but you may be permitted to work full-time during all school breaks. The rules apply equally to both undergraduate and graduate students and for all types of campus employment, from dining hall services to graduate assistant positions.
The three main employers of on-campus jobs are JMU, Aramark (dining services) and Follet Higher Education Group (bookstore.) JMU on-campus jobs listing can be found on the Student Work Experience Center's homepage. International Students holding F-1 visas are restricted to Institutional Employment jobs only (marked with an IE). Application information for Aramark to work for dining services and employment information for Follet to work for the bookstore
Following are the steps needed once you have secured employment on campus:
If your program of study requires you to complete an internship, you may accept employment and receive pay. However, you MUST receive approval from the DSO prior to beginning the employment, and it must be registered into SEVIS. The employment/internship may be either part-time or full-time, but you should be aware that if it is a full-time position lasting for one year, it will eliminate your ability to receive Optional Practical Training following graduation. If you wish to apply for CPT, complete the Curricular Practical Training Form (found here), which must be authorized by your Department and brought to ISSS prior to beginning employment.
For a very limited number of students, employment authorization may be obtained based on severe economic need. To qualify for this employment, you must have been in F-1 status for at least one school year and you must be able to document that you are facing unexpected extreme economic hardship that was not present when you entered school. You must obtain approval by the USCIS prior to accepting employment under this provision.
OPT is designed to provide the international student with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience in his/her chosen profession; for most graduates, this is for a maximum of one year. You may choose to take this one year in shorter increments during summer vacations, or wait and take the full year after graduation. The employment you accept must be related to your major field of study. You must obtain authorization by the USCIS prior to accepting employment under OPT.
If you wish to apply for OPT, you are strongly urged to attend the OPT session which will be presented by ISSS staff approximately 4 months prior to graduation each semester. At that session you will receive the OPT Checklist and the Verification of Graduation Form which must be completed by your Department, and all other forms and information necessary to complete the application.
The one year maximum for OPT can be extended in only two situations, the STEM Extension and the CAP-GAP Extension. These extensions are briefly explained below. For additional information on both the STEM and the cap gap extensions, please visit the government website.
Students who have majored in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM)may be eligible for a 17 month extension of their OPT. In order to qualify for this extension, the student must be currently on OPT based on a STEM major which is listed on the approved list of majors found in the STEM Designated Degree Program List. In addition, the students employer must be enrolled in E-Verify, an internet-based system operated by the U.S. government used to verify employment eligibility of new hires. If eligible, the student must apply for the STEM extension prior to the expiration of his/her current OPT. The E-Verify program currently is the best means available for employers to determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security Numbers.
H-1B status is possible for persons employed in positions which require a minimum of a bachelors degree in a particular field. There are a limited number of H-1B visas available each year (the CAP)and there are typically more applicants than available visas. Since the fiscal year begins on October 1st, the new yearly allotment of H-1Bs begins at that time. H-1B petitions cannot be submitted earlier than six months prior to the date of requested approval. Consequently, many employers submit H-1B petitions on April 1st to begin on October 1st. In the past, this caused a gap for many students between the time their OPT ended and their H-1B began. The cap-gap extension gives automatic approval for continued employment authorization for any OPT holder who files an H-1B petition prior to the end of his/her OPT.