F-1 students are eligible to work on-campus and off campus while attending classes and with proper authorization. If you would like to work on campus, the work does not need to be related to your field of study. However, you must maintain legal F-1 status while engaging in on-campus employment. In addition,  you must complete the Employment Verification Form to obtain written approval from the PDSO before you are allowed to start work. More information can be found below.

Off-campus work, including all paid and unpaid internships, always requires authorization from the PDSO.  Without authorization, you risk termination of your F-1 visa status. For more information, please see the boxes below regarding Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

On-Campus Employment

On Campus Employment

On-campus employment includes work that directly serves the students of Eureka College (Example: Library, Business Office, or Admissions). On-campus employment also includes employment with Quest Food Management Services, a contracted service provider.

  • You must be enrolled full time (12 credit hours) during the fall and spring semesters

  • You may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session

  • You may not engage in on-campus employment after the program end date listed on your I-20

How to Apply for On-Campus Employment

To learn about the process for applying for an on-campus position, please visit the Human Resources page. Please note that the very first step in your employment authorization process is to initiate an interview request for a job through the Human Resources office by obtaining an Interview Authorization Slip.

Before You Start Work

If you have been offered a job on campus, you must fill out the Employment Verification Form with your supervisor and return it to the PDSO.

Please remember, when you work in the United States, you will be required to obtain a Social Security Number and pay taxes on your income. Click he re for a guide to obtaining a Social Security Number. You may not begin work until you have received a Social Security Number and authorizations from the PDSO as well as Human Resources.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

If you wish to accept employment off-campus, you should pursue Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT is only available to F-1 students when it is an integral part of an established curriculum. In practical terms, “integral part of an established curriculum” means an opportunity must be required by the curriculum or, if not required, you must receive credit for the training.

Types of CPT

There are two types of CPT: required and optional. Required CPT is when the academic program mandates practical work experience for all students in order to graduate. Optional CPT is work experience directly related to your field of study that is not required.

Requirements for CPT
  • You must maintain full-time enrollment (12 credit hours) during fall and spring CPT.

  • You must be enrolled in a CPT course. At Eureka College, the only CPT courses available are internships.

  • Notes regarding CPT course enrollment:

    • You must be registered in the CPT course for every semester in which your employment takes place.

    • Be aware that adding a CPT course may have an impact on your tuition and fees.

    • Failure to complete the CPT course will result in your falling out of legal F-1 status.

  • You must have declared a major.

  • You are expected to maintain physical presence on campus during fall and spring terms

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for CPT, you must:

  • Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year (two full consecutive semesters)

  • Be in lawful F-1 status

  • Have a job offer

NOTE: CPT is processed and authorized semester by semester. Contact your academic advisor regarding your major’s specific guidelines for internships. Please note that your faculty advisor must recommend CPT, and CPT is ultimately approved by the PDSO.

How to Apply for CPT
  1. Plan head. CPT authorization may not be processed immediately by the PDSO and requires several documents that may take you time to compile.

  2. Speak with your company/employer and obtain a job offer letter. You can find a sample of one here.

  3. Meet with your Faculty Advisor to discuss your CPT plans in detail. Show your advisor the job offer letter, if they believe the training is integral to your curriculum, they may recommend you for CPT by completing the CPT Recommendation Form.

  4. Complete the required Internship Agreement paperwork. See the Director of Career Services to receive a copy of the agreement. 

  5. Gather all required documentation and bring to the PDSO. If all requirements are met, the PDSO will approve your CPT request and create a CPT I-20 showing this approval.

  6. No work, paid or unpaid, may take place until your CPT I-20 is printed.

  7. Be sure to sign and date your CPT I-20 and keep all I-20s permanently in your personal files.

If any details of your training opportunity change, please email documentation verifying the changes so that we may update your CPT accordingly.

CPT and Unpaid Internships

It is not uncommon for students to confuse unpaid internships with volunteering (and therefore conclude that no work authorization is necessary for engaging in an unpaid internship). However, there is a difference between volunteering and engaging in an unpaid internship. Volunteering refers to donating time with an organization whose primary purpose is charitable or humanitarian in nature, without remuneration or any other type of compensation. If you have any questions or concerns regarding unpaid internships or volunteer work, please see the PDSO.


Do F-1 students need CPT authorization to participate in unpaid internship?

CPT authorization is strongly recommended for all unpaid internships, whether the student does or does not need to provide employment authorization documents to the company. Without authorization, you risk termination of your F-1 visa status.

You should have CPT authorization for unpaid internships for the following reasons:

  • CPT authorization by Eureka College means that this practical experience is part of the curriculum.

  • If ever a student is doing a job on an unpaid basis that someone would be hired and paid for, employment authorization in the form of CPT or OPT is strongly advised.

  • If the unpaid internship at some point changes into a paid one (or if your employer decides to compensate you for your work in any way – for example, give you a monetary gift).

    • You will not be able to accept the payment if your internship was not authorized as CPT. Please keep in mind that F-1 students cannot be retroactively remunerated or in any way compensated for work done in an unpaid internship if they did not obtain work authorization prior to when the work was performed.


If you have an off-campus internship offer (paid or unpaid) that meets CPT eligibility criteria, you must apply for CPT. Beginning an internship without authorization could result in termination of your F-1 status.

Eureka College Majors Which Require CPT Authorization

A few majors at Eureka College require student teaching, internships or practica as part of the established curriculum. If your major is included below, you MUST see the PDSO before starting those requirements.

  • Agricultural Science

  • Education

  • Environmental Science

  • Kinesiology-Exercise Science

  • Kinesiology-Sports Health Care Professional

  • Music - Music Ministry Concentration

  • Sports Management

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is defined in the Federal Regulations as temporary employment directly related to a student’s field of study. During OPT, a student remains in F-1 status. The end result of the OPT request process is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS).

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for OPT, you must:

  • Be in legal F-1 immigration status

  • Be a full-time student for at least one academic year

When to Apply for OPT

Employment begins after completion of academic program.


Earliest time to apply:

  • Up to 90 days before the program end date listed on your I-20

Deadline for Application to be Received by USCIS:

  • Up to 60 days after program end date listed on your I-20

  • Within 30 days of date DSO recommends in SEVIS. You can judge this by the date on page 1 of your OPT recommendation I-20

  • If you plan to travel outside the U.S. after your completion date, you must submit the I-765 first (even if you plan to return within 60 days) and obtain the Receipt Notice in order to re-enter

How to Apply for OPT
  1. Meet with your Academic Advisor, and work together to complete the OPT Request Form.

  2. Bring the form, with all fields completed, to the PDSO. She will review your form, and then send your OPT recommendation to SEVIS electronically to generate a new I-20.

  3. As soon as you receive the I-20, sign your name (page 1).

  4. Compile your application. If you would like for us to review the application to ensure it’s complete before you submit, please make an appointment to do so.

  5. Make a copy of your complete application.

  6. Send your complete application and required documents to USCIS.

  7. USCIS will send you a notice for the receipt of your I-765 EAD (OPT) application (2-3 weeks). Once you have received your receipt notice, you can track the status of your individual case using the case status search feature of the USCIS Web site. You may elect to receive email alerts about your case status from this website.

  8. USCIS will approve or deny your OPT. If approved, they will mail your EAD to you. (1-3 months average processing time). Approximate processing times for the various applications and petitions that the immigration service centers adjudicate are published on the case status section of the USCIS Web site.

NOTE: OPT is recommended by the PDSO, and approved by USCIS. You may not start any work on OPT until you have received approval from USCIS and your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Items to Include in Your Application for OPT

Once you’ve requested an OPT recommendation through the PDSO and received your new I-20, you will need to prepare and submit the following list of items to USCIS:

  • Original USCIS Form I-765. Pay the I-765 Fee.

  • Two full-face passport-style photos. The photos must be identical and in color with a plain background. They must be no more than 30 days old when the I-765 is filed at USCIS.

  • PDF copy of the new I-20 with OPT recommendation, signed by the PDSO and you.

  • PDF copies of all your previous I-20s from your current degree level.

  • PDF copy of electronic Form I-94 (please click on the link for instructions).

  • PDF copy of previous EAD, if applicable.

  • PDF copy of most recent F-1 visa page (except Canadians) OR approval of change of status to F-1 (I-797) if applicable.

  • PDF copy of your passport pages showing your biographical information and its expiration date. Keep in mind that if the photo in the passport is not clear or varies widely from your current appearance, a clear copy of another form of identification, such as a state-issued drivers license or identification card will also have to be sent.

After compiling all your documents. Prepare to file them online by creating an Online Account through USCIS.

If you change your mind: 

If after requesting an OPT I-20 from the PDSO, you decide not to send your application to USCIS, you must notify us. Please send an email telling us that you plan to not apply for OPT and indicating the date you intend to leave the U.S. (must be within 60 days of I-20 completion date). If you do not notify us, we will be unable to adjust your SEVIS record to accurately reflect your situation.

Maximum Length
  • The standard OPT period is a cumulative maximum of 12 months.

  • Part-time OPT is deducted from the 12-month limit at 50%.

  • An F-1 student may become eligible for another 12 months of OPT if he/she advances to a higher educational level.

Some students may be eligible for an extension of their OPT based on a STEM degree. If you have questions about whether or not you qualify, see the PSDO.

Work Violations

Studying in the U.S. as a foreign student can be expensive. Even with family support and perhaps a scholarship, you may face costs that you either need or want to pay for on your own. That’s when it helps to take advantage of the possibilities (narrow though they are) to accept employment in the U.S. while on an F-1 visa. But you also need to know the limitations, so as not to violate the rules and risk the very continuation of your student status.

Strict rules regulate F-1 students’ place of employment, hours per week, and in some cases, type of employment. Simply committing an employment violation automatically throws you out of lawful F-1 status. Once you are out of status, you will need to file an application for reinstatement to get back into proper F-1 status—or else face possibly accruing unlawful presence in the United States.

What Are Employment Violations?

Any deviation from the strict F-1 employment rules is an employment violation. Committing any of these violations will result in termination of your F-1 status.

Violation: Working More than the Legal Hour Limit

Working More Than 20 Hours Per Week When Classes are in Session

Even when you are working on campus, you are still limited as to the number of hours you may work — The Federal Regulations state that you may work no more than 20 hours per week during the school term and 40 hours per week during holiday breaks and vacations. It is your obligation to make sure that you don’t work over that limit. If you work even 15 minutes over the 20 hour per week limit, you have violated your F-1 student status.

How do authorities find out that you worked over 20 hours per week? Your time card is tracked through Paycor, and Human Resources at Eureka College keeps close tabs on the working hours of each employee. They  will communicate directly with the PDSO to inform her that you have worked over your 20-hour limit.

Violation: Working Without Authorization

Unauthorized Employment

It can be tempting for students to try to earn extra cash by picking up additional work “under the table” or without authorization. Working for cash as a gas station attendant, a waitress, a cook or a dishwasher are popular ways to do so.

However, working without one of the types of authorization described above can get you into trouble. As the immigration regulations state, “Any unauthorized employment by a nonimmigrant constitutes a failure to maintain status . . . . “ (See 8 C.F.R. § 214.1(e)).

If you are working off-campus without special permission from the PDSO (for CPT) or USCIS (for OPT or severe economic hardship), then you are engaging in unauthorized or illegal employment. If you begin working without authorization and later receive authorization, the time you worked without permission is still considered illegal employment. You will be terminated for unauthorized employment.