As a F-1 or J-1 student, your primary purpose in the United States is to complete an academic program. However, there are specific circumstances under which a student, with the permission of ISSS and other immigration agencies, may seek paid or unpaid employment.
Before considering employment, please remember the following:
- You cannot begin any work off-campus, paid or unpaid, until you have authorization from ISSS and other relevant agencies to do so. You may apply for jobs, but cannot actually start until immigration authorization has been issued (if authorization is appropriate).
- For purposes of immigration, it is your physical location while employed that matters. If you are in the United States and employed, you need employment authorization.
- When determining what type of work authorization you need, we consider where you are working: on or off campus. If you are asked to complete an I-9 anywhere other than UAlbany's Human Resources office, you must consult ISSS before beginning any employment.
- If you plan to do CPT or OPT, all employment must be directly related to your academic major.
- Failure to adhere to employment regulations can result in a violation of status and/or impact future applications you make for benefits or statuses.
- The Center for Career and Professional Development provides extensive resources and advising for students needing assistance with their internship or career search. Their office is located in SL G-50, next to the ISSS office.
- Check out this Powerpoint presentation, "Making Money in the U.S. Legally," put together by immigration attorney Art Serratelli for more information on working in the U.S. and if/when work authorization is needed. And as always, speak to an ISSS advisor before starting any work.
F-1 students are permitted to work part-time on campus (up to 20 hours per week while classes
are in session, full time during school breaks and vacations).
J-1 students have the same opportunity, but must additionally obtain a work authorization letter from ISSS (or their outside sponsor, such as Fulbright).
Graduate students with assistantships must seek approval from the Dean of Graduate Studies via their department to be eligible for additional employment, whether on or off campus.
Note: Students in some visa categories, such as H-4 in most circumstances, are prohibited from
working in the U.S. at any job. It is the responsibility of the employer (Human Resources, Research Foundation, Chartwells, etc.) to verify a student’s eligibility for employment.
Social Security Numbers
F-1 and J-1 students are eligible to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) up to 30 days before they start employment. A SSN number is required for I-9 purposes. The employer hiring a student must write the student an official offer letter which the student should take to ISSS to obtain a secondary letter. A sample offer letter for SSN purposes is available here.
Students are only required to obtain one SSN during their lifetime. A Social Security number does not give a student the legal authority to work. Work authorization is dependent upon a student’s visa status and a student should always consult with ISSS regarding work authorization. Working without appropriate authorization is a serious violation of your immigration status which can result in the following: loss of status; accrual of unlawful presence and a potential bar on reentering the US; the need to depart the US; and/or the loss of eligibility for future benefits and statuses.
Please note: For new students, there will be a waiting period of up to 15 days before the Social Security Administration will be able to verify the student's immigration and visa documentation.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
For complete instructions, please use the most recent Curricular Practical Training (CPT) form, here.
Curricular Practical Training, or CPT, is a form of off-campus work authorization for F-1 students. F-1 students engaging in an off-campus internship or employment, whether paid or unpaid, must obtain authorization prior to beginning that employment from ISSS. A student is only eligible for CPT after completing two semesters (fall and spring) full-time in the United States.
CPT employment must be an integral part of the student's program of study for a student to be eligible. The internship must be an integral component of your academic program and must be required for completion of the degree. The internship must relate to the student's major. Please review the instructions on the request packet for further details.
CPT will only be authorized one semester at a time (fall, spring, and summer terms). If a student needs additional time for the internship, the student must reapply each semester and include verification from the academic department that the employment is still integral to the student’s program. For purposes of CPT, more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time employment. Restrictions on full-time employment are explained in detail in the CPT application packet.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
For complete instructions, please use the most recent Optional Practical Training (OPT) form, here.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a form of off-campus work authorization for F-1 students. This authorization must be approved by USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), which issues the student an EAD card proving work authorization. Before a student can apply through USCIS he or she must obtain a new I-20 from ISSS recommending OPT. USCIS takes on at least 90 days on average to process and approve an OPT request. Students should be prepared for the entire application process for OPT to take 4 months (or longer).
In most cases, a student will choose to do OPT post-completion (after completion of all degree requirements). Unlike CPT, students are not required to have a job offer in place while applying for OPT authorization.
OPT employment must be directly related to a student's field of study (e.g. his or her major). ISSS does not determine an employment situation's relevance to an academic program. We recommend that the student consult the Career Center and/or the academic department to determine if the position is within the student's field of study.
If a student intends to apply for OPT, he or she must first attend a mandatory OPT workshop. These workshops are offered weekly during the fall and spring semesters and do not require advanced registration.
For complete instructions, please use the most recent Academic Training form, here.
Academic training is a form of off-campus work authorization for J-1 students. J-1 students engaging in an off-campus internship or employment, whether paid or unpaid, must obtain authorization prior to beginning that employment from ISSS or from their program sponsor (which may be an outside sponsor, such as Fulbright).
Student's must have an offer letter prior to obtaining academic advisor approval and approval from ISSS.
J-1 students may choose to use their Academic Training authorization while they are a registered student, or after they have completed their program. The training may be for up to 18 months (cumulative) or a period equal to the full course of study (cumulative), whichever is less. Up to 36 months of Academic Training can be granted at the doctoral level, inclusive of all prior Academic Training done at that or lower levels of study. Employment must begin no later than 30 days after the student’s program end date and must be authorized by the ISSS.
Note on MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding)
If a student is engaged in an eligible position (such as a student assistant position) under a MOU with a University at Albany department, the employment may be considered to be on-campus employment. ISSS does not verify or facilitate MOU agreements in any way. However, please click here for additional information on MOUs. If you are asked to complete an I-9 anywhere other than UAlbany's Human Resources office, you must consult ISSS before beginning any employment.
The information contained in this web site/form is provided as a service to international students, faculty and staff at the University at Albany. It does not constitute legal advice. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site or any associated site or form. Neither the University at Albany nor ISSS is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel; students may wish to consult an immigration attorney on the specifics of their case as needed.