Working (F-1 Students)

On-Campus Employment

International students can work on-campus up to 50% time (20 hours/week or less) during the academic terms and full-time during the academic break periods including summer time. Special authorization is not required to work on-campus as long as you are in valid F-1 student status, pursuing a full course of study. Once you complete your study program you are no longer eligible to be employed on-campus without special authorization -- i.e., practical training. On-campus employment is employment engaged in at UCSB such as a teaching or research assistantship, employment in the University Center, library aide, etc. Generally speaking, this means that you will be receiving a paycheck from this university.

Off-Campus Employment

Off-campus employment requires some form of written or documented authorization issued by either the USCIS or OISS.

You must be currently in legal status and have been enrolled as an F-1 student in the US for a minimum of one academic year (9 months) to be eligible for any form of off-campus employment. (You can engage in on-campus employment without any special authorization before 9 months have elapsed, as long as you are a full-time enrolled student.)

Employment, both on and off campus together, is limited to 50% time (20 hours per week or less) while school is in session and can be full-time during the vacation or break periods.

There are 3 options for off-campus employment for students in F-1 status:
  1. OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING [Application Forms]Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment or training directly related to your field of study. OPT provides an opportunity for you to obtain actual work experience in the U.S. related to your studies. In the F-1 status you are allowed 12 months of full-time optional practical training per degree program. (For example, if you are in the U.S. for both a B.A. and M.A. program, you are allowed 12 months of OPT for each one.) The application procedure for OPT requires that the training be recommended by the International Student Advisor. The actual authorization is granted by USCIS and is indicated on an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a card with the applicant’s picture that contains the dates for which employment is authorized. USCIS can take up to 90 days to process a practical training application. Employment cannot begin until the immigration service has granted the authorization. The immigration service will require a fee for an OPT application.
    24-month STEM Extension OPT Recipients of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in certain government-designated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields may be eligible for a 24-month extension of Post-Completion OPT (for a total eligibility period of up to 36 months). The 24-month STEM Extension OPT is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). More here.
  1. CURRICULAR PRACTICAL TRAINING [Application Forms]
    Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is off-campus employment or an internship related to your major that is a requirement of a course. You must be registered for a class (e.g., internship, independent study) where you will receive unit credit for the training or internship. CPT is limited to part-time while classes are in session and may be full-time during the break periods. CPT is not deducted from your 12 months of OPT, unless you work one year or more of full-time CPT. In this case you will not be eligible for any OPT. Authorization for CPT is granted by OISS and can take about 2 weeks. No fee is required. Find more about CPT including the application form here.

  2. EMPLOYMENT DUE TO UNFORESEEN ECONOMIC HARDSHIP [Application at USCIS]
    F-1 students can apply for off-campus work permission based on economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances. Applications for this work permit are reviewed by USCIS on a case-by-case basis and decisions are dependent upon the student’s personal circumstances. Students applying for this type of work authorization are required to first make a “good faith” effort to find employment on-campus. The authorization is granted by USCIS in the form of an EAD card that takes up to 90 days for processing and requires a fee. The work permit allows employment that is unrelated to the study program. Authorization is granted in one-year intervals.