F-1 Student Employment – OPT, CPT, and Economic Hardship Status

While Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations provide opportunities for you to be employed during your time in F-1 status, working without authorization is a serious violation of your status. You should therefore consult with your Advisor in International Admission, Jones Hall 152, before beginning any off campus employment. It is your responsibility to comply with all F-1 student immigration regulations. If you fail to comply, you will not be eligible for benefits normally granted to F-1 students.


If you do not intend to continue further study in the US, you may not be employed on campus after you have completed a program of study unless you have been granted an Employment Authorization Document by DHS to engage in Optional Practical Training (OPT). This is limited to employment related to your field of study.

Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9)

When you begin work, you and your employer must complete a form titled "Employment Eligibility Verification" (Form I-9). The I-9 must be updated each time you renew your work permission or have your I-20 extended.

Tax Treaties

F-1 students who are employed (including those on assistantships or fellowships) are subject to Federal taxes, unless they are citizens of countries that have special treaties with the US. By virtue of these treaties, some internationals pay taxes at a reduced rate. To receive the benefits of a Tax Treaty, consult the Human Resources department of your employer.

Employment On-Campus

Eligibility Requirements

You may work on campus provided you are maintaining F-1 status and you do not work more than a total of 20 hours per week while school is in session. This includes any work undertaken in connection with a scholarship, fellowship or assistantship. You may be employed full time during summer and other vacation periods if you are eligible and intend to register for the subsequent academic term. Enrollment in Summer Sessions does not prohibit full-time on campus work.

Students with full graduate assistantships should contact the Graduate School and their departments regarding policies related to their employment.

Jobs That Qualify as "On-Campus Employment"

On-campus employment includes work done as a teaching or research assistant as well as jobs in the school library, cafeteria, and administrative offices. On-campus also includes employment with "... on-location commercial firms which provide services for students on campus, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria." Exception: On-campus employment does not include employment on the school's premises for a commercial firm that is not providing on-campus services for student; for example, at a construction site for a new school building.

Work Off-Campus That Qualifies as On-Campus Employment

Immigration regulations allow you to work at an off-campus location provided:

  • the location is educationally affiliated with MTSU,
  • the educational affiliation is associated with MTSU's established curriculum or is related to a graduate level research project which MTSU has contracted to perform and,
  • the work is an integral or important part of your program of study. For example, if your field of study is agriculture and MTSU has an off-campus research facility, you may work there and that employment will be defined as "on-campus".

Newly-Arrived Students in the US

Students who have entered the US in Initial SEVIS status (as noted in Section 3 of the I-20) to begin a new program, can begin on-campus employment no more than 30 days prior to the first day of classes.

Newly-Arrived Transfer Students

Students may engage in on campus employment at MTSU after their SEVIS record has been released to MTSU and an I-20 issued.

International Student Employment - Obtaining a Social Security Number

You are eligible to work on campus up to 20 hours a week but do be paid, you must have a social security number.  The steps necessary to get a Social Security number can be found here.


Employment Off-Campus

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." You can use it during or after your studies. There are 12 months of OPT given for each higher degree. (i.e. bachelor's degree to master's degree; master's degree to doctorate). To be eligible, you must have been enrolled for classes for at least one academic year (fall and spring semesters). Please refer to the OPT/CPT document below.

24-Month OPT Extension

There is a one-time extension for F-1 students currently participating in a 12-month post-completion period of OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study. At the time of application for the 24-month extension, the student must have a job offer or be employed by an employer registered with the E-Verify federal employment verification system. This benefit is limited to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degree holders in the fields specified in the STEM Designated Degree Programs.

STEM Designated Degree Programs for the 24- Month OPT Extension

The below is a list of all the STEM Designated Degree Programs Eligible for the 24-Month OPT Extension offered at Middle Tennessee State University:

MTSU Major
Animal Science
Plant and Soil Science
Environmental Science
Interactive Media
Information Systems
Computer Science
Assessment, Learning and Student Success
Mechatronics Engineering
Engineering Technology
Road Construction Tech.
Concrete Industry Management
Professional Science
Computational and Data Science
Data Science
Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Forensic Science
Actuarial Science
MTSU Degree
B.S.; M.S. 
B.S.; M.S. 
M.S.; B.S.
B.S.; M.S.
B.S.; M.S.;Grad. 
B.S.; M.S.
THEC 2020 CIP Code
B.S. M.S.:21.30.7001.00; 

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training is a paid or unpaid training that must be an integral part of an established curriculum in your course of study. To be eligible, you must have completed one academic year and be enrolled in the appropriate course prior to the beginning of the semester. Please refer to the OPT/CPT document below.

Severe Economic Hardship

Students must have completed two semesters in school before they may apply for permission to work off-campus due to severe economic hardship. If permission is granted, employment is limited to 20 hours per week when school is in session and full time during holidays or school vacation.


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