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Employment as an International Student

As a non-immigrant temporary visitor on an F-1 visa, you have limited options for working in the United States.  You can work on approved Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), or work for your sponsoring institution, which is SUNY Geneseo.  Working for the sponsoring institution includes student work during the school year, but can also be work during breaks and summers, provided the money you are paid with comes from SUNY Geneseo. The only other options for valid F-1 Student visa work in the U.S. are employment with an International Organization or Severe Economic Hardship Employment.

The Social Security Number Card

In order to work in the U.S. on an F-1 visa, you must possess a Social Security Number.  To apply for this, you must bring the following information with you to the Social Security Administration in Batavia, NY.  The ISSS Office will make scheduled trips to the SSA each term for students.

  • Social Security Card Application 
  • Passport (and visa)
  • I-20 Document
  • Copies of I-20, passport ID page, F-1 visa
  • Offer of Employment letter
  • Authorization for legal work letter, provided by the ISSS office

Please note you cannot apply for your Social Security Number until you have been registered in the SEVIS system for at least 10 days.   The Social Security Numbers can take from 2 to 8 weeks to arrive in the mail.  

Types of Employment

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is for F-1 students studying in the U.S. to gain off-campus employment experience as part of a student’s curriculum. At SUNY Geneseo, CPT is authorized when the employment is for an internship and must be taken for credit.

Basic Information and FAQs
Application for CPT
Advisor/Faculty Mentor Template 
Employer Template

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 students to legally work in the United States in their degree concentration for up to twelve months (either pre- or post-graduation). 

What is Post-Completion OPT? 

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization related to an F-1 student’s academic program. Its purpose is to provide a way for students to gain employment experience in their field of study. OPT may be used during a degree program (pre-completion) or after completion of course requirements (post-completion). The completion date is your program end date, not necessarily the graduation date (check the end date as indicated on your I-20).

Useful Information About OPT

  • You do not need a job offer when you apply for OPT.
  • If you have had more than 12 months of curricular practical training (CPT) you are not eligible for OPT.
  • The employment must be in the student’s field of study (e.g. your declared major).
  • You must have completed one academic year of full-time study in F-1 status.

Keep in Mind When Applying: 

  • The filing period with USCIS is within 90 days prior to program completion date and no later than 60 days after program completion. 
  • Your application must reach USCIS within 30 days of having been issued your new OPT I-20 form.
  • USCIS will determine if you are eligible for OPT. If denied, the decision cannot be appealed. 
  • You cannot begin working until your OPT card is issued and received, AND your program start date (chosen by you) has occurred.
  • You will need a Social Security number to work in the U.S. If you do not already have one, you can apply for your SSN along with your OPT application.  
  • A student may only accrue 90 days of unemployment during their year of OPT. More than 90 days of unemployment will end their OPT and they will be required to leave the country.  These days are cumulative. 
  • Students are required to report any change in address or employment status within 10 days to ISSS.
  • It is highly unadvisable to travel after graduation if you have not received your EAD card.  It is seen as abandoning your application and it is most likely you will not be allowed to re-enter the country.

Additional OPT Options or Exceptions

Applying for OPT during Covid-19

Covid-19 has created several challenges for those graduating and planning to apply for OPT.

Very little guidance has been released pertaining to OPT, particularly for students that have left the U.S.  At this time, these are our recommendations based on the information we have received from USCIS and SEVP:

  • OPT deadlines will not be extended.  Please prepare your OPT application and be ready to submit it during the normal filing period (up to 90 days before graduation, and up to 60 days after graduation).
  • Students that submitted OPT applications prior to leaving the US will need to remain outside the US until after their application is approved and their OPT start date has come.  Please contact ISSS so that we can mail your EAD card to you once it is received.

Submitting your OPT application while the ISSS Staff is working from home:

It is obviously a bit of a challenge to prepare your OPT application while we cannot meet with students in person, but we will do the best that we can!  Here is our recommended process:

  • Download the OPT packet
  • Complete the OPT request form found in the packet
  • Complete the I-765 form and G-1145 form found on the USCIS website (links for all forms below)
  • Once these three forms are ready, email them to
  • We will double check your forms, create your OPT recommendation I-20, and electronically sign the form to return it to you.  At this time, USCIS has indicated that it will accept electronically signed I-20s and that I-20s may be sent to students by email. 
  • We will arrange a time to meet with you by Skype or Zoom to double check your OPT documents before you send your packet to USCIS.
  • Once the office reopens, we will prepare an original I-20 for you to use for travel and other purposes.

Relevant Forms