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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

  • If you are in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering and math), you have the option to apply for a 24-month extension on top of your 12 month OPT.
  • It is possible in certain circumstances to apply for pre-completion OPT, where you would begin your OPT prior to graduation at part-time.  

Relevant Forms