The F1 Legal Requirements
F1 is for students in colleges, universities,
seminaries, conservatories, academic high schools,
elementary schools, other academic institutions, and in
language training programs.
The student shall have documentary evidence of financial
support in the amount indicated on the SEVIS Form I-20
(or the Form I-20A-B/I-20ID);
An F-1 student is expected to safekeep the initial I-20
ID bearing the admission number and any subsequent
copies which have been issued to him or her.
The spouse and minor children accompanying an F-1
student are eligible for admission in F-2 status if the
student is admitted in F-1 status. The spouse and minor
children following-to-join an F-1 student are eligible
for admission to the United States in F-2 status if they
are able to demonstrate that the F-1 student has been
admitted and is, or will be within 30 days, enrolled in
a full course of study, or engaged in approved practical
training following completion of studies.
Extension of duration of status.
F1 Employment: On-campus employment
On-campus employment pursuant to the terms of a
scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship is deemed to
be part of the academic program of a student otherwise
taking a full course of study.
On-campus employment. On-campus employment must either
be performed on the school's premises, (including
on-location commercial firms which provide services for
students on campus, such as the school bookstore or
cafeteria), or at an off-campus location which is
educationally affiliated with the school.
Employment authorized under this paragraph must not
exceed 20 hours a week while school is in session.
Off-campus work authorization:
An F-1 student may be authorized to work off-campus on a
part-time. Part-time off-campus employment authorized
under this section is limited to no more than twenty
hours a week when school is in session. A student who is
granted off-campus employment authorization may work
full-time during holidays or school vacation. The
employment authorization is automatically terminated
whenever the student fails to maintain status.
F1 OPT Practical training.
Practical training may be authorized to an F-1 student
who has been lawfully enrolled on a full time basis, in
a Service-approved college, university, conservatory, or
seminary for one full academic year.
A student may be authorized 12 months of practical
training, and becomes eligible for another 12 months of
practical training when he or she changes to a higher
educational level. Students in English language training
programs are ineligible for practical training. An
eligible student may request employment authorization
for practical training in a position that is directly
related to his or her major area of study.
There are two types of practical training available
Curricular practical training. An F-1 student may be
authorized by the DSO to participate in a curricular
practical training program that is an integral part of
an established curriculum.
Optional practical training:
A student may apply to the Service for authorization for
temporary employment for optional practical training
directly related to the student's major area of study.
The student may not begin optional practical training
until the date indicated on his or her employment
A student may be granted authorization to engage in
temporary employment for optional practical training:
During the student's annual vacation and at other times
when school is not in session, if the student is
currently enrolled, and is eligible for registration and
intends to register for the next term or session;
While school is in session, provided that practical
training does not exceed 20 hours a week while school is
in session; or
After completion of the course of study, or, for a
student in a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree
program, after completion of all course requirements for
the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent). Continued
enrollment, for the school's administrative purposes,
after all requirements for the degree have been met does
not preclude eligibility for optional practical
training. However, optional practical training must be
requested prior to the completion of all course
requirements for the degree or prior to the completion
of the course of study. A student must complete all
practical training within a 14-month period following
the completion of study.
Termination of practical training. Authorization to
engage in optional practical training employment is
automatically terminated when the student transfers to
another school or begins study at another educational
Temporary absence from the United States of F-1 student
granted employment authorization.
A student returning from a temporary trip abroad with an
unexpired off-campus employment authorization on his or
her I-20 ID may resume employment only if the student is
readmitted to attend the same school which granted the
An F-1 student who has an unexpired EAD issued for
post-completion practical training and who is otherwise
admissible may return to the United States to resume
employment after a period of temporary absence. The EAD
must be used in combination with an I-20 ID endorsed for
reentry by the DSO within the last six months.
of Periods of Unemployment on F-1 Status
post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon
employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more
than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion
OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT
authorization. Students granted a 17-month OPT extension
may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of
unemployment during the entire 29-month OPT period. See
below for more information about the additional 17
months of OPT.
Change of Employer After Post-Completion OPT Has Been
change employers after you have begun authorized
employment provided the new job is (1) directly related
to your major field of study and (2) appropriate for
someone having your level of education. See below for
your and your employer’s responsibilities for reporting
changes to OISS.
Eligibility and Application Information for
Additional 17 Months of OPT (STEM)
eligible to apply for the 17-month extension under USCIS
regulations announced in April 2008, a student must be
currently employed under OPT in a job directly related
to the student’s major area of study; Have successfully
completed a Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral degree in
a field on the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM
Designated Degree Program list (http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm)
from a SEVIS-certified college or university; Have a job
or a job offer from an employer that is registered with
the E-Verify employment verification system. For more
information on E-Verify, visit
previously received a 17-month OPT extension after
earning a STEM degree;
And the employer must agree to report the termination or
departure of the student to OISS or through "any other
means or process identified by DHS."
F1 Students’ Opportunity to Apply for U.S. Permanent
F1 students may apply for U.S. Permanent Resident by
filing self-petitioned immigrant visa application,
including EB1A: Alien of Extraordinary Ability, and EB2
National Interest Waiver.
Advantages of Getting U.S. Permanent Residency Before
Working for U.S. Employers:
Substantially increase your employment opportunities in
the United States
Many U.S. high-tech companies and important government
research agencies ONLY hire new employees who are U.S.
Substantially increase your opportunities to receive
research funding and become a Principal Investigator
If you want to find an academic position, it is
extremely important for you to apply for your green card
before you graduate from your Ph.D program because many
research funding organizations such as DARPA, DOD, NOR,
ARO, even NSF and some NIH projects require U.S.
Permanent Resident status to apply their research
Substantially decrease the risk of losing your green
card application because of the changing job market
The traditional way of relying upon your U.S. employer
to apply your green card has caused some difficulties in
the current labor market. The following are two examples
to explain what will happen if you wait for finding a
permanent job position and ask your employer to apply
your green card.
Examples: The Impact of Employer’s Downsizing on Your
Green Card Application:
A Ph.D. student found a job in a major pharmaceutical
company. We suggested that he file his EB2NIW when he
was still at a university BEFORE he went to the new job
position. His green card was approved shortly after he
started the new job. Only 8 months after he worked with
the company, the company downsized many employees,
including him. If he did not file EB2NIW, he would have
lost his lawful status in the United States and his
green card application would have been terminated if he
waited his employer to file it on his behalf.
In addition, the United States Department of Labor
prohibits U.S. companies that lay off employees with
similar positions in the last 6 months to file green
card applications through labor certification
application for their employees.
Examples: The Impact of Hightech Employer’s Closing,
Merger and Acquisition on Your Green Card Application
A Ph.D. degree research engineer waited her employer to
file green card on her behalf in 1998. Before it was
approved, her employer's company was closed down. She
changed to another employer and refile her green card
application. The second employer was acquired and merged
with another company. Her application was delayed again
due to the merger and acquisition. After 8 years, her
green card application is still pending.
Substantially decrease the length of your waiting time
for green card
If you apply green card application at school, you can
start the process immediately if you are qualified.
By contrast, the average waiting period for a U.S.
company to file a green card application for a new
employee is between 1-2 years. Some companies require 3
years working time with the company to initiate a green