International Student Employment

There are three ways that F-1 International Students may be employed in the United States: campus employment, Curricular Practical Training, and Optional Practical Training. J-1 exchange students may seek employment as a part of their exchange program, on campus and off campus.

Be aware that it is your responsibility to follow the limits and laws governing your non-immigrant status in the United States. If you seek unauthorized employment your status will be compromised.

Social Security Numbers

Everyone who is employed in the United States must have a social security number. This number is a way for the government to track tax information, the social security card alone is not confirmation of valid work authorization. Please note, international students are typically exempt from having Social Security and Medicare taxes deducted from their paychecks. If this tax is being taken out of your paycheck, you may be eligible for a refund. If that is the case, contact your payroll office.

In order to obtain a social security number, you must go to the Bridgeport Social Security Office (35 Courtland St, Bridgeport, CT 06604) and provide the following:

  • Completed social security number application
  • Your passport and visa
  • Your I-94 record
  • Your Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Verification letter from the Office of International Student Life
  • Offer of employment letter from your employer (must be on letterhead, signed, and dated)

Obtaining a social security number is free. Make sure that you get all of your documents back from the social security office. If you have any questions, please contact the Office of International Student Life.

Tax Information for International Students

If you work in the United States and earn a salary or wage, you will likely have to pay both U.S. Federal and Connecticut State income taxes. Federal and State tax returns are usually due on April 15 of every year, for the earnings of the previous calendar year. In most cases, a percentage of your income will be withheld by your employer each month or each pay period for tax purposes. This "withholding tax" of the Federal government is an estimate of the taxes due on your amount of earnings. Every employer is required to report total earnings for the calendar year and the total amount of taxes that have been withheld. This report (W-2) must be sent to the employee and to the Federal government early in January of each year.

F-1 and J-1 students generally do not pay social security taxes (FICA). If social security taxes are deducted from your earnings, you may be entitled to a refund. The Payroll Office at Fairfield University, or your current employer, may be able to assist you.

The amount of taxes you must pay to the U.S. government and the State of Connecticut could be affected by the length of your stay in the United States, a tax treaty between your country and the United States, your visa and the type of employment you hold, or the source of the payment you are receiving. Questions regarding exemptions, withholding, or tax treaties should be directed to  the Payroll Office.

Campus Employment for F-1 Students

As an F-1 international student you are allowed to work on campus beginning in your first semester. You are employable by any office of Fairfield University, faculty, or staff. Keep in mind that you may also seek employment with Sodexho (campus dining service), as long as you work on the Fairfield University campus. You may only work part-time on campus during the school semesters. Part-time is defined as 20 hours or less.

Some of the places on campus you may find employment at are:
Recreation Complex - Ext. 4140
Sodexho - Ext. 2581
Quick Center for the Arts - Ext. 4010
Library - Ext. 2188
Bookstore - Ext. 4262

Once hired, the office where you will be working needs to give you an official Employment Offer Letter (on letterhead, signed, and dated). You will need to bring this letter to the Office of International Student Life where you will complete an On Campus Work Authorization request form. We will then provide you with an on-campus work permission letter.

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a form of paid or unpaid employment which allows you to put your classroom knowledge to practice. CPT must be an integral part of your curriculum. This will take the form of an internship or practicum which is directly related to your program of study. CPT may be either full-time or part-time. Part-time is defined as 20 hours or less, anything above 20 hours is considered full-time.

CPT is a benefit that is offered to visa holding students and not all internships qualify for CPT. Please, contact international@fairfield.edu to inquire about the CPT eligibility of any internship, whether it is paid or unpaid.


  • You must be in lawful F1 status.
  • You must be enrolled in an academic program for at least 2 academic terms.
  • The CPT must be an integral part of your program's curriculum.
  • Depending on specific academic program requirements: You may need to be registered for a course corresponding to the internship, practicum or independent study.

Application Procedures

  • Complete the CPT Application Form * by giving it to all appropriate parties and return it to the Office of Student Engagement-International Student Life (BCC 096).
  • Provide a Recommendation Letter from your academic advisor requesting CPT.
  • Provide an Offer of Employment letter from proposed employer.
  • Proof of registration for the appropriate course, if necessary.

Once you have gathered and submitted all of the above documents, the OSE-ISL will confirm your eligibility. Your SEVIS Form I-20 will then be endorsed for the work authorization with specific internship dates. You will need to show this endorsement to your employer. Be sure to properly sign your new Form I-20.

Important Notes and Limitations

  • You are NOT authorized to begin work until your SEVIS Form I-20 has been endorsed by the Office of International Student Life. You must stop working on the last day indicated on the endorsement.
  • If you engage in full-time CPT for a cumulative period of 12 months or more, you will no longer be eligible for Optional Practical Training.
  • You are limited to a total of 20 hours per week of CPT unless authorized for full-time employment.

*Please allow for 5-7 business days for processing of CPT recommendations after all paperwork has successfully been submitted

Optional Practical Training

Similarly to CPT, Optional Practical Training is temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major of study. However, OPT is not part of the curriculum, and therefore doesn't redeem any academic credit. OPT typically occurs after the completion of all courses and requirements for a degree (post-completion OPT). For each educational level (B.A./B.S., M.A./M.S., PhD.) you are allowed one period of 12 month OPT.


  • You must be in lawful F1 status.
  • You must be enrolled in an academic program for at least 2 academic terms.
  • OPT must be directly related to the type and level of the student's course of study.
  • You must apply and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS.
  • You must apply for OPT BEFORE the completion of your 60-day grace period. Make sure to provide enough time for USCIS processing.
  • In order to apply for a 24-month OPT extension after your 12-month OPT, you must fulfill the following eligibility criteria:
    • You must have approved post-completion OPT at the time of application.
    • Your employer must be registered with E-Verify.
    • Your program of study must be in one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) categories.
    • You must apply before your post-completion OPT authorization ends.

Application Procedures

  • Attend one of the OSE-ISL OPT Workshop presentations in your final semester of study. Information about workshop dates/times will be communicated via OrgSync and email to all students graduating at the end of the semester.
  • Complete the OPT application procedures outline in the OPT Workshop presentation, as well as in the follow-up PowerPoint.
  • Attend an OPT Clinic to submit all required documentation and mail your application to USCIS.

Important Notes and Limitations

  • If you engage in full-time CPT for a cumulative length of twelve months or longer, your OPT rights will be waived.
  • Keep in mind that University Health Insurance expires in August. Make sure to inquire with your employer about medical insurance to assure you are covered for the OPT period.
  • While on OPT, you must not be unemployed for longer than 90 days in order to maintain your F1 status.
  • You must report, within 10 days, any changes to the following information:
    • Your name
    • Your address and contact information
    • Your employer
    • Your employer's address
    • Your supervisor's name and contact information

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