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.

Please follow the links to the left for information on the different types of employment.

Social Security Numbers

Social Security is a U.S. government agency which is in charge of caring for retirees. It serves as a basic retirement plan. Everyone who is employed in the United States must have a social security number. International students are exempt from Social Security Tax. If this tax is being out of your paycheck, you are eligible for a refund by filing IRS Form 843. 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, with visa attached to it
  • Your I-94 Card
  • Your Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Letter of status from the Office of International Students
  • Letter of offer of employment from your employer

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 Students.

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 do not pay social security taxes (FICA). If social security taxes are deducted from your earnings, you are entitled to a refund. This refund may be claimed by your employer by submitting IRS Form 941c, or it may be claimed by you by submitting IRS Form 843. In either case, the claim should be submitted to the Internal Revenue Service office in which the employer's returns were filed, if known. The Payroll Office at Fairfield University may be able to assist you. If that information is not available, submit the claim to the Internal Revenue Service where you filed your tax return.

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, or your visa and the type of employment you hold, or the source of the payment you are receiving. By law, foreign students are only permitted to claim either 0 or 1 exemption on their W-4 forms, unless they are a married citizen of Canada, Japan, Mexico, or South Korea. Questions regarding exemptions, withholding, or tax treaties should be directed to either the Payroll Office or the Internal Revenue Service. Also see Internal Revenue Publication 519.

Campus Employment for F-1 Students

As an F-1 international student you are allowed to work on campus. 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. Part-time is defined as 20 hours or less. You are not allowed payment for any work exceeding 20 hours.

Some of the places on campus seeking to hire international students are:
Recreation Complex - Ext. 4140
Sodexho - Ext. 2581
Quick Center for the Arts - Ext. 4010
Language Department (Oral Practice Session)
Library - Ext. 2188
Bookstore - Ext. 4262

Once hired, the office where you will be working needs to give you an Employment Offer Letter. You need to make an appointment at the Office of Student Engagement and present this letter. The Office of International Students will provide you with On-Campus Work Permit.

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 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. However, you may only work part-time while school is in session (fall and spring semesters).

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. (Exception: Graduate programs which mandate earlier participation in curricular practical training).
  • The CPT must be an integral part of your program's curriculum.
  • Grad students at the School of Engineering: You must 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 a letter of Offer of Employment 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 work authorization. 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 Students. You must stop working on the last day indicated in 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. This total does not include the number of hours you work in an assistantship or campus job, if any (e.g., if you work 20 hours at the RecPlex you can still work up to 20 hours on your CPT).

*Please allow for 2 or 3 business days for processing

Optional Practical Training

Similarly to CPT, Optional Practical Training is temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study. However, OPT is not part of the curriculum, and therefore doesn't redeem any academic credit. OPT can occur while school is in session (pre-completion OPT) or 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 12 months of 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 and commensurate with the level of the student's course of study.
  • You must apply and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS.
  • You must still have time left for OPT.
  • You must apply for OPT BEFORE the completion of your 60-day grace period. Make sure to provide enough time for USCIS processing, no more than 90 days prior to the requested start date of the employment authorization.
  • In order to apply for a 17-month OPT extension 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

  • Complete the OPT Application Form‌ by giving it to all appropriate parties and return it to the Office of International Students (Dolan House 105).
  • Provide a Recommendation Letter from your academic advisor requesting OPT.
  • Make photocopies of all prior Forms I-20 and all prior EAD cards.
  • Complete Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. At item 16 please mark one of the following:
    • (c)(3)(A) - If you are applying for pre-completion OPT
    • (c)(3)(B) - If you are applying for post-completion OPT
    • (c)(3)(C) - If you are applying for OPT extension
  • Attach payment for $380 in the form of check or money order made out to: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Submit photocopies of both sides of your Form I-94, your passport bio page, and your U.S. visa.
  • Obtain two immigration style photos.

Important Notes and Limitations

  • When engaging in pre-completion OPT you are only eligible for part-time work (20 hrs. or less) while school is in session (fall and spring semesters).
  • 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 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
    • If any of the information above does not change, you must check in with the Office of Student Engagement once every six months.

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