Work Authorization

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International Student Employment

There are three ways that F-1 International Students may be employed in the United States: on-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 or via Academic Training. J-1 students should schedule a meeting with the office to discuss the requirements and limitations.

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 and may lead to Termination.

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. 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 listed below. Please note, this list is a very short sample and we encourage you to reach out to other offices or departments for work opportunities:
Recreation Complex - Ext. 4140
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 OSE - 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 F-1 visa holding students and not all internships qualify for CPT. Please, contact 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.
  • You must be registered for a course corresponding to the internship, practicum or independent study.

Application Procedures

  • Complete the CPT Application Form
  • Provide a Recommendation Letter from your academic advisor requesting CPT.
  • Provide an Offer of Employment letter from proposed internship employer.
  • Proof of registration for the appropriate course.

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.

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training is temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major of study. 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 USCIS approved 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 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.
  • While on 12-month 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

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. 

International students can only apply for a Social Security Number once they have an offer of employment, either on-campus or off-campus.

In order to obtain a social security number, you must first inform the office. You will then go to your local Social Security office with at least the following documents:

  • SSN application form
  • Your passport and visa
  • Your I-94 record
  • Your Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Verification letter from the OSE- 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.

Tax Information for International Students

If you work in the United States and earn a salary or wage, you must report your earnings to the IRS. Taxes are completed in the spring and are typically due by April 15th, though the date may vary. Any employment you've had in the previous year will be reported, and you will receive documents from the employer to complete this process. You should receive all required forms from your employers by January 31st each year.

F-1 international students who did not work or receive pay must still complete a one-page form to send to the IRS each year.

In February, OSE will send an email to all students with information on tax filing support if offered at the university. Please note, the international student advisors themselves are not tax experts and cannot assist in filing your taxes.

The amount of taxes you must pay to the U.S. government and the state you worked/residedin 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 at your place of employment.

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