We’re always happy to speak with seminarians to help you understand your immigration options as you begin to discern God’s calling for you and your ministry. It’s never too early to begin planning. Please contact Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel at 317-289-1407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are an international student on an F-1 visa, there are strict rules about when and where you can work in the U.S. Following these rules is crucial if you want to complete your studies in the U.S. or be eligible for a work visa after graduation.
These are the options while you are a student:
- On-campus jobs
F-1 students are allowed to work on-campus part time (up to 20 hours/week) while school is in session and full time during breaks. No immigration paperwork is required for this type of on-campus work.
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Seminarians in programs that require field education or other internships may work off-campus in these placements part time (up to 20 hours/week) or fulltime (over 20 hours/week). However, if you do full time CPT for one year or more, you will not be eligible for OPT later. The placement must be required by your program and related to your field of study. You must obtain authorization from your DSO before starting work.
- Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Seminarians with OPT may work off-campus up to 20 hours/week while school is in session and up to 40 hours/week during breaks. The work must be directly related to your field of study. You must apply for and be granted an Employment Authorization Document by USCIS before starting work.
Note: This OPT is different from Post-Completion OPT.
Learn more about practical training from Immigration & Customs Enforcement.
- Severe economic hardship
Students suffering economic hardship due to unexpected circumstances beyond their control can request special permission to work off-campus. For example, you unexpectedly lost your financial aid, tuition sky-rocketed, your home country’s currency was devalued, or you had large medical bills, you might be eligible. These applications are considered on a case-by-case basis. You must apply for and be granted an Employment Authorization Document by USCIS before starting work.
- Special Student Relief
The Department of Homeland Security occasionally announces it will suspend some of these rules for students from certain countries due to “emergent circumstances” in their home countries. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, DHS allowed Haitian students to reduce their course load and work more than 20 hours per week while school was in session. To take advantage of Special Student Relief, you must apply for and be granted an Employment Authorization Document by USCIS.
Learn more about Special Student Relief from NAFSA Association for International Educators.
*If you have questions about work authorization as a student, contact the Designated School Official (DSO) at your school’s international student office.
It can be tough to follow these rules, especially when your finances are tight. But working too much or in the wrong place has serious consequences. It violates your student status and makes you deportable. It also makes you ineligible to change your status, which means you would have to leave the U.S. before getting a work or other kind of visa.