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International Center

Student Employment Options 

On Campus Employment 

Students on F-1/J-1 visas are allowed to work on-campus for 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semester.  During the summer, F/J students are allowed to work full-time on-campus.  The definition of on-campus is any office where you are working for Winthrop University and receiving a pay check from Winthrop University.  In order to receive pay for your work, you must have a social security card.  For information on the application process for a social security card please refer to Social Security and Taxes.  

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Before beginning any type of employment off-campus you must make an appointment to speak with the International Student Advisor in the International Center.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Information and Application

USCIS defines “curricular practical training” as an employment option available to F-1 students where the employment is considered to be an integral or required part of the curriculum or academic program. 

Criteria for CPT

The CPT employment must be listed in the program of study for the students degree program and be considered necessary for the awarding of the degree. The employment must be required of the course.  The course and employment must run simultaneously, meaning you must be registered for the course during the same period that you are working under CPT authorization. 

Eligibility Requirements for CPT
  • To be eligible for CPT, you must have been a student enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year, your employment must be an integral and required part of your degree program and offered for academic credit and the job must be related to your major or field of study.  Graduate students in their first year of study may be eligible for CPT when required by their program of study.  Undergraduates are not eligible in their first year of study.
  • Student must have a written offer of employment from an employer that qualifies as CPT.  This employment letter must be submitted to the International Student Advisor on company letterhead for consideration with the completed CPT application.
  • Depending on a student's eligibility and academic needs, employment can be either part-time or full-time.  Employment authorization is granted by the International Student Advisor, in consultation with the student's academic advisor.  Employment must be endorsed on page 3 of the students I-20 prior to beginning employment.
  • Students may engage in CPT only for the specific employer, location and period of time approved by the International Center and noted on page 3 of your I-20.
  • Students must be enrolled in a full load of courses to participate in CPT during the semester.  Over the summer break, the student must have been enrolled full time during the spring term and enrolled full time during the upcoming fall term.

Application and Approval Process
 
Students must submit the following documents to the International Student Advisor 5 working days prior to their requested employment start date. 

Undergraduate students:

  • Recommendation Form completed and signed by your academic advisor verifying that the requested employment is an "integral part of your course of study" and meets your program of study requirements.
  • Letter from the employer on company letterhead indicating name of employer, address where you will be working, job duties, and beginning and ending dates of employment.

Graduate students:

  • Recommendation Form completed and signed by your academic advisor verifying that the requested employment is an "integral part of your course of study" and meets your program of study requirements.
  • An approved Program of Study form from The Graduate School, 209 Tillman Hall.
  • Letter from the employer on company letterhead indicating name of employer, address where you will be working, job duties, and beginning and ending dates of employment.

If your CPT request is approved you will receive a Form I-20 endorsed on page 3 for CPT listing the dates of employment and the name and address of your employer.  You must be careful to work only from the beginning to the end date of the employment authorization.  You may not continue employment beyond the date authorized on your Form I-20 unless you apply for and are granted an extension of your permission to work.

CPT vs. OPT

If a student's program of study does not require an internship for credit then CPT is not an option, there is the possibility of pre-completion OPT (working using your OPT benefit prior to graduation).  Refer to the OPT section below for more information on pre-completion OPT.

Also note, if a student completes one year (12 months) of full-time CPT then their Optional Practical Training (OPT) benefit is no longer available.

In order to apply for CPT  please make an appointment to meet with the International Student Advisor.

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Optional Practical Training (OPT) Information and Application

Optional Practical Training, or OPT is an employment benefit awarded to F-1 students by USCIS.  Optional Practical Training, or OPT, is used for extending your legal F-1 status to enable authorization of work that is directly related to your field of study.  USCIS determines eligibility for OPT and reserves the right not to award OPT if a student has violated and failed to maintain their legal status while studying in the United States.

Students are eligible for two periods of OPT.  There is a 12-month benefit allowed after receiving an undergraduate degree and another 12-month benefit allowed after receiving a graduate degree.  OPT must be completed within 14 months of completion of your studies.

Types of OPT and When to Apply for OPT-

  • Pre-Completion OPT
    • You can work full-time or part-time during your annual vacation (summer) if you intend to register for the next term;
    • You can work while school is in session provided that the OPT does not exceed 20 hours per week.
    • You can apply any time provided that you have been a student for 9 consecutive months.
  • Post-Completion OPT
    • You can apply for OPT after the completion of your course of study.
    • You are eligible for 12 months of OPT after your undergraduate degree and another 12 months after your graduate degree.  You cannot receive two periods of consecutive OPT meaning 24 months after completion of a graduate degree.
    • You can apply during the semester of your graduation, not more than 90 days before your program end date. 

Procedures for Applying for OPT

  • Complete items 1-16 of USCIS Form I-765.  Make sure to sign and date the form. 
  • Submit a check for $380.00 made payable to The Department of Homeland Security.  This payment can be made by personal check or money order.  USCIS does not accept cash, counter checks or credit cards. 
  • Decide on the date that you want your OPT card to become active.  You can choose any date up to 60 days after your program end date as your start date.  This may be the most difficult part of the application as you cannot work until your OPT cards start date.  Most students choose a start date 30 days from their program end date unless they already know they will have a job upon graduation.
    • You must complete the top portion of the Verification of Completion Date of Program form.
    • Have your Academic Advisor complete the bottom portion of the Verification of Completion Date of Program form.
    • Make sure the advisor states the date you will complete your program of study.
    • If you are a graduate student, you must have the Graduate Studies office sign the very bottom of the Verification of Completion Date of Program form.
  • Provide two passport photos (available for a fee at CVS or Walgreens).
  • Sign the updated form I-20 that is endorsed on page 3 for OPT.
  • Once you have completed steps 1-5, make an appointment to submit your application materials to the International Center Graduate Assistant. 
  • Bring all of the forms listed above along with the following items to your appointment with our GA –
    • Photocopy of any previously issued work authorization cards (prior OPT cards);
    • Photocopy of photo page of current/valid passport;
    • Photocopy of current visa;
    • Photocopy of  your automated I-94 number.  If you have not traveled outside the USA since April 30, 2013 should provide a photocopy of the front and back of their  most current paper I-94 card; 
    • Photocopy of all three pages of current/valid I-20.

The International Center cannot assist you in completing your application if you do not provide all of the documents requested above.

IMPORTANT REMINDERS –

  • USCIS will award the OPT benefit and issue the OPT card on the basis of the recommendation of the International Student Advisor unless you are otherwise found ineligible.  USCIS shall notify you of the decision and, if the application is denied, of the reason for denial.  There is no appeal process for the denial of OPT.
  • Remember, it can take USCIS time to process and approve your application depending on the number of applications that they receive.  Currently, it is taking at least 3 months (90 days) from the time USCIS receives your OPT application until you receive your OPT card. 
  • Once you mail your application for OPT there is no way to cancel the request.  If you decide to return to school or delay your employment your OPT will be terminated and a refund of the $380 will not be given.  Give very careful thought to OPT before applying.
  • USCIS does not forward mail.  We strongly recommend that the return address on the OPT application be the address of the International Center.  If the card is mailed to another address the International Center can not be responsible for the card.
  • Authorization to engage in OPT employment is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins to study at another educational level.
  • Traveling outside the U.S. during pending/approved OPT is a personal choice.  It is recommended that prior to making travel arrangements, you strongly consider the fact that while on OPT you are not assured re-entry back into the U.S. 
    • If you do travel while your OPT is pending make sure to travel with -
      • valid visa;
      • valid passport;
      • I-20 endorsed for OPT and a travel signature dated within the past six months; and
      • your OPT receipt, Notice of Action I-797C.
    • If you travel while your OPT is active, make sure to travel with -
      • valid visa;
      • valid passport;
      •  I-20 with OPT approval and job information listed on page 3 with a travel signature dated within the past six months;
      • your OPT card and a letter from your employer stating their contact information, description of your job, salary and dates of employment and that they are expecting you to return to the US to "resume employment" with their company.
      • Please note - your OPT card is not your visa.  You must have a valid F-1 visa to request entrance to the U.S. at your port-of-entry.
    • The International Center is not responsible for mailing your OPT card to you.  If you plan to travel or move away from this area while you have pending/approved OPT, you will need to provide us with a self addressed and pre-paid envelope that allows tracking of the envelope (usually UPS or FedEx).  The International Center is not responsible your OPT card after it arrives in our office. 

While authorized for OPT you must -

  • Maintain valid F-1 visa status during the entire time your OPT application is pending and approved.   
  • Work only in the field of study for which you received your degree. 
    • If you played a sport during your time at Winthrop, OPT cannot be used to play professionally.  Playing sports professionally requires a different visa classification.
  • Notify the International Student Advisor within 10 days of establishing a new local address, even if it is temporary.
  • Notify the International Student Advisor within 10 days of establishing employment and keep your employment updated in a timely manner. 
  • Only work the dates that are specified on your OPT authorization card.  You cannot work before the start date or after the expiration date listed on your OPT card.

What if I cannot find a job while on OPT?

  • It is very highly recommended that you keep a record of applications submitted, job interviews, times you are unemployed and times that you are employed.  If at a later date you are sponsored for an employment based visa you may be asked for this information as part of the application process.
  • If you are granted post-completion OPT, remember your F-1 status is dependent upon employment. During any initial 12-month period of post-completion OPT you may not be unemployed for a total of more than 90 days.
  • If a STEM student receives a 17-month extension, the limit on unemployment is raised to an aggregate of no more than 120 days, applied to the entire 29-month period on which the student is on post-completion OPT.

Can OPT be extended?

  • OPT cannot be extended beyond the 12 months time granted by USCIS unless -
    • As of April, 2008, if an employee is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H1B petition, there is an “cap-gap” extension that allows an employee to continue working for that employer until September 30, as October 1 is the annual start date of the H1B visa.  For example, a person’s OPT expires on May 15 but the H1B visa does not begin until October 1, this “cap-gap” extension allows for continued employment between May 15 and September 30.
    • As of April 2008, an OPT extension of 17 months beyond the typical 12 months exists for students who graduate with a STEM degree (29 months of OPT).  STEM degrees are defined as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  To be eligible for the extension, the student's must have a job with an employer that is registered in E-Verify.  E-Verify is an Internet based system that provides an automated link to Federal databases to help employers determine employment eligibility.  Applications for the 17-month STEM extension must be filed before the original 12 months of OPT expires.

Options available after OPT

  • You have 60 days after your OPT expiration date to gain admission to a new academic program by securing a new I-20, change your non-immigrant status or depart the U.S.
  • Another option is that an employer can decide to sponsor an employee for the H1B visa.  This is an employment based visa that allows you to remain in the US and work for the sponsoring employer.  The employer will be able to offer counsel on the H1B visa.

If you have questions about OPT or if you plan to apply for OPT, please contact the International Center to make an appointment.

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Academic Training 

Academic training is available only to students holding J-1 visas.  Academic Training is a type of employment (paid or unpaid) that is directly related to your major area of study and authorized by your J-1 program sponsor, Winthrop University.  Academic Training is designed for students to apply knowledge and skills learned at Winthrop University.

All J-1 students may apply for academic training if they meet the eligibility requirements below.  Academic Training must be approved before the expiration date of a students DS-2019.  Students may work part-time while school is in session and full-time during the summer and winter breaks.

Eligibility

  • To qualify for academic training, you must obtain written approval on your DS-2019 for your employment prior to beginning your employment.  This work authorization is decided by your academic advisor and by your International Student Advisor.
  • You must be in good academic standing Winthrop University.
  • The proposed employment must be directly related to your major field of study.
  • Throughout your “academic training” you must maintain permission to stay in the United States, in J-1 student status, and apply for extensions as necessary.
  • You must maintain health insurance coverage for yourself (and any J-2 dependents) throughout your academic training.

Length of Work Authorization

  • Your employment may be authorized for the length of time necessary to complete the goals and objectives of the training, provided that the amount of time is approved by both your academic advisor and the International Center.  It may not exceed the amount of time it took for you to complete your program, or 18 months, whichever is shorter. 
  • Part-time employment for academic training counts against the 18 month limit the same as full-time employment.
  • You have only one opportunity for academic training regardless of how many degrees you receive.
  • Academic training before completion of studies will be deducted from the total amount of academic training that you are eligible for.

How to Apply

  • You must apply for and have approval for academic training before the ending date of your DS-2019.
  • A job offer letter from your prospective employer on company letterhead that includes: job title, a brief description of the “goals and objectives” of your “training program” (your employment), the dates and location of the employment, the number of hours per week, salary, and the name and address of your “training supervisor.”  Make sure your employer’s letter includes all of these details. 
  • Academic advisor’s recommendation.  Give a copy of your employer’s letter to your academic advisor for use in completing the advisor’s recommendation form.
  • Bring the job offer letter and the academic advisor’s recommendation form to the International Center where your application will be reviewed.  If approved you will receive a letter authorizing the academic training.  The International Center will also issue you a new DS-2019 form extended for your academic training, for no more than the time you were a student at Winthrop under your current DS-2019.

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If you have questions about employment authorization at Winthrop University contact the International Center

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CONTACT INFORMATION
International Center
701 Oakland Avenue
218 Dinkins Hall
Rock Hill, SC 29733, USA
803/323-2133
803/323-2340 (fax)
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