Several types of “employment” are discussed below:
- On-campus employment
- Off-campus employment based on economic necessity
- Curricular practical training
- Practical training before graduation
- Practical training after graduation
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines “employment” as “the rendering of services on either a part-time or full-time basis for compensation, financial or otherwise, including self-employment.”
Approximately forty percent of Lewis & Clark’s international students and sixty percent of U.S. students work to help finance their studies at the college. International students are employed in the bookstore, the library, physical plant, the cafeteria, media services, and in many other offices and departments throughout the campus. Others work as resident assistants, math tutors, foreign language tutors, and student government officers. (See Job Opportunities).
Most of the on-campus positions pay from $8.40 to $9.50 per hour and international students earn, on average, $1,500 during the academic year. This employment provides students with sufficient funds to pay for books and pocket money for the academic year.
On-campus positions are limited, but nearly all international students who want to work find jobs. Interested students should let their friends, professors, and advisors know that they are looking for work. They should also be polite, persistent, and early.
It is important to remember that the employment of international students (F-1 visa holders) is restricted and controlled by U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rules.
To work off-campus, students must have permission from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
International students who are on F-1 visas and who are enrolled full-time may work legally on campus after obtaining approval from International Students and Scholars (ISS). In order to be paid for their work, students must have a Social Security Number (SSN). The ISS office can help with the SSN application process. The process takes approximately twenty minutes and requires students to complete several government forms. Students should bring their passports, I-94 and I-20 forms to ISS. Students may interview for positions before completing the forms in the packet, but should complete the forms and turn them in before beginning employment.
According to DHS regulations, international students may work on campus up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and up to 40 hours per week during vacation periods (Christmas, spring break, and summer). New students may work on campus up to 30 days before classes begin in the fall. However, on-campus employment is not permitted after graduation.
Students who receive financial aid from Lewis & Clark are expected to work on campus each year of the award. New students are are able to earn up to $2,000 during the academic year.
The U.S. government requires international students to pay taxes on their earnings, in accordance with U.S. tax laws. For this reason, Lewis & Clark withholds certain percentages of students’ pay when required. The amount of withholding depends on tax treaties between the U.S. and individual nations.
Off-Campus Employment Based on Economic Necessity
International students on F-1 visas may not work off campus unless they receive permission from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). When circumstances warrant, DHS will grant that permission based on severe and unforeseen economic hardship.
To qualify for work permission due to economic necessity, students must have been in the U.S. on an F-1 visa for one academic year (nine months), be enrolled full time, and be in good academic standing. In addition, students must prove to DHS that their financial circumstances have changed unexpectedly and that they no longer have sufficient funds to remain in school. They must also prove that work will not interfere with their studies.
In the past, DHS has approved off-campus work permission for students who had a parent die, who lost a scholarship or funding source, and who had a sponsor become seriously ill and unable to work. In such cases the students were able to provide proof of the unforeseen change.
In the past DHS has not approved off-campus work permission for students who claimed a parent had decided to retire, who could not prove the supposed theft of savings, or who wanted additional spending money. INS ruled these situations were not unforeseen, were not proved, or were not severe, respectively.
For more information on applying for work permission based on economic necessity, go to: Permission to Work Based on Economic Necessity.
International students cannot engage in internships without approval from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ISS. Many international students do not realize this fact and they take internship or “volunteer” positions at companies or agencies. They mistakenly believe that because they are working without pay, they can participate in internships. This is not the case.
Still, international students can usually obtain permission to engage in internships, or what DHS refers to as either (a) Curricular Practical Training or (b) Practical Training Before Graduation. (See sections below).
Remember, that before working in any “volunteer” position or in any internship, international students must consult with ISS.
For more information, see the Curricular Practical Training section below.
Curricular Practical Training
International students (in F-1 status) may engage in curricular practical training (what many students refer to as “internships,” “practica,” or “independent study”), under certain conditions and with the approval of International Students and Scholars (ISS).
(1) Student must have completed one academic year in F-1 status. (ESL students are not eligible).
(2) Student must be enrolled in a course that is “an integral part of an established curriculum,” which at Lewis & Clark is defined as a “practicum” or “independent study” course (e.g. IA 444, Econ 244, PSYCH 499).
(3) The course must be in the student’s course of study (or related to the major).
Because the work is done for credit and applies toward a Lewis & Clark degree, students must pay tuition for the course.
The process of registering for curricular practical training takes approximately twenty minutes and can be completed at ISS. Students should read the attached “Immigration: Curricular Practical Training” form and bring the required information with them to the ISS.
Curricular practical training does not affect time limits for practical training before or after graduation (as long as the time does not exceed one calendar year). International Students and Scholars must report time spent in curricular practical training to the Department of Homeland Security.
Optional Practical Training Before Graduation
Optional practical training is designed to permit international students to gain practical experience in their major field of study. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) permits international students to gain this experience either before of after graduation, but restricts the total amount of time to 12 months.
Some international students use a portion of their optional practical training before graduation to engage in internships. Because this experience does not count toward a Lewis & Clark degree, students may receive a salary, if offered. The period of time spent in this experience is subtracted from the 12 months that a student may work after graduation.
To qualify for optional practical training before graduation, an F-1 student must have been in lawful status for nine consecutive months. Students may engage in optional practical training before graduation during vacation periods or during the academic year. The training is limited to part-time (20 hours per week) while school is in session. Students may work full-time (40 hours per week) during vacation periods.
Obtaining permission to engage in optional practical training before graduation takes two to three months because students must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from DHS. Initial steps can be completed at International Students and Scholars in approximately thirty minutes. For more information, go to: Applying for Optional Practical Training and bring the required information with them to the ISS.
Optional Practical Training After Graduation
Optional practical training after graduation is designed to permit international students to gain practical experience in their major field of study. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) permits international students to gain this experience during the year following their graduation.
Most international students find employment with a U.S. institution or company. Students who obtain permission to engage in practical training after graduation remain in F-1 student status, but may work legally and earn a salary.
The DHS requires international students to work in a position that is directly related to their major and commensurate with their educational level. Students who major in computer science may work at Intel or in the Information Technology Department of Nike, for example, but they must be employed as programmers or systems analysts, for example (not as a receptionist). Students who major in art may work at an art gallery, a museum, a graphic design company, or in the art department of Nike.
A job offer is not required to apply for practical training after graduation. The DHS permits students to search for jobs during the one year of practical training, but you may only be unemployed 90 days out of your one year of OPT. DHS also permits students to work as volunteers or unpaid interns, as long as their work meets OPT requirements and does not violate any local labor laws.
In March 2016, the Department of Homeland Security made important changes to the OPT rule regarding the STEM Extension. Students majoring in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (the so-called STEM degrees) are eligible to apply for 24 months of additional OPT beyond the usual 12 month limit. The list of STEM fields that qualify for this extension can be found here.
To qualify for optional practical training after graduation, F-1 students must apply within the following time period: no more than 90 days prior to graduation and no more than 60 days after graduation. Application is made through the Office of International Students and Scholars (ISS), which forwards applications to the Department of Homeland Security offices in Lincoln, Nebraska for adjudication. Approval often takes two to three months, so students are encouraged to apply early. For application procedures, go to Applying for Optional Practical Training.
The regulations on travel while an OPT application is pending are complex. The DHS permits students who have applied for OPT, but not yet graduated, to travel abroad and return.Students may leave the U.S., go home for vacation, and legally return as long as they do so before the EAD is issued. Students who have received their EAD card may travel abroad and return as long as they have a valid visa, their EAD card, and proof that they are employed. However, after graduation, a student who has filed for OPT should NOT travel until the card is received and employment is confirmed. Check with the international student office before traveling while on OPT.