Employment Opportunities for F-1 Students

International Students who hold F-1 visa may have the option to work in the United States. U.S. Immigration regulations govern all types of international student employment for holders of F-1 visa. The types of employment authorizations for international students are:

Violation of the work regulations will result in the student being out of status and may impact continued study at Missouri S&T. All international students must ensure that they become completely educated regarding the requirements and restrictions of each type of employment available to international students.  Consultation with the student’s International Student Advisor is the best way to gain this knowledge.  U.S Immigration considers any violation of employment regulations to be very serious, and often denies the student’s application for reinstatement to valid status.

On-Campus Employment

On-campus employment must either be performed onthe school’s premises, (including on-location commercial firms which provide services for students on campus, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria), or at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school.

Employment with on-site commercial firms, such as a construction company building a school building, which do not provide direct student services, is not deemed on-campus employment for the purposes of this paragraph. 

A student may not engage in on-campus employment after completing a course of study, except employment for practical training which requires authorization.

Students are eligible for on-campus employment once they have been registered in SEVIS during their first semester at Missouri University of Science and Technology. 

Your employment authorization can be used throughout your period of study at Missouri University of Science and Technology as long as you maintain valid immigration status. Students who are not in valid immigration status of have a reinstatement pending are not eligible for any time of employment authorization.

Students are limited to 20 cumulative hours per week while school is in session; students can work full-time during official school breaks. Students are limited to 20 hours per week of employment cumulative between employers.

Students must receive an offer from an on-campus employer.  Once an offer has been received, a student will need to complete the On-Campus Employment Offer Form. You must submit this document to the Office of International and Cultural Affairs for approval.

Please visit http://career.mst.edu/ - From here, you can create an account with Miner Jobs to review any listed positions which are open. 

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Off-Campus Employment - Severe Economic Hardship

Students in an unforeseen severe economic hardship situation may apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to work off-campus for 20 hours per week while school is in session.  If student is also working on-campus, the student may only work 20 hours total, between the two jobs.  Students with authorization may work full-time during official school breaks.  Work positions under this work authorization category are not required to be related to the student’s field of study.

A full report of the regulations regarding off-campus employment based on severe economic hardship may be found under 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(A), (C), (D), (F).

This work authorization is approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for students who are experiencing severe economic hardship to work off-campus, outside of their field of study.  Students must prove that unforeseen economic circumstances have caused a need for employment that cannot be met through on-campus work opportunities.  Work authorization is granted for one year at a time, and will end when a student completes program or transfers to another school.  

Severe economic hardship may be defined as the following:

“Circumstances may include loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.” 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(C)

The student must be able to prove that off-campus employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship, caused by circumstances beyond their control.  The economic hardship must have occurred after student obtained F-1 status.  The student is not required to have a job offer when they apply for this type of work authorization.

The student must meet the following requirements to be eligible to apply:

  •   The student has been in valid F-1 status for one full academic year (9 academic months);
  •   The student must be in good standing as a student and carrying a full course of study;
  •   The student must demonstrate that acceptance of employment will not interfere with the student's carrying a full course of study; and
  •   The student must demonstrate that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control and must demonstrate that employment is unavailable or otherwise insufficient to meet the needs that have arisen as a result of the unforeseen circumstances.  214.2(f)(9)(ii)(D)(1)-(4)
  • Document circumstances of economic need: write a personal statement to USCIS describing the cause of the economic hardship and the effect that it has had on your personal finances, and attach any relevant documentation (example: proof of currency devaluation). Explain in the statement why other on-campus options are unavailable, or insufficient. 
  • Prepare a monthly budget outlining your income and expenses
  • Complete the forms I-765 and g-1145, enter (c)(3)(iii) for item 16 on the form.
  • Obtain two passport sized photos, photos must have been taken within 30 days of submitting application to USCIS
  • Prepare copies of: I-94 front and back, ID pages from passport
  • Prepare a $380 check or money order made out to Department of Homeland Security
  • If applicable: prepare copies of any previously issued EAD cards
  • Meet with your International Student Advisor to request a new I-20 with DSO recommendation (bring the above documentation when meeting with advisor)
  • Student will receive an e-mail from the Office of International and Cultural Affairs when I-20 with economic hardship recommendation is ready to be signed by the student.  Student will then send a copy of new I-20 with application materials to USCIS.
  • Ship all documents to:

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Or

For Express mail and courier deliveries:

USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Issuance and Use of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card):

  • USCIS will issue the student an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) if employment is approved.  If the application is denied, then the student will receive a denial notice in writing, without the option to appeal.  In some situations, a motion to reopen may be available.
  • The student may not begin employment until he or she receives the EAD card from USCIS.  It may take USCIS weeks or months to process the application. 
  • Work authorization is approved for one year at a time.  Students should reapply approximately 90 days before the end date on their EAD card, if they still require employment based on economic hardship.
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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is temporary training that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.  It is intended to provide a student with practical experience in his or her field of study during or upon completion of a degree program. 

Completion for undergraduate or non-thesis graduate students is the date of graduation for that semester.

Completion for graduate students in a thesis or dissertation program is defined as the date the student submits the library copy of their thesis or dissertation.

Students are allowed to apply for OPT for each degree they complete.  Students could apply for up to three different OPT programs, one for each higher degree level they earn (BS, MS, & PhD).

OPT is temporary training that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.  It is intended to provide a student with practical experience in his or her field of study during or upon completion of a degree program. 

Completion for undergraduate or non-thesis graduate students is the date of graduation for that semester.

Completion for graduate students in a thesis or dissertation program is defined as the date the student submits the library copy of their thesis or dissertation.

Students are allowed to apply for OPT for each degree they complete.  Students could apply for up to three different OPT programs, one for each higher degree level they earn (BS, MS, & PhD).

Post completion OPT is available to F-1 students who have been enrolled in a degree program for the previous nine months without any violation of their immigration status.

Completion of mandatory OPT workshop offered by The Office of International and Cultural Affairs.  Schedule of upcoming workshops can be found at http://international.mst.edu/.   

Post-completion OPT is authorized to be engaged in after the student program end date.  The two types of post-completion OPT are:

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field students.  These students are eligible for an initial 12 months of OPT and may be eligible for a 17-month extension.
  • Non-STEM field students.  These students are eligible for 12 months of OPT.  There is no extension available.

Spring & Fall career fair http://career.mst.edu/students/careerfairs/.   

  • Academic department connections
  • Internet search
  • Networking

Regular paid employment

  •  The work must be at least 20 hours per week.
  •  Students may work for multiple employers, as long as it is directly related to the student program of study.

Work for hire

  • Student and Exchange Visitor Program regulations (SEVP) say, "This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by Department of Homeland Security, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company."

Self-employed business owner

  • SEVP regulations say, "Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program."

Employment through an agency or consulting firm

  • SEVP regulations say, "Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency."

Volunteers or unpaid interns

  • SEVP OPT Policy Guidance states that, "Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work should be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student's employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment."
  • Although volunteering may appear simple, it can be very complex and could have many pitfalls that could result in risking the international student’s immigration status.  Please refer to Office of International and Cultural Affairs page, Employment and Volunteering section

1. Employment must be directly related to major area of study

  • Work done for OPT must be "directly related to the student's major area of study."

2. Enrollment for at least one full academic year (fall & spring) for OPT

  • An F-1 student must have been "lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis in a Service-approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary for one full academic year" to be eligible OPT.
  • An F-1 student may apply for post-completion OPT up to 90 days before the student’s program end date and up to 60 days after his or her program end date. The application must be properly and in a timely manner filed with the correct USCIS Service Center.
  • If the application is not received by USCIS by the 60 day dead line, the student losses OPT eligibility.  In addition, the application must be properly filed within 30 days of the date the student’s DSO recommends OPT in SEVIS.
  1. Attend the OPT workshop offered by the Office of International and Cultural Affairs.  Schedule can be found here, http://international.mst.edu/.
  2. Obtain OPT application from the OPT workshop.
  3. Complete OPT application using blue ink.
  4. Obtain required signatures from academic advisor, department chair, and graduate studies office.  *Graduate studies only required if applicant is graduate student (thesis or non-thesis)
  5. Submit completed forms to the Office of International and Cultural Affairs for review and OPT I-20 processing.
  6. When I-20 is complete, student will collect the new OPT I-20.
  7. Student is responsible for mailing OPT application and other required documents to USCIS:

If sending by U.S. Postal Service sent to       

USCIS-Phoenix Lockbox
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ  85036

If sending by FedEx or UPS send to:               

USCIS, Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ  85034

Yes, an OPT application can be expedited.  If you have a job offer letter from your employer you can send a cover letter asking the service center to expedite your application.  The USCIS Service Center does not guarantee that applications will be expedited.

  1. USCIS issues I-797C, Notice of Actions (OPT Receipt).  This will contain your case number.
  2. Students can check the status of their OPT application at https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do.
  3. The Office of International and Cultural Affairs will email the student when the EAD card arrives in our office.
  • When we receive the OPT card, the student will receive an email from our office.
    *Note- When you see online that your card has been delivered, that does not mean our office has received it.
  • The Office of International and Cultural Affairs will confirm degree completion.

If the student is a graduate student with thesis or dissertation option, the International Student Advisor will contact the student’s Graduate Studies Specialist and request the dates the student defended and submitted their library thesis or dissertation before issuing the card.

If the student is a non-thesis graduate student or an undergraduate student, the student’s International Student Advisor will verify the graduation date in PeopleSoft before issuing the card.

  • After we confirm program completion, the student can come to the office during walk-in advising hours to complete the exit interview and obtain the OPT card.
  • The student must submit the Missouri S&T Exit Form before the OPT card is issued.

Once you have completed your academic program, you may not do any type of unpaid/paid employment until you have received your approved OPT/EAD card. 

1. Student must report by e-mail any change in employment, unemployment or personal information within 10 days of a change. Information must include:

  • Employer’s Name.
  • Employer’s Address.
  • Employment start date.
  • If unemployed for more than 10 days, report the date unemployment began.
  • Any change in student’s name.
  • Any change in SEVIS address (home country address).
  • Report in Joe’ss any change in local address.

2. Student may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during the initial 12 month OPT period.
3. Student is only authorized to work during the dates listed on the OPT card.
4. Student must be employed in their field of study.
5. Student must work at least 20 hours per week.

1. While OPT is pending

  • If a student travels outside the United States before the OPT application is approved, the student must have the current I-20 signed for travel. Student should also have their OPT receipt, employment offer letter or proof of employment from your employer, if available.

2. After OPT is approved

  • If the student travels outside the United States after the OPT is approved and the student does not have a job offer, the student may be denied reentry into the United States.

3. If the student is employed, time spent outside the United States during OPT counts an unemployment against the 90 day limits, unless the student is either:

  • Employed during a period of leave authorized by an employer.
  • Traveling as part of his or her employment.

4. While traveling outside the U.S. the student should have in their possession original I-20 with travel authorization signature, OPT/EAD card and proof of employment (letter from employer or most recent pay stub).

5. Be advised, while traveling is allowed during application period, the student assumes the risk of not being allowed back into the U.S.

Eligibility:

  • F-1 students approved for standard post-completion optional practical training based on a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field that appears on the DHS STEM-Designated Degree Program List can apply to USCIS for a one-time 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months). ** An individual is eligible for only one 17-month STEM OPT extension. According to SEVP, this is a lifetime limit.
  • Extension can be applied for as early as 120 days before current OPT ends.
  • Extension cannot be applied for after current OPT ends.
  • Employment Must be a paid position (volunteer work is not allowed)
  • Employer must be registered in the E-Verify program.
  • Student must submit a six month and twelve month validation report to their International Student Advisor with the following information:

Full legal name
Employer’s address
Employment Start date
Current U.S. address

*Failure to submit these validation reports can result in a termination of your SEVIS record.

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Employment & Volunteering

Nonprofit organizations frequently depend on the service and commitment of volunteers as well as labor of employees.  At first glance, the simple difference between these two types of workers is that employees get paid and volunteers don’t.  International student and scholars cannot accept paid/unpaid positions without approved work authorization.  Although, volunteering may appear simple, it can be very complex and could have many pitfalls that could result in risking the international student or scholar’s immigration status.  The U.S. Department of Labor regulations govern legal volunteering and enforce sanctions for violations of regulation.  The information below will explore the definitions of employment versus volunteering and what factors the US Department of Labor may use to determine valid volunteer status.

Employment is an agreement between an employer and an employee that the employee will provide certain services on the job, and in the employer’s designated workplace, to facilitate the accomplishment of the employer’s organization’s goals and mission, in return for compensation.

A volunteer is defined as a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task without pay.  Under section 3(e)(4)(A) of the FLSA and 29 C.F.R. 553.101 and 553.103, United States Department of Labor defines volunteers as individuals who volunteer or donate their services, usually on a part-time basis, for public service, religious or humanitarian objectives, not as employees and without contemplation of pay, and are not considered employees of the religious charitable or similar non-profit organizations that receive their services. These individuals are not taking the place of regular paid employees.

To determine whether an individual is a true volunteer engaged in “ordinary volunteerism,” the Department of Labor considers a number of factors; however, no single factor is determinative.  The factors include:

  • Is the entity that will benefit/receive services from the volunteer a nonprofit organization?
  • Is the activity less than a full-time occupation?
  • Are the services offered freely and without pressure or coercion?
  • Are the services of the kind typically associated with volunteer work?
  • Have regular employees been displaced to accommodate the volunteer?
  • Does the worker receive (or expect) any benefit from the entity to which it is providing services?

A volunteer position at the nonprofit organization is likely to be regarded as “ordinary volunteerism” and safely exempt from the minimum wage requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act if you can answer “yes” to the first four questions and “no” to the final two questions.

For more information regarding the US Department of Labor and Fair Labor Standards Act, please visit: http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/docs/volunteers.asp.

Missouri S&T Student Employees are defined as employees who are enrolled as students at Missouri S&T and whose primary association with the university is related to the pursuit of an academic program.  Due to immigration regulations governing F-1 and J-1 visa holders, Missouri S&T international students are limited to 20 hours per week per academic semester, and can work full-time during academic breaks.

Students who meet the following criteria are eligible to work in a student title:

  • The individual must be enrolled at the Missouri S&T.  Enrollment during a summer is not required as long as the student was enrolled during the spring semester, or is admitted or enrolled for the fall semester.
  • The individual’s association with the University must primarily relate to the pursuit of an academic program.
  • The individual’s employment is not required to be in his/her field of study if an undergraduate but may be required for graduate assistantship appointments.

Missouri S&T Volunteers make an important contribution to the success of the University.  Faculty, staff, and international students must use judgement and care in the use of volunteers.  In accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the University considers a volunteer to be an individual who performs hours of service for the University for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered. See University of Missouri HR-513 Volunteers.

Individuals, who are employed by the university in any capacity, may also volunteer hours of service to the University.  Employees paid on an hourly basis are restricted to services that are not the same as or similar to the type of services for which they are employed.  Similar services are defined as activities requiring the same skills/knowledge or that directly or indirectly support the work for which an individual is compensated.

A department’s senior administrator is responsible for the approval of volunteer assignments.

For more information regarding the University of Missouri student employees and procedures, please visit: https://www.umsystem.edu/ums/fa/management/records/forms/studentemployee

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