Work Authorization

There are two work benefits available to F-1 students. These benefits require you to follow immigration procedures, maintain your status, and receive authorization from your ISC advisor. 

*Note: On-campus work at Seattle University does NOT require work authorization from the ISC or USCIS while a student in F-1 status.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training allows F-1 students to gain work experience off-campus in their field of study. While most students choose to use their practical training after they complete their studies, you can also start practical training while you are still in school (Pre-Completion OPT). You must be in the United States on a F-1 Visa for at least one academic year (3 consecutive quarters) before you are eligible for OPT.

Applications for Optional Practical Training are done through the mail. The process for obtaining authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) takes about 60 - 90 days. The International Student Center will assist you in completing the application and must recommend your application before it is sent to USCIS. The maximum time for doing practical training is 12 months full-time.


Many students choose to apply for Post-OPT to gain experience in their field of study after graduation. You can apply for Post-OPT as early as 90 days before your I-20 program end date, and as late as the end of your 60-day grace period (60 days after your I-20 program end date). 


During the school year, you can work up to 20 hours per week (part-time) while maintaining your full-time student status. During the summer you can choose to apply for part-time or full-time practical training. You do not need to have a job offer before you apply, but you must be sure that the job you are doing is closely related to your major and appropriate for your level of education. 

If you want to do part-time Pre-Completion OPT, it counts as half time (example: 4 months part-time = 2 months full-time). You can do part of your practical training before you graduate, and part of it after, although each separate period of practical training requires a $410 fee payable the Department of Homeland Security.

STEM OPT Extension

Students who obtained a degree in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) can be eligible to apply for a 2-year extension after their initial 12 months of Post-OPT. Students must apply for their STEM extension before their initial OPT end date, and can apply as early as 90 days before their OPT end date. To be eligible for a STEM OPT extension, your employer must also be registered in the E-Verify database. 

To get more information about Optional Practical Training, you are required to attend the monthly OPT Workshop offered by the International Student Center.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training is another type of training, either paid or unpaid, available to students who are registered for internship credit that applies toward their degree/certificate requirements. In order to apply for CPT, you must be registered for a course at Seattle University that requires off-campus employment, such as an internship course, and you must get a letters from your academic program and employer.

Students are only eligible to apply for CPT after maintaining F-1 status for 3 consecutive quarters, or one academic year. In addition, students should be careful not do engage in CPT for an entire 12 months working full-time. If students use a full 12 months of CPT, they are no longer eligible for Optional Practical Training. Part-time CPT counts as half time (example: 4 months part-time = 2 months full-time).


An unpaid internship where the work is related to your major still requires CPT authorization, according to USCIS. If, however, your role is purely volunteer work, you do not need CPT authorization. 

What is Volunteering?

  • Donating time with an origanization whose primary purpose is charitable or humanitarian
  • You don't receive any kind of payment or compensation
  • The activity is unrelated to your field of study or intended profession

If your position does not follow all of the above guidelines, then you may need CPT authorization for your unpaid internship. Please speak with your immigration advisor for more information.

You can apply for curricular practical training (CPT) if your degree program requires you to do an internship and it is a paid position. To apply for CPT, you must have:

1. Job offer letter from a specific employer indicating: 

  • Job title
  • Dates of employment
  • Number of hours of work per week
  • Location of employment
  • Description of responsibilities

2. Letter from academic advisor/faculty who is knowledgeable of the internship.  

The letter should include:

  • Graduation date for program
  • Indication that internship is required of all students to complete the program and is an integral part of the curriculum. It must be listed in the school's course catalog, Bulletin of Information.
  • Number of credits and the name of the faculty member teaching/supervising the internship. If no credit is assigned then must include description of how faculty/supervisor track the progress of internship. For example, how do students report to the faculty/supervisor on the nature of the internship, will there be a written or oral report to be prepared at the end of the internship, or any other methods used to monitor student's progress in meeting the curriculum objective(s).
  • Objective(s) for internship
  • Employer, location of employment and position title
  • Dates of employment and number of hours of work per week
  • Detail how the particular tasks the student undertakes in his/her employment compliments his/her course work

Once you have the above two letters, bring them to the International Student Center (ISC). The ISC will review your records and documentation for curricular practical training. If you meet all requirements according to immigration regulations for curricular practical training, we will endorse the necessary work permit for you to start your internship.

Please Note Curricular practical training will require concurrent full-time coursework to maintain lawful status as a student.

OPT Workshop

Students interested in OPT must attend an OPT Workshop, which are offered monthly (Fall through Spring quarters).

Please visit the Events site for details on the next OPT Workshop.

Introduction to Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is “practical training?”

Practical training is a temporary work authorization for F-1 visa students, granted by the United States government, designed to give students an opportunity to gain working experience in their field of study prior to (pre-completion) or after graduation (post-completion).

What kind of job can I get?

The jobs you apply for must be closely related to your major field of study, and appropriate to your level of education. The job can be anywhere in the United States.

Off-Campus Employment Options

Who is eligible?

Students who have been in the United States and in F-1 visa status for at least one academic year, and are currently in status as a full-time student, or are in their last quarter of degree completion.

Who is ineligible?

  • Students who entered on an F-1 visa, but did not follow such regulations as completing a full course-load each quarter, or keeping their documents valid.
  • Students who have worked illegally in the United States.

When can I do practical training?

  • Most students choose to do twelve months of full-time (min 20-40 hours/week) training after they complete their degree (Post-Completion Optional Practical Training – Post OPT).
  • However, you also have the option of doing your training part-time while you are still a full-time student. You can work up to 20 hours a week during the time school is in session, as long as you are able to complete a fulltime course load at the same time. Part-time (pre-completion) training is counted against the 12-month total as follows: 2 months part-time training=1 month full-time training.

When should I apply?


Post-completion training

Pre-completion training


It is recommended you apply as early as 90 days before the completion of all degree requirements. You must apply within 60 days of your graduation date.

Recommended as early as 90 days before you would like to start working.


When can I start working?


Post-completion training

Pre-completion training


You can request a particular day to start and end your training when you apply.   The start date you request can be, at the earliest, the day after you complete all degree requirements, and at the latest, 60 days after. You cannot start working before you receive your EAD, or before the start date on the EAD.

You can request any start date and end date of your training, as long as you maintain your full-time student status during the duration of your training. You cannot start working before you receive your EAD, or before the start date on the EAD.

Where should I send my application?

  • You cannot apply directly for this benefit. You need to apply through the International Student Center (ISC) at Seattle University. To apply, you will need to make an appointment at the ISC and bring in all of your documents. We will take care of the necessary paperwork and make sure your application is complete before we mail it in.

How long does it take?

  • You will receive a receipt called the “Notice of Action” 2-4 weeks after submitting your application. 1-2 months after your receipt arrives, your EAD card will be mailed directly to the ISC.

How will I know if my application has been approved?

  • Via the ISC, you will receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card in the mail with the dates you are authorized to work. Once you have received your receipt notice, you can also check the status of your individual application at http://www.uscis.gov.

How can I get more information about practical training?

  • First attend an OPT Workshop and then if you have any further questions about practical training contact the International Student Center [(206) 296-6260 or isc@seattleu.edu].  If you would like assistance with resume writing, interview skills, or other job search strategies, please contact Career Services or the Albers Placement Center on campus.

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  • Optional Practical Training Application procedure

    1. Attend a mandatory OPT workshop. This workshop must be completed before requesting an advising appointment. OPT workshops happen quarterly and those who are graduating will be given priority.
    2. Request a letter from your academic advisor indicating your major and date of degree completion. The letter must also include a few lines stating how participating in practical training would be beneficial for your education.
    3. Fill out items 1-16 on Form I-765, and sign (your signature should remain between the two lines as they will scan this signature for your card) and date it.
    4. Complete the OPT Request Form.
    5. Make 2 copies each of your passport information page, current F-1 visa, I-94 paper card or electronic number, and all previous U.S. Employment Authorization Documents (EAD card). If you're unsure what you need, we can make copies for you. It is also recommended you bring the originals for inspection in case additional copies are necessary.
    6. Prepare a check or money order to the Department of Homeland Security for $380.
    7. Have two U.S. passport photos (full frontal view, 2x2 inches, all white background, no more than 30 days old when application is filed).
    8. Call the International Student Center (ISC) at 206.296.6260 to set up an appointment for practical training and bring along items 2-7 listed above, as well as all I-20s you have received from Seattle University or other schools. Please allow at least an hour to complete the appointment. Note: Same day appointments are not available.

    The ISC will review your application and submit a recommendation for practical training by updating your record in SEVIS. Please note deadlines listed in this packet. Allow one hour for the appointment and please make sure you have the following items with you when you come for your OPT appointment:

    • Letter from your academic advisor
    • All I-20s, including previous schools
    • Passport, I-94 paper card/electronic number
    • Check or money order for $380 : (How to write a check)
    • Two U.S. passport photos

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