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Work Authorization for International Students

As an international student compliant with all aspects of your F-1 status, you have a few options for US work authorization.  

On-Campus Employment: Work part-time on campus in a Lesley Works job. Find a Lesley Works job on campus. Part-time on-campus employment of less than 20 hours per week is allowed during school sessions. Full-time on campus employment of more than 20 hours per week is allowed during Lesley’s school vacation periods.  

International students are not eligible for Federal Work Study jobs, so when you look for a job on campus, be sure to apply only to Lesley Works positions. 

Off-Campus Employment options all require pre-approval through issuance of a new Lesley I-20. Any unauthorized off-campus employment, internship, fieldwork, or practicum without prior I-20 approval will result in loss of legal status.  

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) – Pre and Post Completion
  • STEM Extension OPT
  • Severe Economic Hardship
  • Special Student Relief (SSR)
  • Curricular Practical Training

    Note: Students on a Graduate Certificate I-20 are not eligible for any off-campus work or internship, practicum, or fieldwork. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) will not be issued to graduate certificate students. Depending on their previous US immigration history, they may be eligible for post-completion.

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a type of work authorization where you can work off campus in your field of study to earn academic credit or to complete a degree requirement. 

    The job can be paid or unpaid. It can include internships, practicums, fieldwork, and co-operative education. If your program doesn’t offer such a course, talk to a professor about doing an independent study for internship credit.  

    If you’re doing any type of practicum or internship, you should apply for Curricular Practical Training, even if your work experience is unpaid. 

    There is a 12-month limit of full-time Curricular Practical Training per academic level, including any full-time CPT previously issued at Lesley or any other US school for the same education level.  Anyone exceeding this limit will lose their Optional Practical Training (OPT) eligibility. Part-time CPT, however, does not impact OPT eligibility. Full-time CPT is anything over 20 hours per week. 

    You must be a current, full-time student in good academic standing to be eligible. Your internship needs to be in the same semester you are authorized to work.  

    Lesley’s International Student Services Office authorizes you to work by creating a new I-20 for you. You must wait for the I-20. Once you are issued the I-20 CPT approval, you may work during the dates, hours, and for the company indicated on the I-20. If you drop your internship course, you need to stop working and contact International Student Services at iss@lesley.edu immediately for an updated I-20. 

    Check this section of our site for additional information, including the Curricular Practical Training application form. Contact iss@lesley.edu for additional CPT information.

  • Optional Practical Training

    In Optional Practical Training (OPT), you can work in an off-campus job related to your field of study, and commensurate to your degree level. Optional Practical Training while you’re a student still working on your degree is (Pre-Completion OPT).  Or save your OPT time for when you complete your degree – this is referred to as (Post-Completion OPT). 

    You can work up to a total of 12 months for Pre- and Post-Completion OPT combined. 

    OPT is based on academic level. Any OPT previously issued at Lesley or other US school for the same degree level will be deduced from the 12-month total allotment for same academic level.  

    Pre-Completion OPT 

    You can apply to do part-time Pre-Completion OPT during the Fall and Spring semesters while you still have classes to take. Or apply to do full-time Pre-Completion OPT during summers. If you’re a graduate student with only your thesis or dissertation remaining, you may do Pre-Completion OPT during Fall or Spring semester while continuing to be registered for the thesis/dissertation continuation course.  

    To be eligible for Pre-Completion OPT you must: 

    • Be a current Lesley University student in good academic standing.
    • Have completed at least 2 full-time semesters in F-1 status.

    Post-Completion OPT 

    Post-Completion OPT is work authorization you are eligible for after you have completed your degree requirements. As previously mentioned, if you have not yet used your OPT allotment for the degree level that you are applying for, then you are eligible to apply.  

    Apply for Optional Practical Training 

    It takes about 3+ months to get approved, so start the process early. 

    1. Apply online for your Post-Completion OPT I-20. You always need an I-20 from Lesley International Student Services recommending either Pre or Post OPT.  If you apply to USCIS without the Lesley I-20 OPT recommendation, you will be denied.  

    2. Schedule an appointment with the Lesley International Student Advisor at iss@lesley.edu for more detailed information on the OPT application process.  

    3. If OPT petition to US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) is approved, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) work card in the mail. You may not start working until you receive your EAD and the first date on the card has been reached.  

    When are you eligible to apply for Post OPT? 

    If you’re applying for Post-Completion OPT, USCIS will accept your application as early as 90 days before and as late as 60 days after your academic program completion date. This refers to the last day of the term you complete your degree requirements, which may differ than your I-20 completion date.  Remember that the I-20 completion date was an estimated date. The Post OPT deadline is based on when you finish your degree requirements. 

    You’ll need to choose a start and end date on your Post-Completion OPT application. The earliest you can start working is the day after your program completion date. The latest you can start working is 60 days after your completion date. Our International Students Services Office can help you plan your timeline. 

    STEM Extension for Optional Practical Training 

    Certain students who have earned a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) can extend their Optional Practical Training for 24 months beyond the 12-month limit, for a total of 3 years of OPT. 

    Here at Lesley, only a few degrees are STEM eligible. To see if you are in a STEM field, check the “Major 1” field on your I-20 form. If the number listed below your major on your I-20 is on this STEM CIP CODE list you are eligible to apply for a STEM extension I-20.  The I-20 will be submitted to USCIS along with Form I-983 training plan completed by you and your employer.  

    You’ll need to have a job from an E-Verify employer to be eligible. And your employer must file a training plan with you. 

    Note on graduate programs with licensure requirements: There is not a specific post-graduation immigration status to allow someone to fulfill their post-graduation professional licensure work requirements. Review the Lesley Licensure & Credentialing Information and discuss the option of completing all or part of your post-graduation licensure requirements from outside of the US with your Lesley academic advisor.

    Contact International Student Services to apply for the STEM extension. If you’re eligible, you’ll need to apply for a STEM OPT I-20 before your Post-Completion OPT ends. USCIS will need to receive it before the expiration date of your OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD).  Check the Study in the States website for additional STEM information. Contact iss@lesley.edu to help you with any questions.  

  • Severe Economic Hardship

    If you have encountered a major financial change since the issuance of your Lesley I-20 due to unforeseen economic circumstances beyond your control, you can consider applying for Severe Economic Hardship work authorization. The Lesley International Student Advisor can provide additional information and help determine if you qualify for an Economic Hardship I-20. The I-20 will then be submitted to USCIS for final approval of this type of work authorization.  

    Special Student Relief (SSR)  

    Special Student Relief (SSR), may be an option for some students under limited situations as set by the US Department of Homeland Security. Visit this Department of State website, and contact iss@lesley.edu with your questions.  

  • Social Security Information

    US employers require that their employees have a Social Security Number (SSN). F-1 students need a special letter from Lesley’s International Student Advisor to apply for an SSN. An SSN alone does not provide US work authorization. An F-1 status student will always require a corresponding I-20 or an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to be work eligible. Contact iss@lesley.edu for detailed Social Security information.  

  • Looking for US Jobs

    F-1 status students will always need prior approval and issuance of a new Lesley Form I-20 authorizing any type of off-campus work, internship, practicum, or fieldwork experience (paid or unpaid). In most cases the student will also need an Employment Authorization Document (EAD work card) from US Citizenship & Immigration Services. Contact iss@lesley.edu for assistance and information on a US Job Search. Students in the last semester of their Lesley program may also want to visit the Lesley Career Resource Center to meet with a career coach. Career coaches are available to support with American resumes and cover letters, and to help you apply for internships and professional jobs. They can also support you around interview skills and many other career issues/questions. Schedule appointments using Handshake or email for assistance.

  • Avoid Scams & Frauds

    Protect your banking, credit card, social security, I-20, passport, and critical information. Report any suspicious call or email to Lesley Campus Safety at t 617-349-8888.

    Check these trusted sites for additional information:

    Beware of ICE Imposters

    USCIS Page on Scams, Fraud, and Misconduct

    Students: Read these Tips to Avoid Scams | Study in the States (dhs.gov)

    NEVER provide your Social Security Number (SSN) via text or email, not even to our office.

    A legitimate employer only asks for this information during your first three days of employment through protected hiring platforms - NEVER during the job search process and never through email or text.

Contact International Student Services