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Work Authorization for International Students

As an international student holding an F-1 student visa, you have a few options for working while in the United States.

  • Work part-time on campus in a Lesley Works job. Find a Lesley Works job on campus.
  • Work off campus through Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training, in a job related to your field.

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.

No matter the type of work, you’ll need to get authorization. Here’s how.

  • Get a Social Security Number

    All students have to submit a W-4 Form (PDF) and an I-9 Form (PDF) to their employer each year before they can start working. And if you’re on an F-1 Visa, you’ll also need to get a Social Security Number (SSN).

    • Get a job offer letter from a Lesley University department that wants to hire you. The letter must include this information:
      • Department name
      • Job title
      • Job description
      • Employment start date
      • Number of hours you'll work each week
      • Your supervisor's name, job title, and phone number
    • Get a letter from Lesley’s International Student Services. Email This letter will tell the Social Security Administration that you are working.
    • Go to any Social Security Administration Office. The closest one is at 10 Fawcett Street, Cambridge, MA. Take these documents with you:
      • I-20
      • Original job offer letter, signed by the manager
      • The letter from International Students Services
      • Passport
      • I-94 (Find yours online.)
      • Form ss-5. (PDF). You can also complete this form at the Social Security Office.

        Your Social Security Card (that has your Social Security Number) will probably arrive about 2 weeks after you apply.                       
  • Curricular Practical Training

    Curricular Practical Training 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.

    You must be a current, full-time student to be eligible. Your internship needs to be in the same semester you are authorized to work. If you drop your internship course, you need to stop working and contact our International Student Services Office immediately.

    Apply for Curricular Practical Training

    Lesley’s International Student Services Office authorizes you to work by creating a new I-20 for you. You may work during the dates, hours, and for the company indicated on the I-20.

    Complete this Curricular Practical Training Application.

  • Optional Practical Training

    In Optional Practical Training (OPT), you can work in an off-campus job related to your field of study. Do Optional Practical Training while you’re a student here (Pre-Completion OPT) or after you complete your degree (Post-Completion OPT).

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

    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 left to do, you may do Pre-Completion OPT during Fall or Spring semester.

    To be eligible for Pre-Completion OPT you must:

    • Be a current Lesley University student
    • 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. You can do up to 1 year of Post-Completion OPT.

    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

    2. Next, work with our International Students Services Office to mail an application to the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). (You can see more information about this on the application form.)
    3. When approved, you’ll get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in the mail. You may not start working until you receive your EAD and the first date on the card has arrived.

    If you’re applying for Post-Completion OPT, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services will accept your application as early as 90 days before and as late as 60 days after your completion date—the last day of the term you complete your degree requirements.

    You’ll need to choose start and end dates for your Post-Completion OPT. 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 List (PDF), you’re eligible for the STEM extension.

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

    Contact International Student Services to apply for the STEM extension. If you’re eligible, you’ll need to apply before your Post-Completion OPT ends.

  • Severe Economic Hardship

    Severe Economic Hardship is a type of off-campus work authorization for international students facing unanticipated financial difficulties. To learn more, email

Contact International Student Services