As an international student, you may want to gain some work experience while you are in the U.S. or earn some income while you are in school. In this section, you will find information on the rules and regulations of on-campus employment, including about social security numbers, Optional Practical Training (OPT), and Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Cap-Gap extension and options available to students in J-1 status.
On-campus employment must be performed either:
- on the 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 considered on-campus employment.
In the case of off-campus locations, the “educational affiliation” must be
- associated with the school's established curriculum or
- related to contractually funded research projects at the graduate level.
On-campus jobs are listed under ‘Cuse Works on Handshake. To look for an on campus job, you must look on Handshake . International students need to realize that some on campus jobs require a Federal Work Study Award for which international students are not eligible. Be sure to read all the requirements of positions you are applying for.
On-campus employment must not exceed 20 hours a week while school is in session.
You may work more than 20 hours a week during authorized school breaks:
- Summer 2021: May 22, 2021 to August 29, 2021
- Thanksgiving Break 2021: November 20, 2021 to November 28, 2021
- Winter Break 2021-2022: December 18, 2021 to January 17, 2022
- Spring Break 2022: March 12, 2022 to March 20, 2022
- Summer 2022: May 5, 2022 to August 28, 2022
See the Syracuse University Academic Calendar for official dates and dates into the future.
A student must be enrolled full-time for the current semester or be registered full-time for the upcoming semester, if the semester has not yet begun. You must be registered for classes in order to use on-campus employment authorization to work on Syracuse University’s Campus.
A student may not use on-campus employment authorization after completing a course of study. A student authorized for F-1 practical training or J-1 academic training may be able to be hired by Syracuse University in a job directly related to their field of study but it would not be through Student Employment.
I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Process
The Immigration Reform and Control Act requires all U.S. employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all new employees, citizens and non-citizens alike.
By law, I-9 verification must be completed within the first 3 days of employment. Even if you already have a Social Security Number (SSN), you must still complete the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification process.
You will be provided with instructions to complete an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form by the Student Employment Office or Human Resources.
You will likely need to provide the following documentation to complete your I-9 for on-campus employment:
- Original current I-20 or DS-2019
- Printout of your electronic I-94
- Your Social Security Card (if you have one).
- Your I-9 will remain valid until the end date that is indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 form as long as you are a registered student. If you extend your I-20 or DS-2019, take your new I-20 or DS-2019 to the Student Employment Office, 201 Steele Hall, to update your I-9. If you complete your program of study before the program end date on your I-20 your on campus employment authorization ends and you must stop working on campus unless you have other authorization to work (OPT).
- If your employment changes from one SU department to another, it’s not necessary to complete an additional I-9 as long as Syracuse University remains your employer.
- If you are an SU Athlete: Complete the Student-Athlete Employment Clearance Process at the Manley Field House Compliance Office and obtain a copy of your Student-Athlete Employment Clearance Form. You must submit a photocopy of your completed Student-Athlete Compliance Form to Student Employment when you complete your I-9.
- If you are a J-1 Student not sponsored by SU: Obtain a letter from your J Sponsor (e.g. IIE, AMIDEAST, IREX, Fulbright, LASPAU) approving your on-campus employment. You must submit a copy of this letter to Student Employment when completing your I-9.
You must complete the Foreign National Information System Form so that the University can properly withhold estimated taxes from your income or apply a tax treaty to your earnings. Payroll will send you a link to the Foreign National Information System Form shorty after you are hired. The data collected allows SU to determine your tax withholding status.
Any questions you may have regarding the form should be directed to Payroll at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Center for International Services will not be able to answer questions related to this form.
Social Security Number:
If you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN), you will have to apply for one since U.S. federal law requires all individuals employed in the U.S. to have a SSN. SSN’s are used to track income so that it can be taxed properly. An SSN is not required to begin employment but must be obtained after being hired. See our information on applying for a Social Security Number for more details.
If you receive authorization for off-campus work (e.g. OPT Authorization with an EAD Card, CPT Work Authorization or Academic Training Authorization), an I-9 must be completed with your employer within three days of the start of your new employment. Your employer should provide you with additional instructions and all inquiries about the process should be directed to your employer.
Applying for Employment Under Economic Hardship
Economic Hardship is an immigration term that refers to a specific definition for the need to work. For the F-1 and J-1 student the meaning of this term includes such criteria as: "a severe and unforeseen circumstance" which results in a demonstrated need for employment.
For example, such circumstance could be a devaluation of your home county currency (usually more than 25%) against the U.S. dollar. As a result you would have to show that your family or government was sponsoring you and that an insufficient amount of funding was being sent to you. In addition, there are certain time related issues for eligibility.
Since the process for F-1 and J-1 obtaining employment under Economic Hardship is treated differently, you will need to make an appointment with a Center for International Services advisor. This personal advising session will enable the advisor to fully discuss your needs and eligibility for this type of employment.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is training that is either:
- Required for all candidates for a degree or
- Required for a course (e.g. Internship, Practicum, Experience Credit, etc.) in a degree program.
CPT cannot be in a minor or previous major. CPT can be part-time (20 hours a week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours a week). CPT is designed to provide work experience directly related and integral to a student's degree of study. It is not intended for general, ongoing work authorization. Traditional volunteer work (e.g. at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter) does not require CPT. However any internship, even if it is unpaid, requires CPT authorization.
- A student must be in valid F-1-status and have been a full-time student in the U.S. for one academic year (Fall and Spring semesters, or Spring and Fall) before participating in CPT.
- A student must have a written job offer on company letterhead before applying for CPT. The job offer must indicate the position, the exact dates of employment, the number of hours per week and the company’s address.
- A student must continue to maintain full-time student status for the duration of the CPT. This means 12 credits per semester for an undergraduate student and 9 credits per semester or securing a Certificate of Full-Time Status for a graduate student. If it is your final semester and you do not need a full course load to graduate you must complete a last semester memo and turn it in to the Center for International Services.
- A student must continue to make normal degree progress, as defined by their department and the Graduate School, while participating in CPT. This could require course-work during the CPT period. Students should verify that participation in CPT would not interfere with their ability to take courses required for degree completion that may not be taught in subsequent semesters prior to the program end date indicated on their I-20. CPT should not delay degree completion beyond the program end date listed on the Form I-20.
- Approval from the department is required for CPT. Individual departments may have their own academic requirements for, or limitations on, participation in CPT. Examples include a minimum GPA, a pre-requisite course and/or a number of credits taken in the department's curriculum.
Types of CPT:
- Required for the Degree - An internship is a required part of a structured degree program; everyone in the program must do an internship or they will not be able to complete their program. In this case, a student does not need to register for credit for the CPT experience.
- Integral to the Curriculum - An internship is not a required part of the program's curriculum, but the internship is considered integral to the academic experience. In this case, a student must register for at least one credit per semester of CPT experience.
- Dissertation Research - A doctoral student must engage in off-campus work to complete research necessary for a Ph.D. Dissertation. In this case, a student must register for GRD 998 and/or a department-specific dissertation credit and file a Certificate of Full Time Status. The academic department’s recommendation letter must specifically indicate that this CPT experience is for dissertation research.
Duration of CPT:
- CPT is authorized by semester (Fall, Spring, or Summer). Therefore, students must submit a new CPT request, including all the necessary documents, for each semester, including summer session(s).
- Participation in CPT may begin on or after the last day of the previous semester. CPT must end before the first day of the following semester. For example, CPT can be extended through the winter break, but must be complete before the first day of spring semester. Spring semester CPT must end before the first day of summer session, and so on.
- A student may participate in CPT as much as their program will allow and their academic department will authorize. However, a student will be ineligible for OPT if he/she participates in greater than 364 days of full time CPT.
How to Apply for CPT:
- Attend a Curricular Practical Training Seminar, see our website here for OPT Seminar dates, times and locations.
- Secure an internship/practicum/field experience and complete the required paperwork with your department. .
- Obtain a Recommendation Letter from your academic advisor or departmental chairperson that indicates that this CPT internship experience is an integral part of your degree program. (Please include all information indicated in the sample.)
- Make a copy of your internship offer/placement letter confirming your internship and submit it with your CPT application materials.
- Complete and print the Training Data Sheet & Student Responsibility Checklist. This form is fillable; please type responses directly into it. This will reduce the likelihood that your handwriting will be misunderstood. Read, check, and sign the Student Responsibilities Checklist in the appropriate section.
- Come to the Center for International Services during PT processing times (Mondays from 3-5 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.). Bring the above listed documents along with proof that you have registered your CPT experience for credit in the semester(s) it will occur. (e.g., registration form, MySlice registration screen), your original passport, visa, and most recent I-94 Arrival-Departure record.
- If you are outside of the Syracuse area and cannot come for PT processing, please scan and email the required documents to email@example.com for processing. Please be sure to select your mailing option and put the correct mailing address on your PT Data Sheet. If you select express mailing, please make sure to follow the instructions on our website here for setting up and paying for express mailing. Note: CPT cannot be processed for individuals outside of the United States.
Impact of I-20 Extensions
- A student must have an extenuating academic or medical reason for an extension of program end date of their I-20 Form.
- Failure to complete required course-work or sufficient credit hours to graduate because of CPT is not a compelling academic or medical reason for an extension.
- Immigration regulations do not allow I-20 extensions due to delay caused by participation in CPT.
- Participation in CPT is not valid enough reason for an extension of program.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is authorization for “training” before or after completion of your degree in a position directly related to your program of study. All F-1 students are eligible for one year of authorization at each degree level.
In order to be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), you must meet all of the following requirements:
- Be in F-1 status enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year in the U.S. prior to submitting an OPT application. Your enrollment may be fulfilled at Syracuse University, a previous University, or between multiple universities.
- Intend to obtain employment in a position directly related to your major field of study.
- Have not completed more than 364 days of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
- Have not utilized an equivalent of 12 months of OPT work authorization in current degree level
- Have not already completed a degree at a higher level. For example, have previously completed a Ph.D. degree and are now completing a master’s degree and wanting to apply for OPT
- Are not in an English language training program.
When OPT Can Occur:
Prior to Degree Completion:
- Part-time or Full-time: During your annual vacation if eligible and if you intend to register for the next term or session. (Pre-completion OPT)
- Part-time: While school is in session provided that OPT does not exceed 20 hours per week and you maintain your full-time student status. (Pre-completion OPT)
- Full-time: If you are in a master's or doctoral degree program, after completion of all course requirements for the degree, excluding thesis, dissertation or equivalent. (Can be either pre-completion or post-completion OPT. Please talk with an SCIS advisor about which might be most appropriate for your case.)
After Degree Completion:
- Full-time: After completion of your degree. (Post-completion OPT).
- Any OPT utilized prior to degree completion will be deducted from the initial 12 month allowable benefit.
Below is a comparison of Pre- and Post-Completion OPT benefits when one’s course work is complete and only dissertation or thesis is remaining.
- Part-time employment while school is in session; full-time during approved school breaks.
- Unemployment is not counted.
- May extend program end date if eligibility requirements are not met.
- Cannot apply for STEM extension.
- Not eligible for cap-gap extension.
- Full-time or part-time employment.
- Unemployment is counted; maximum unemployment 90 days from OPT start date.
- Cannot extend program end date; must complete dissertation/thesis by end of OPT authorization.
- Eligible to apply for STEM extension if you meet all requirements.
- Eligible for cap-gap extension.
Duration of OPT
Initial OPT applications have a maximum duration eligibility of 12 months for each higher degree level (Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral Degree) you complete.
- If you have used part of your OPT employment benefit during your degree program, you are only entitled to the remaining benefit, not a new 12 months. You will not receive additional OPT time if you complete another degree at the same level (e.g., two master's degrees) or a lower level (e.g., complete a master's degree and then go back to school to complete a second bachelor's degree).
Also, please note that if you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) after the work authorization start date you requested, you are not eligible to recover the time that passed while you were waiting to receive your EAD card in the mail. You must still stop working on the end date indicated on the EAD card unless you are eligible for a 24 month STEM extension and applied in a timely manner.
When to Apply for OPT
Work authorization for OPT must be obtained from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) so please plan ahead to ensure a timely receipt of your application. If your application is received by USCIS more than 60 days after your *program completion date, you will not be eligible for OPT.
Prior to Degree Completion OPT:
- If you are completing your first academic year of study, you may submit your OPT application 90 days prior to the date you will complete your first year of study provided that the employment will not begin until after an entire year of study has been completed.
- If you have completed one full year of study, you may submit your OPT application as early as 90 days prior to the work authorization start date you requested.
- If you are applying for OPT based on completion of your coursework requirements, you may submit your application as early as 90 days prior to the work authorization start date you requested.
After Program Completion OPT:
- If you are applying for OPT based on completion of your degree, you may submit your application for OPT as early as 90 days prior to your program end date (e.g. if your Program End Date on your I-20 document is May 21 you may apply for your OPT as early as February 20). Please be aware that your application must be received by USCIS by no later than 60 days after the day you complete your program or the program end date indicated on your I-20, whichever occurs first.
*A Note About Completion Dates: The date of the completion of your program is not necessarily the date you participate in graduation ceremonies at the end of the year. Graduate students may complete the requirements for a degree any day of year. Your completion date will be specified by your academic department on the Recommendation Letter that they will provide to you as part of the OPT application process.
OPT Application Process
OPT must be recommended by the Center for International Services on a new I-20 before you can submit an application for OPT to USCIS.
Read all of the OPT information included on the center website OR attend an Optional Practical Training Seminar.
Obtain and complete the following documents:
- Students should obtain the recommendation letter from an academic advisor or departmental chairperson.
- Form G-1145- this form is optional. You should print and complete the form if you would like to receive an email and/or text message notification that USCIS has received your application.
- Form I-765 -this form is used to apply for many different types of employment authorization including OPT; some of the questions will not apply to applicants for OPT. Please do your best to compete the application and we will review it with you when you come for PT Processing
- Part 2-Item 5 (Your U.S. Mailing Address):
- This is the address to which your EAD card (OPT approval) will be sent
- If you are using another person’s address to have your EAD card sent to, you need to write that person’s name in 5.a., the box marked In care of (c/o), Street Number and Name City, State, Zip Code
- When providing an address, please be aware:
- If you have moved and did not provide USCIS with your valid address on your application, your EAD card will be returned to USCIS. USCIS mail is NOT forwarded.
- If your address changes while your application is being processed, please contact the Center for International Services immediately as this may delay your receipt of the EAD card.
- USCIS will not mail EAD cards overseas.
- Be sure to answer Part 2-Item 6, yes or no
- If you answer no to Part 2-Item 6, you must complete Item 7 with the address at which you live
- Part 2- Item 12 (Have you previously filed Form I-765?)
- CPT authorization does not apply to this situation. If you have only applied for CPT previously, you would mark "No."
- Answer "yes" if you applied for an employment authorization document from USCIS before and explain in Part 6. (e.g. OPT, Severe Economic Hardship.)
- Answer "no" if you have never applied for an employment authorization document before.
- Part 2- Item 27 (Eligibility Category)
- For Pre-Completion OPT:(c)(3)(A)
- For Post-Completion OPT:(c)(3)(B)
- For 24-Month STEM OPT Extension:(c)(3)(C)
- Part 3- Items 7.a. and 7.b.-Applicant’s Signature
- Sign the Form I-765 in ink
- Part 4 (Interpreter) and Part 5 (Preparer)-you must include these pages with your application
- You should write “Not Applicable” or “N/A” in the boxes in these items unlessyou used an Interpreter or someone else completed the form for you.
- Part 6-you must include this page with your application
- Complete your name in Items 1.a.-1.c.
- Complete Items 3.a. through 3.d., 4.a.-4.d., 5.a.-5d., etc. IF you answered “Yes” to Item 12-previously filed Form I-765 with USCIS indicate Page 2, Part 2, Item 12 and explain: I previously filed and was approved for OPT from _____ (date) to ______ (date) based on my ____ (level) degree in ____ (field)
- If you were previously approved for CPT leave the boxes blank but explain: I was approved for part-time or full-time CPT from _____ (date) to ______ (date) based on my ____ (level) degree in ____ (field)
- If you attended school in the U.S. on another SEVIS Number indicate: I previously attended school in the U.S. under SEVIS Number N00__________
- Part 2-Item 5 (Your U.S. Mailing Address):
- Training Data Sheet & Student Responsibilities Checklist (read, check, and sign) This form is fillable; Please type responses directly into it.
- Filling in item 18 (Requested Employment Start Date)
- Your start date may be anytime up to 60 days after the program completion date indicated on your academic advisor's letter.
- In general, if you are submitting your OPT application well in advance (3 months early) and already have a job offer, it is advisable to enter a start date that is closer to your/the employer's desired start or your program completion date.
- In general, if you are submitting your application less than 3 months early and/or do not yet have a job offer, you may want to provide a later anticipated start date (towards the end of the 60 days) since you will not receive additional OPT eligibility if your application is not processed by your anticipated start date/you do not find employment immediately.
- Please note that your OPT must be completed within 14 months from your program end date regardless of your requested OPT start date and actual EAD start date.
- Filling in item 19 (Requested Employment End Date):
- The end date must be no later than 12 months from your anticipated start date and within 14 months from your program completion date.
- Filling in item 18 (Requested Employment Start Date)
- Photocopies of your passport, visa, and a printout of your most recent I-94.
- If you were issued an EAD card previously (e.g. for previous OPT for your undergraduate degree, economic hardship employment), photocopy of your previous EAD card (front and back).
- Two identical color 2x2 inches photographs with your name and I-94 number written lightly on the backs. Photos must meet passport specificationsand should be on a white background taken no earlier than 30 days prior to submitting your OPT application.
- Check or money order for $410.00 made payable to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security."
OPT processing is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Check processing dates and times on our website.
- Bring ALL of the documents listed above with you when you attend PT processing.
- If you are outside of the Syracuse area and cannot come for PT processing please scan and email the required documents to firstname.lastname@example.org for processing. Please be sure to select your mailing option and put the correct mailing address on your PT Data Sheet. If you select express mailing please make sure to follow the instructions on our website here for setting up and paying for express mailing. Note: You cannot apply for OPT from outside of the United States. Please send your materials for review and we will hold on to them until you are back in the US and can apply.
- If you will be submitting your application near the end of the 60 days after your program completion grace period, please discuss this with a Center for International Services Advisor during PT processing since your application must be received at USCIS by no later than 60 days after your program completion date.
- It is your responsibility to mail your OPT application documents; the Center for International Services does not mail applications on behalf of students.
Once you have completed all of the above steps, you may mail your completed OPT application packet to the USCIS Service Center. You must mail the application within 30 days of the date the I-20 recommending OPT was issued; it must be received by no later than 60 days after the program completion date indicated on your I-20 requesting OPT.
A completed application must include:
- Check or money order for $410.00 made payable to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security."
- Two 2 x 2 inches passport style photographs taken within the past 30 days with your name and I-94 number written gently on the back of your photos
- Completed and signed in ink Form I-765 (original)
- Photocopy of your documents:
- New I-20 (with recommended OPT dates - see p. 2 of I-20)
- Most recent I-94
- If you were issued an EAD card previously, include a photocopy of the front and back of your EAD
On January 8, 2021, USCIS announced a change in the filing location for F-1 students filing Form I-765 for OPT. Until further notice, all I-765 forms for OPT and required supporting documentation should be sent to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox.
You should not send your OPT application to the Arizona or Texas Lockbox address based on where you live.
If using the U.S. Postal Service (USPS)-use Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express for tracking:
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680
If using Fedex, UPS, or DHL:
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn-3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
USCIS will send an application receipt to you in the mail within 2-3 weeks of receiving your application. It will note the date your application was received and the date the receipt was mailed. In the top right-hand corner, the receipt will also include a receipt number which can be utilized to check the status of your case.
If your application has been approved by USCIS, you should receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card) in the mail within approximately 90-120 days. Please be aware that you may not begin working prior to reaching the start date on your EAD and you must stop working on the end date.
Submit a photocopy of your EAD card to the Center for International Services.
Scanned files, email to: email@example.com.
Application Processing Time
OPT application processing times vary. It is estimated that a typical application will take 2-3 months to process.
Check Status of Your Application
If you have your application receipt number, you are able to check the status of your OPT application online. To do so, you may click on the link provided here.
If, after applying for OPT, you learn you have to take another course:
Your OPT is based on your having completed your degree (undergrads) or at least your coursework (grads). If you learn that you must take an additional course in order to graduate, then you must do the following:
- Make an appointment to talk with a Center for International Services advisor to discuss the consequences to your OPT application and any actions that you need to take.
- If USCIS has not yet processed your OPT application, you can ask them to withdraw it so that you can reapply with later OPT dates. It is at USCIS’s discretion as to whether they will approve your request.
- If USCIS has already approved your OPT, then you cannot withdraw your application, and you may only work 20 hours or less on your OPT until you have completed your required course. The Center for International Services must extend your program end date and issue a new I-20.
- Students in STEM fields cannot apply for a STEM extension unless they have earned their degrees.
If Your OPT Application is outside normal processing times:
If after checking the normal processing times for I-765 OPT applications here you find that your case is beyond the normal processing times you can submit an inquiry to USCIS about your Form I-765 through their case inquiry form.
You should not submit a case inquiry if in the past 60 days, you:
- Received a notice from USCIS about your case,
- Responded to a request for evidence from USCIS, OR
- Received an online update to your case status from USCIS
Requests to Expedite Applications
You may submit a request to USCIS to expedite your case only if you can document one or more of the following criteria:
- Severe financial loss to company or person;
- Emergency situation; For example, the applicant is gravely ill.
- Humanitarian reasons; For example, outbreak of war in the home country.
- Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States; For example, an organization broadcasting in regional areas to promote democratic interests.
- Department of Defense or national interest situation; the request must come from an official U.S. government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government.
- USCIS error; or
- Compelling interest of USCIS.
To make a request to expedite your application, you should call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. When calling, you will need to tell the customer representative that your case is outside the normal processing time and explain why you believe your case meets one of the required criteria.
USCIS reviews all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership. The burden is on the applicant or petitioner to demonstrate that one or more of the expedite criteria have been met. Approval of such requests is discretionary and USCIS reserves the right to request documentation supporting the request to expedite an application or petition.
Reporting Changes of Information
- While on OPT, you remain in F-1 status and employment is required to maintain status. In order to maintain status, you may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment
- As part of your maintenance of status, you are responsible for reporting changes in personal and employment information within 10 days of the change. You may report this change of information in one of two ways:
- Directly to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) through the SEVP Portal. After your OPT is approved and your start date of OPT has been reached, you should receive an email from SEVP instructing you on how to create an SEVP Portal Account. You may use that account to keep the required information up to date in your immigration record.
- To the Center for International Services through the OPT Students Info Update Form. Upon receipt of such information, we will update your SEVIS record in order for you to maintain compliance with U.S. immigration regulations
You must report the following information within 10 days of any change:
- any change of address (within the U.S. or your foreign address)
- any change of name (first, middle, last)
- any periods of unemployment while authorized for OPT
- employer information (name and address) upon obtaining a job and changing jobs
Termination of OPT
OPT authorization is automatically terminated when an F-1 student transfers to another school or begins coursework in a new academic program.
Traveling While on OPT:
Traveling outside of the U.S. when OPT is Pending or Approved (Prior to Degree Completion)
If you will return to the U.S. before you complete your degree requirements (before the program end date on your I-20) you may re-enter the U.S. with the following immigration travel documents:
- Original current, valid I-20 with a travel signature no older than 6 months from the day on which you plan to re-enter the U.S.
- Valid* F-1 U.S. visa
- I-94 Card
- Valid passport
- Transcript or Letter of Registration
- Additional Photo ID (e.g., SU ID)
- Financial Documentation (e.g., bank statements, assistantship letter)
*If you are returning to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or an Adjacent Island, you may not need a valid visa to re-enter the U.S. if you:
- Have a valid travel signature (must be valid 6 months beyond the date you plan to re-enter the U.S.);
- Carry the necessary immigration travel documents listed above; and
- Do not meet any of the criteria posted on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.
Traveling outside of the U.S. When OPT Has Been Approved (After Degree Completion)
If you will return to the U.S. after you complete your degree requirements (after the program end date on your I-20), you must have the following documents to re-enter the U.S.:
- Original new, valid I-20 endorsed for OPT (on p.2) with a travel signature no older than 6 months from the day on which you plan to re-enter the U.S.
- Your EAD card
- A letter from an employer indicating a job offer in your major field of study or that you will be returning to resume your employment
- I-94 Card
- Valid passport
- Valid* U.S. visa
*If you are returning to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or an Adjacent Island, please check above criteria to see if you will require a valid visa to re-enter the United States or consult a Center for International Services Advisor.
It is not advisable to travel outside of the U.S.:
- While OPT authorization is pending; or
- If you have been authorized for OPT but do not have a job to begin/resume
A cap-gap extension automatically extends an eligible F-1 student’s status to bridge the gap between the end of OPT (F-1 status) and start of H-1B status (effective October 1), thereby allowing the student to remain in the US during the “gap.”
The cap-gap extension is available to students who, as of April 1st, were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change-of-status to H-1B petition with the USCIS.
This cap-gap extension will produce one of two outcomes, depending on your individual situation:
- Extension of your OPT work authorization to September 30th. This happens if your approved OPT end date (on your EAD card) is April 1 or later and your employer filed an H-1B petition prior to your OPT end date.
- Extension of your F-1 “duration of status.” If your OPT expired before April 1st and your employer filed an H-1B petition during your 60-day grace period, you are allowed to remain in the US if you otherwise maintain your F-1 status, but you are not authorized to work until the H-1B petition is approved and goes into effect October 1.
Who is eligible for the extension?
Students in all fields of study are eligible for the cap-gap extension as long as the student has not violated the terms or conditions of his or her F-1 status. To qualify for the extension, the student must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that:
- Is subject to the H-1B cap (Petitions filed by "cap exempt" employers do not qualify because the cap-gap is not required and the H-1B can begin any day of the year so it can begin the day after your OPT expires.)
- Has been timely filed (within the acceptance period)
- Requests an employment start date of October 1
- Requests a change of status (rather than consular processing)
How do I obtain a Cap-Gap I-20?
There is no application process for the cap-gap extension. If the H-1B petition has been received or approved, your SEVIS record should automatically reflect the cap-gap extension and your work authorization or F-1 status will be extended to September 30th. It is our experience that it may take 2-3 weeks after your H-1B is receipted for your SEVIS record to be updated with the cap-gap extension.
Please note that your work authorization is automatically extended as long as a viable H-1B application is filed for you BEFORE the end date of your current F-1 OPT. Your employer may require a cap gap I-20 to extend the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form.
Therefore, two to three weeks after you or your employer have received the H-1B receipt notice or approval notice, you may contact the Center for International Services by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a cap-gap I-20:
Write “CAP-GAP extension I-20" in the subject line of your email.
In the body of the email include:
- Last Name, First Name
- SU ID number
- SEVIS ID Number (the N00 number on your I-20):
- H-1B receipt number
- Your current address
- Your employer's name and address
- The address to which you want your new I-20 sent by regular mail or let us know that you have arranged for express mailing.
If you or your employer have not received a receipt notice for an H-1B from USCIS, then your SEVIS record is not likely to have the cap-gap applied to it and we will not be able to produce an I-20 with the cap-gap.
How does my employer update the I-9 with the cap-gap extension of OPT?
Your employer should consult section 6.4.2 of the I-9 Handbook for Employers.
What happens if my H-1B is denied after receiving the cap-gap extension?
If the H-1B petition is denied, you will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the US. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and you must leave the US immediately.
View additional information on the Cap-Gap Extension.
Some students in science, technology, engineering or math programs may be eligible for a 24 month OPT extension.
- The 24-month extension is available upon completion of 12 months of OPT
- The STEM extension is granted in one 24-month period; it cannot be “split” into 2 periods. The employment start date for a STEM extension is the day immediately after the day on which your initial OPT expires
For details on this, review the information available at the US government website’s STEM OPT Hub.
- Completed a degree in qualifying STEM program
- The STEM-designated degree program list includes all STEM fields qualifying an F-1 student for a STEM OPT extension
- The CIP Code assigned to your degree is the number that follows your Major on page 1 of your I-20
- Currently engaging in post-completion OPT (students on pre-completion OPT are not eligible)
- Will be employed by an E-Verify employer
- The student and the E-verify employer complete a Form I-983 Training Plan
- F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Form I-983 because F-1 students may not provide employer attestations on their own behalf. However, STEM OPT applicants can participate in a start-up or small business so long as all regulatory requirements are met. The employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience
- Maintain valid F-1 status
- STEM OPT students must do an annual self-evaluation and must report to the Center for International Services about the progress of the training experience. Students and their employers must sign the self-evaluation prior to submitting it to the Center for International Services, who will include it in the student's record
- Have not accrued more than 90 days of unemployment.
- Submit a timely STEM extension application
- USCIS must receive your STEM Extension application no more than 90 days before your OPT expires and no later than the date your OPT expires
- The employer must participate in USCIS's E-Verify employment eligibility verification program
- The employer must report to the Center for International Services when an F-1 student on a STEM OPT extension terminates or otherwise leaves their employment before the end of the authorized period of STEM OPT. The employer must report this change to the center no later than five business days after the student leaves employment. For more information about employer requirements, please visit the Study in the States Employer Reporting Requirements page
- Both the student and employer are obligated to report to the Center for International Services any material changes to or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan, Form I-983
- These requirements mandate that the company remains in good standing with E-Verify and has the resources to comply with the proposed training plan
Requesting STEM Extension Recommendation from the Center for International Services
- If you are eligible for a STEM extension, please submit the following to email@example.com with “Attn: STEM Extension Application” as the subject of your email
- Attach PDF copies of the documents listed below:
- STEM Extension Data Sheet - including mailing address and document shipping preference
- STEM Student Responsibilities Checklist
- Form I-765 completed and signed
- Form G-1145 completed (if you would like E-Notification)
- Form I-983 Training Plan
- Diploma or final transcript showing the date your degree was awarded
- EAD card
- A copy of the electronic printout of your I-94 or the front and the back of your I-94 card.
The Center for International Services will issue a new I-20 recommending STEM OPT. For shipping options, visit the Document Shipping page on our website.
Please anticipate that processing of your application by the Center for International Services will take a minimum of two business days from the date it is received and may take longer. We are unable to respond to inquiries concerning pending applications unless they have been pending for more than three days. Please only send your application to the firstname.lastname@example.org account, not to individual advisors. Duplicate submissions increase the processing time for everyone.
Submitting your STEM Extension Application to USCIS
A complete application should include:
- Check or money order:
- Check or money order for $410.00 made payable to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security."
- Please Note: USCIS published a final fee rule on August 3, 2020 that was to become effective 60 days later, on October 2, 2020. The rule specified, "Any application, petition, or request postmarked on or after this date must be accompanied with the fees established by this final rule." However, on September 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction and stay on implementation of the 2020 final USCIS fee rule. New fees, form versions, and other changes associated with the final fee rule that were to be effective on October 2, 2020 are now on hold.
- Two 2 x 2 passport style photographs taken within the past 30 days with your name and I-94 number written gently on the back of your photos
- Completed Form G-1145 (if you would like E-Notification of your application)
- Completed and signed Form I-765 (original); Note: You should report your program of study and your level of education (Bachelor, Master, Doctoral) on item 28a. Example: Master’s Information Science
- Official DEGREE BEARING transcripts with date of issue OR copy of your diploma
- A copy of your EAD card (front & back) and any previously issued EAD cards related to your current status
- A copy of pages 1 and 2 of the newly issued I-20 (with recommended OPT Extension dates) signed on the bottom of page one by you
- Copies of the following documents:
- The electronic printout of your I-94 or the front and the back of your I-94 card
- Passport biodata page
Send your completed application to the USCIS Service Center at the Chicago location. USCIS must receive your STEM Extension application no more than 90 days before your OPT expires and no later than the date your OPT expires.
Maintenance of F-1 status while on STEM Extension
- Cannot accrue more than 150 days of unemployment over the 36 month OPT period (OPT + STEM OPT).
- Can change employers but ALL employment during STEM Extension must be with an E-Verify employer and must be in your field of study
- STEM extension reporting requirements - During the STEM extension period, you must report the following via the STEM Extension OPT Student Information Update Form within 10 days of any change to:
- your legal name
- your residential or mailing address
- your email address
- your E-Verify employer's name or address
- Status of current employment/practical training experience
- your I-983 Training Plan
- You must also confirm this information on this website every 6 months, even if there are no changes
Students who file a timely application for the STEM extension can continue working for their E-Verify employer (while the application is pending) until either (1) receipt of the STEM EAD card or (2) 180 days, whichever comes first.
Submit a copy of new EAD card to email@example.com; please title email “STEM EAD card copy”.
Academic Training (AT) is a form of employment authorization for students in J-1 status to obtain practical experience in their field of study as listed on the DS-2019. The Academic Training may be:
- With or without wages
- During the course of studies or
- After completion of the course of study
Undergraduate and Master’s Degree:
Students are eligible for up to 18 months of Academic Training but may never be approved for Academic Training for longer than the length of the academic program. In other words, if a program of study is for longer than 18 months, Academic Training is available for 18 months. If a program of study is 9 months (less than 18 months), Academic Training is for 9 months (the length of the program). There is no distinction between full-time and part-time Academic Training. Whether a student works part-time or full-time, a day of authorized Academic Training is counted as a day of Academic Training.
Students are eligible for up to 36 months (3 years) of Academic Training but may never be approved for Academic Training for longer than the length of the academic program. In other words, if the Ph.D. was completed in 2 years, Academic Training is limited to 2 years. There is no distinction between full-time and part-time Academic Training. Whether a student works part-time or full-time, a day of authorized Academic Training is counted as a day of Academic Training.
J-1 students whose DS-2019s were issued by other than Syracuse University (Fulbright, IIE, USAID, etc.) must contact their J-1 Program Sponsor for instructions on eligibility and procedures for Academic Training.
To apply for J-1 Academic Training, J-1 students whose DS-2019s were issued by Syracuse University will need the following documents:
- Completed Academic Training Data Sheet
- Department Recommendation Letter
- Date of completion of the degree.
- Goals and objectives for the training program.
- Description of the training program including its location, name and address of the training supervisor, number of hours of work per week, dates of the training;
- How the training relates to the student's major field of study; and
- Why it is an integral part of the student's academic program.
- Letter from Academic Training employer/organization confirming the opportunity, dates and salary/wage, if paid.
- Financial documentation of ability to support yourself and J-2 dependents if the Academic Training is unpaid.
- Proof of health insurance.
- Copies of previous DS-2019s, passport, visa, and printout of electronic I-94.
Application for Academic Training:
- Must be filed before the end date of the academic program of study (which may be earlier than the end date on the DS-2019).
- Must be approved in advance of the training start date which must be within 30 days of the end date of the academic program of study.
- If your application for Academic Training is approved, you will be given a new DS-2019 noting the Academic Training (from beginning to end date and site of activity). If necessary, your J-1 status will be extended for the period of approved Academic Training.
J-2 dependents are eligible to apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for employment authorization, so long as the employment is not for supporting the J-1. Financial need is not a criterion for employment authorization of a J-2 dependent.
“Income from the spouse’s or dependent’s employment may be used to support the family’s customary recreational and cultural activities and related travel, among other things. Employment will not be authorized if this income is needed to support the J-1 principal alien.” 8 C.F.R. S 214.2(j)(1)(v)(A)
Applications for employment authorization are made to the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the J-2’s place of residence. Processing generally takes 3 months.
J-2 Dependents who wish to apply for Employment Authorization should submit the following to USCIS:
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- Check or money order for $410.00 made payable to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security."
- Please Note: USCIS published a final fee rule on August 3, 2020, that was to become effective 60 days later, on October 2, 2020. The rule specified: "Any application, petition, or request postmarked on or after this date must be accompanied with the fees established by this final rule." However, on September 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction and stay on implementation of the 2020 final USCIS fee rule. New fees and form versions and other changes associated with the final fee rule that was to be effective on October 2, 2020, are now on hold.
- 2 passport-style photos (Available through many pharmacies e.g. CVS, Walgreens).
- Copies of the current DS-2019 of both the J-1 and J-2.
- Copy of passport information page, visa page, and I-94 (back and front) for both J-1 and J-2.
- Letter from J-2 stating why the employment is desired, indicating the source and amount of financial support for the J-1, and specifically stating that the income that the J-2 will derive from employment will not be used for the support of the J-1 exchange visitor.