Laws Governing Employment Eligibility in the United States

As an international student, the type of visa you hold will directly affect the employment eligibility options you have in the U.S. You need to determine your visa type and understand what employment options or restrictions apply to you. U.S. Immigration Law, not University policy, determines employment eligibility.

Most international students hold either F-1 (student) or J-1 (exchange visitor) visas in the U.S. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) permits students in both categories to be employed if the work is related to their field of study. In special circumstances, the USCIS grants work authorization due to unforeseen economic hardship. Both types of employment are explained below. Eligible students need not change their visa category to accept these types of employment.

Questions regarding visas and employment eligibility should be directed to the International Student & Scholar Services Office (ISSS)

F-1 Employment Options

Practical Training:

Practical Training is defined as employment related to the student's field of study. International Student and Scholar Services resources on Practical Training.

Such employment may be performed prior to or after completion of studies and may be part or full-time. There are two categories of practical training: Curricular and Optional.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT is employment that is considered an integral part of the student's academic program. Curricular Practical Training can be full or part-time and the student must maintain full-time registration while on CPT. More information on Curricular Practical Training.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is also employment related to a student's field of study but unlike Curricular Practical Training, this type of practical training may be done either during the student's academic program or after completion of studies. OPT prior to completion of studies is limited to part-time during the academic year although it can be full-time during vacation and holiday periods. Graduate students who have finished all coursework and are completing thesis or dissertation research may apply for full-time practical training during the academic year. Students are eligible for up to twelve months of OPT. For more information on Optional Practical Training.

Work Authorization Based on Economic Hardship

If a student experiences unforeseen economic hardship, he or she may apply to the USCIS for permission to work for any off-campus employer. Students must be currently enrolled at Binghamton University for this kind of work authorization; employment is limited to 20 hours per week when school is in session but can be full-time during vacation and holiday periods. Such employment authorization is usually valid for up to one year and may be renewed if the student has not graduated and can demonstrate continued financial necessity.

J-1 Employment Options

Code of Federal Regulations governing J-1 employment

For Students - Interpretation of the Code of Federal Regulations governing J-1 employment

Academic Training

Academic training is employment related to the student's academic program and can be done before of after completion of studies. Students are eligible for 18 months of academic training or the time that the student has been enrolled full-time, whichever is shorter. Students who engage in postdoctoral training are eligible for 36 months of academic training. More information on J-1 Academic Training.

Work authorization based on economic hardship

If the student experiences unforeseen economic hardship that has arisen after his/her arrival in the United States, he/she may apply for off-campus work authorization that is valid for any employer. This type of work authorization is limited to 20 hours/week while school is in session but may be full-time during vacation and holiday periods.

Long-term Employment Options

Federal regulations require that practical training or academic training end at the conclusion of the authorized period. However, a student in F-1 status (or a student in J-1 status who is not subject to a two-year physical presence requirement) may continue to be employed, provided that a petition and change of status application are filed with and approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Such a petition is usually filed for H-1B (Temporary Worker) status. The H-1B status is valid for up to six years, and is intended for professional employment. The application process can take several months, and legal assistance with the filing of the application may be helpful. For more information on H-1B visas. IMPORTANT REMINDER--Always contact Binghamton University's International Student and Scholars Services office to clarify your employment eligibility in the U.S. Understanding your employment options will help you make sound decisions as you implement your job search. This understanding will also enable you to successfully explain, during your interview, how you will be able to obtain work authorization in the U.S. to the employer with whom you are interviewing.

For more details about employment eligibility contact:

International Student and Scholar Services
Binghamton University
PO Box 6000
Binghamton, NY 13902-6000
Tel: 607-777-2510
Fax: 607-777-2889

The Office of International Student and Scholar Services is pleased to announce Walk-In Hours for Employment questions and applications, every Wednesday from 1:30pm to 3:15pm at the ISSS office. First come, first served.

During these times, you can:# Ask a quick question about CPT or OPT (5 minutes or less!)

  • Submit a CPT application for review (Is it complete? What's missing?)
  • Ask questions on CPT course registration
  • Ask questions about your OPT application
  • Get help with choosing an OPT start-date
  • Have your OPT application reviewed before mailing it to USCIS

Employment information and all necessary forms are found on our website at the following link: * If your question is complicated and requires more than 5 minutes to answer, then you will need to make an appointment by visiting or calling the ISSS office at (607) 777-2510.

Additional information about post-graduation employment issues can be found at

The website of the Center for Career and Professional Development at Binghamton University contains links to other websites as a convenience for its users and is not responsible for the contents of any linked site.

Last Updated: 8/11/16