Maintaining Visa Status

In addition to employment restrictions, there are other important rules you must follow in order to maintain your student visa status.

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Student Employment Guidelines

International students (F-1 or J-1 visas) are eligible for several types of employment in the U.S. It is the student’s responsibility to verify that the employment is allowable under the particular visa status. To avoid engaging in illegal employment and subsequently falling out of status, students should meet with their immigration advisors prior to beginning the employment.

Definition of Employment

The USCIS defines employment as any work or services performed for wages or other remuneration. “Other remuneration” includes money, tuition, stipend, supplies, room and board, food, travel expenses or any type of benefit. If a student receives anything in exchange for providing work or a service, it is considered employment.


ATTEND AN EMPLOYMENT WORKSHOP

Check International Student Services events for upcoming employment workshops that cover work opportunities and regulations.

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Employment Opportunities for International Students

On-Campus Employment

International students may work on any of the Valencia College campuses up to 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters and 40 hours a week during the summer semester. If summer is the first term of enrollment, then students are limited to 20 hours per week.

On-campus employment does not require authorization from ISS, and a student’s SEVIS record does not need updating. However, students must be “in status” in order to work on campus and should consult with ISS prior to beginning the employment.

Off-Campus Employment

In order to work off-campus, international students must receive employment authorization from ISS and/or USCIS prior to engaging in the off-campus employment. Please keep in mind that students must meet certain criteria in order to qualify for any of the following off-campus options. Please consult with ISS prior to engaging in any off-campus employment.

Curricular Practical Training – CPT (F-1 Visa Only)

CPT is off-campus employment authorization which allows students to engage in an internship related to their program of study. CPT is conducted during the program of study (or prior to graduation). Students must be enrolled in a full course of study for at least two semesters in F-1 status at Valencia College prior to engaging in CPT. Please note that the full course of study requirements still apply while engaging in CPT.

Students must visit ISS to determine if they are eligible for CPT and must be approved by ISS prior to beginning employment. As a part of the approval process, a student’s SEVIS record (I-20) must be updated in order to engage in CPT.

Optional Practical Training – OPT (F-1 Visa Only)

OPT is an employment benefit available for F-1 students through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Its purpose is to allow international students to gain off-campus work experience related to their program of study before or after degree completion for a maximum of 12 months. Please note that pre-completion OPT is limited to part-time employment (20 hours per week or less) while school is in session. Pre-completion OPT is truly designed for master’s and doctoral level students. Associate and bachelor’s level students should utilize CPT prior to graduation and OPT upon graduation.

Students must visit ISS to determine if they are eligible for OPT and must have their SEVIS record (I-20) updated as part of the application process.

Requirements:

  • Students must be in status in order to apply
  • Students must be in good academic standing and cannot be on any type of academic warning or probation
  • Students must have completed a full course of study for one academic year before applying
  • Job offer is not a prerequisite for OPT
  • Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT per academic level—associate, bachelor’s level, master’s and doctoral
  • Students are not eligible for OPT if they complete a higher degree in the U.S. and then revert down to a lower-level degree

Application Process:

  • Apply as early as 90 days prior to graduation date
  • Make an appointment with ISS to determine eligibility
  • If eligible, complete the application and submit the required documents to ISS
  • SEVIS record (I-20) must be updated
  • Application is sent to USCIS for approval
  • Application can take up to 90 days for a decision

Volunteering

International students cannot perform work as a volunteer in a position that is normally a paid position or if the student expects that some form of wages or other remuneration will follow at any point in the future. USCIS considers this type of volunteering as “work” and requires proper employment authorization. For example, an international student cannot volunteer for a trial period leading up to paid employment. True volunteering involves no wages, compensation, or other remuneration. It is also unrelated to a student’s program of study.

Economic Hardship (F-1 or J-1 Visa)

Off-campus employment based on economic hardship is available to international students who are dealing with severe monetary issues. The monetary issues must be attributed to an unforeseen change in financial circumstances that is out of the student’s control. The student must be able to document the situation by providing evidence (for example: medical bills, loss of employment by a parent/sponsor, devaluation of a country’s currency, natural disaster, etc.).

The application for employment based on economic hardship is submitted to USCIS with the assistance of ISS. If approved, students are allowed to work off campus for 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time during school breaks. Employment is granted for a period of one year at a time and authorization ends if the student falls out of status or transfers to another institution.

Please note that it is highly recommended for students to seek on-campus employment or CPT authorization prior to requesting employment based on economic hardship.

Requirements:

  • Students must meet with ISS to determine eligibility
  • Students must be in status in order to apply
  • Students must have completed a full course of study for one academic year before applying
  • Students must be able to document and provide evidence of hardship

Application Process:

  • Make an appointment with ISS to determine eligibility
  • If eligible, complete the application and submit the required documents to ISS
  • SEVIS record (I-20 or DS-2019) must be updated
  • Application is sent to USCIS for approval
  • Application can take up to 90 days for a decision

Academic Training– AT (J-1 Visa Only)

Academic Training (AT) is a benefit which provides off-campus employment authorization for international students in J-1 visa status and allows students to gain work experience within their program of study. AT requests must be authorized by ISS prior to students engaging in the employment.

Length of Time:

Undergraduate students are eligible for a maximum period of 18 months of academic training. Students pursuing academic programs that are less than 18 months may only engage in academic training for a period equal to the length of the program of study. Both part-time (up to 20 hours per week) and full-time (up to 40 hours per week) academic training counts toward the maximum allowable time period. Working part-time does not allow a student to engage in AT for a longer period of time.

Types of Academic Training:

  • Pre-Completion: Authorization at any point prior to graduation
  • Post-Completion: Authorization after graduation and no later than the 30-day grace period following graduation

Requirements:

  • Students must be in status
  • Students must be in good academic standing and cannot be on any type of academic warning or probation
  • Job/internship offer is required prior to authorization
  • Job/internship must be related to student’s program of study
  • Must be approved by ISS prior to engaging in AT

Authorization Process:

  • Make an appointment with ISS to determine eligibility
  • If eligible, submit copy of job/internship offer letter from company
  • SEVIS record (DS-2019) must be updated prior to beginning
  • Student issued authorization letter from ISS
  • Students only allowed to work for the approved employer within the approved date range
  • Students cannot change employers without prior authorization from ISS


 

Social Security Number (SSN)

A Social Security Number is a nine-digit number that is issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents and working non-residents. The number is issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and its primary purpose is to track individuals for taxation purposes.

Although it is not intended for identification purposes, it has become a default identification number that is used for a variety of purposes.

SSNs can only be issued to US citizens and permanent residents or individuals (including F-1 and J-1 students) who have an offer of employment.

F-2 dependents are not eligible to apply for an SSN because they are not authorized to work in the U.S. J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for an SSN if they have an offer of employment and receive proper work authorization.


Students do not need an SSN to live in the U.S. temporarily, apply for a Florida driver’s license, open a U.S. bank account or attend college in the U.S. Unfortunately, many apartment complexes, rental properties, landlords, cell phone service providers, and utility companies may request a student’s SSN to review the student’s credit history. This process may be required before approving the specific application or service for which the student has applied. Students without an SSN may be denied service or required to pay a higher deposit. If you have any such issues, please contact ISS for assistance.