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F-1 Student Employment

On-Campus Employment:

F-1 students are automatically eligible to accept on-campus employment at UIC as long as the student is here, and is registered for classes(Note: off-campus employment is restricted, see below). UIC employment cannot exceed 20 hours per week when school is in session; this amount includes all other authorized employment. International students may work more than 20 hours per week during official university breaks only (Winter Break, Summer).

On-campus employment does not need to be related to the student’s field of study.

Note: Graduate Assistantships correspond to a percentage of hours to be worked each week:

  • 50% = 20 hours per week
  • 33% = 14-15 hours per week
  • 25% = 10 hours per week

Off-Campus Employment:

F-1 students are eligible for off-campus employment authorization in the form of Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training. Authorization can be given if the student has been maintaining their status and if they meet other eligibility requirements (explained below).

Curricular Practical Training (CPT):

CPT is off-campus training in the form of an internship, co-op, or practicum that is an integral part of an established curriculum. CPT must be either required or course credit must be given toward the student’s degree program. CPT is an option for students who will continue to work towards their degree. To apply for CPT, the completed application must be submitted to an OIS advisor during open advising hours. The student must have the approved CPT I-20 before they begin training.

Optional Practical Training (OPT):

F-1 students are eligible for up to twelve months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization for each level of study (example BS, MS, PhD). The majority of students apply for OPT as they near the end of their academic studies. Utilizing OPT after completion of studies allows students the opportunity to use the skills they have learned at UIC in a “real world” environment.

Pre-completion Optional Practical Training may be done during specific times before the student graduates, or after they graduate. F-1 students are eligible for up to twelve months of OPT authorization for each level of study (example BS, MS, PhD). Students must attend a mandatory OIS OPT Workshop to obtain the application (see below) prior to applying for OPT.

Mandatory Workshop for Those Applying for OPT:

The Office of International Services conducts mandatory workshops for F-1 international students interested in applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT) throughout the semester. Students applying for OPT must first attend one of these workshops. There, students will learn about the OPT application process, maintaining immigration status and other important procedures. Dates and times for these workshops are listed on the OIS calendar.

17-Month Extension of OPT (STEM):

F-1 students approved for standard post-completion OPT based on a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field that appears on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) STEM-Designated Degree Program List can apply to USCIS for a one-time 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months). To be eligible for the extension, the student must have obtained their diploma from UIC, the student's employer must be registered in E-Verify and must agree to report to OIS when the student is terminated or leaves employment. The student must apply for the STEM OPT extension before their standard period of post-completion OPT expires.

Starting May 10, 2016, new rules to strengthen and enhance the optional practical training (OPT) program for F-1 international students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields go into effect. Changes included in this final rule will affect how students, employers, and UIC administrators interact with the OPT STEM extension. Below is a list of the major highlights included in the final rule. Additionally, the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) has prepared valuable resources to assist with this transition, many of which are posted to the STEM OPT Hub website.

Highlights of the major changes found in the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Final Rule

The new rule:

  • Lengthens the STEM OPT extension from 17 months to 24 months
  • Strengthens the educational component of the STEM OPT extension by requiring students and employers to complete an individualized training plan
  • Increases the number of times a student can participate in the STEM OPT extension from one to two over the course of the academic career
  • Expands eligibility for the STEM OPT extension, under certain circumstances, to students who hold a prior STEM-qualifying degree
  • Allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to enforce the new rule through site visits to employers
  • Provides a transition plan for students who submitted or will submit a STEM OPT extension application prior to May 10, 2016
  • The 2016 STEM OPT 24-month extension final rule is effective beginning May 10, 2016. Previously used 17-month STEM OPT regulations remain in effect through May 9, 2016. For the complete text of DHS’s final rule, please see the federal register.

As always, OIS is available for advising on this and other immigration related issues. We have set up a frequently asked questions (FAQs) page on our website in order to address specific questions the UIC international community may have. The FAQs will continue to be updated as new questions and issues emerge so we encourage you to revisit this page frequently. However, if after reading through this message, the STEM OPT Hub, and our FAQs page you should have any questions, feel free to contact us at stemopt@uic.edu or 312-996-3121. Students may also visit us during Open Advising for an in-person consultation.