Employment

International Student Employment 

The Basics

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.

Two main types of employment

On-Campus

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. Hours of employment are not guaranteed. 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

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.

On-campus employment is not permitted after completion of a course of study (other than through optional practical training) unless the student has been accepted, received an I-20, and is planning to enroll in a new educational program at the same educational institution.

*Students attending the English Language Institute are not permitted to work.

Resources & Links

Undergraduate Student Assistant

Student Assistants/Employment Listing

Graduate Assistantships

Students can only apply for graduate assistantships once they have been accepted into their program.

  • Go here for details about assistantships, or to download the handbook.

More information

If you need more information, please look below and click on the button which bests suits your situation. 

 

If you still do not see what you are looking for after reading the FAQ and information, consult with the international student advisor throught this email iss@valdosta.edu 

  • FAQ

     

    Q: I'M INTERESTED IN FINDING A JOB. CAN I WORK?

    Government regulations require F-1 and J-1 students to be in the US for the primary purpose of attending school. On-campus employment is allowed up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full time during official university vacations and holidays. J-1 students must receive pre-approval for on-campus employment.

    Off-campus employment is allowed only under specific circumstances with pre-approval. For more information, refer to Employment Options for F-1 Students below.

    Q: CAN I GET A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER?

    F-1 students are only eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN) when employed on campus or approved for off campus work.  J-1 students are eligible for an SSN based on their J-1 status.

    To apply please refer to the Applying for a Social Security Number and Card portion of our website.

    Q: DO I NEED A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER BEFORE WORKING?

    Yes, you need to have your social security card in your hand before you start working. 

    Q: DO I NEED TO FILE TAXES?

    Yes, if you were present in the US during a calendar year, you are required to file tax paperwork in the following year. For example: if you were in the US in 2015, you must file tax paperwork in 2016 even if you did not work.

    The US Internal Revenue Service is in charge of taxes. Please refer to their website for official forms and information.

    Sprintax Tax Prep software is available free of charge to any international student or scholar with a VSU username and password.

    Q: WHEN CAN I START ON-CAMPUS EMPLOYMENT?

    If you have just arrived in the U.S., you can start employment no more than 30 days prior to the beginning of your first semester.

    If you have completed your SEVIS transfer to Valdosta State University from another school, but did not complete one semester at that school, then you can start employment no more than 30 days prior to the beginning of your first semester.

    If you are a transfer student who has already completed one semester at your previous school, you can start employment after your SEVIS record has been transferred to Valdosta State.

    Please note that these rules apply to transfer students whose SEVIS records have already been transferred to Valdosta State. If you have not requested your record to be transferred to Valdosta State, you cannot start employment even during the 30-day period before the start of classes.

    Q: CAN I WORK FULL-TIME?

    F-1 students at Valdosta State can work part time (up to 20 hours/week) while school is in session and full time (more than 20 hours/week) during the summer and approved break period.

    Q: I WAS OFFERED A JOB THAT I THINK IS CONSIDERED ON-CAMPUS, BUT MY EMPLOYER WILL NOT BE VALDOSTA STATE OR A COMMERICAL FIRM SERVICING STUDENTS ON CAMPUS. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

    In this case, speak with the International Student Advisor. You can email and schedule an appointment at iss@valdosta.edu 

     

     

     

  • Off-Campus Employment

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for F-1 Students

    Overview

    If you wish to accept employment off-campus, you should pursue Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT is defined as employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including: “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” Source: [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)].

    CPT is available only prior to the completion of your degree program and you must have a job offer at the time of application. CPT employment may not delay completion of the academic program.

    Students must maintain full-time enrollment during fall and winter CPT. Full-time enrollment is 12 credit hours for undergraduate students, 9 credit hours for graduate students.

    Types of CPT

    There are two types of CPT: required and optional. Required CPT is when the academic program mandates practical work experience for all students in order to graduate. Optional CPT is work experience directly related to your field of study that is not required.

    Requirements for Non-Required CPT

    You must be enrolled in a COOP or CPT course. Designated COOP or CPT courses are set up and approved by the Office of Career Opportunities.

    ● Notes regarding CPT course enrollment:
    ❍ If your CPT employment takes place during winter or fall term, you must be registered for the CPT course during that term.
    ❍ If your CPT employment takes place during the spring/summer term, you may register either in the preceding winter term or during the spring/summer term.
    ❍ If your CPT employment takes place in both winter term and the following spring/summer term, you must register for the CPT course for both winter and spring/summer terms.
    ❍ Failure to complete the CPT course will result in your falling out of legal F-1 status.
    ● You must have declared a major.
    ● Students who are engaged in thesis/dissertation work and have finished their coursework are still eligible for CPT, only if the CPT is an integral part of their thesis/dissertation or research.
    ● Students are expected to maintain physical presence on campus during fall and winter terms.

    Part-Time vs. Full-Time CPT

    Part-time CPT

     Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time. You must be simultaneously enrolled in classes full-time and be physically present on campus in order to maintain lawful F-1 status during fall and winter terms.

    Full-time CPT

    Employment for more than 20 hours per week is full-time. Please be aware that 12 months or more of full-time CPT will eliminate your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). During fall and winter terms, you must be enrolled full-time or have an approved Reduced Course Load (RCL).

    Eligibility Criteria

    To be eligible for CPT, you must:

    ● Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis while physically present in the US for one academic year (i.e. two full consecutive terms) unless your academic program requires immediate participation for all students.
    ● Be in lawful F-1 status
    ● Have VSU approved health insurance
    ● Have a job offer
    ● Not be enrolled in an intensive English language training program, such as ELI

    NOTE: CPT is processed and authorized term by term. Contact your academic department regarding your department's specific guidelines and follow those guidelines for CPT applications. Please note that your department has discretion in recommending CPT.

    CPT During Final Term

    During your final term of study, you must be enrolled at Valdosta State University and physically present on campus in Valdosta in order to comply with F-1 requirements. If you are enrolled part-time because you do not need a full course load to complete your remaining degree requirements, you must receive Reduced Course Load (RCL) authorization from the International Center.

    If you are in compliance with these enrollment and physical presence requirements, then you may pursue CPT during your final term of study. Please note that the latest possible end date for CPT authorization during the final term of study is the last day of classes.

    Documentation Needed to Apply

    ● CPT/COOP Approval Form (obtained from the Career Services) 
    ● Academic/Faculty Advisor Recommendation Form for CPT 

    Detailed Training Description

    Your employer or company must officially offer you a training opportunity. Ask your employer to write a Detailed Training Description.

    It must:

    ● Be written on the company's letterhead
    ● Be addressed to you
    ● Include job title
    ● Provide a detailed job description (at least a few sentences describing specific duties, tasks, goals, etc.)
    ● Specify the street address where employment will take place (street, city, state, and zip code). If you will work remotely, the letter should specify this and list the company’s physical address.
    ● Specify number of hours per week you will work
    ● Specify start and end dates of CPT employment (keep in mind that CPT can only be authorized one term at a time).

    A standard job offer letter may not contain the required information. We recommend your employer uses this sample Detailed Training Description. Please ensure your Detailed Training Description contains all details. If your current offer letter is missing only 1 or 2 details, we may accept one printed e-mail, addressed to you, directly from your employer containing the missing details.

    How to Apply for CPT

    1. Obtain the job/ internship description from your prospective employer (see Detailed Training Description section above).  
    2. Send the training description to Mr. Darius Anthony at the Office of Career Services).  
    3. Once Mr. Anthony approves your COOP/ CPT approval form, CIP will reflect this employment on your I-20 form.  
    4. You will receive an e-mail once your CPT I-20 form is ready. No work, paid or unpaid, may take place until your CPT I-20 form is printed. 

    Be sure to sign and date your CPT 1-20 and keep all 1-20s permanently in your personal files. 

    If any details of your training opportunity change, please e-mail documentation verifying the changes to iss@valdosta.edu, so we may update your CPT accordingly.

    U.S. Department of Homeland Security Address Notification Requirement

    You are required to update your address in Banner within 10 days of any change while you are in F-1 status.

    CPT and Unpaid Internships

    It is not uncommon for students to confuse unpaid internships with volunteering (and therefore conclude that no work authorization is necessary for engaging in an unpaid internship). However, there is a difference between volunteering and engaging in an unpaid internship. Volunteering refers to donating time with an organization whose primary purpose is charitable or humanitarian in nature, without remuneration or any other type of compensation. For more information about volunteering please see “Employment vs. Volunteering” section on the IC web site. Internships, both paid and unpaid, are primarily offered by the private sector and related to the intern’s major field of study. The U.S. Department of Labor has guidelines for those seeking an unpaid internship:
    https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm 

    The following six criteria must be met for an internship to be considered a legitimate unpaid internship (and not employment below minimum wage, in violation of Department of Labor laws):

    ● The internship, even though it includes actual operation on the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
    ● The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
    ● The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
    ● The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
    ● The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
    ● The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship

    Do F-1 students need CPT authorization to participate in unpaid internship?

    CPT authorization is strongly recommended for all unpaid internships, whether the student does or does not need to provide employment authorization documents to the company. The F-1 regulations are written in such a way that CPT is an authorization to do practical training as part of the curriculum for the academic program, and as such is significant in more ways than simply for the employer to verify employment eligibility. CPT authorization is more than just permission to get paid.

    You should have CPT authorization for unpaid internships for the following reasons:

    ● CPT authorization by the university serves to demonstrate that this practical experience is part of the curriculum.
    ● CPT authorization is a way of reporting in SEVIS the student's activity, employment, and location where they are working and therefore maintaining their status.
    ● If ever a student is doing a job on an unpaid basis that someone would be hired and paid for, employment authorization in the form of CPT, OPT, etc. is advised.
    ● If the unpaid internship at some point changes into a paid one (or if your employer decides to compensate you for your work in any way – for example, give you a monetary gift), you won’t be able to accept the payment if your internship was not authorized as CPT. Please keep in mind that F-1 students cannot be retroactively remunerated or in any way compensated for work done in an unpaid internship if they did not obtain work authorization prior to when the work was performed.


    Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students

    Information in this section relates to standard Optional Practical Training (OPT). The following sections describe in detail the requirements for each level of the application process:

    The following information is a short description and general criteria to consider before applying for OPT.

    Definition

    OPT is defined in the Federal Regulations as temporary employment directly related to a student's field of study. During OPT, a student remains in F-1 status. The end result of the OPT request process is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS).

    Eligibility Criteria

    To be eligible for OPT, the student must:

    ● Be in legal F-1 immigration status
    ● Be a full-time student for at least one academic year
    ● Have U-M approved health

    Note: Post-completion OPT applications are typically denied by USCIS if the Level of Education indicated in item #4 on the I-20 is “non-degree.”

    Maximum Length

    ● The standard OPT period is a cumulative maximum of 12 months.
    ● Part-time OPT is deducted from the 12-month limit at 50%.
    ● An F-1 may become eligible for another 12 months of OPT if he/she advances to a higher educational level.

    Some students may be eligible for an extension of their OPT based on a STEM degree (scroll below for more information)

    Applying for OPT

    You can now apply for OPT online at: https://myaccount.uscis.gov/  

    Here is the list of items you would need to apply for the OPT (if you are filing an online OPT application you will need to have all the items below scanned on your device).  

      1. Digital 2x2 color passport photo that meets USCIS specifications 
      2.  A scan of your passport photograph page 
      3. A scan of the front and back of any previous EAD cards (if applicable) 
      4. A scan of any previous I-20s with CPT or OPT information (if available) 
      5. A digital copy of your I-20 with an OPT recommendation (CIP will provide this for you when you are ready to apply) 
      6. Your most recent form I-94
      7. A credit card with which you can pay the filing fee

    *concerning the I-20:

    • Must be issued within the last 30 days for post-completion OPT and within the last 60 days for STEM extension OPT. You MUST make an appointment with your International student advisor at the CIP to receive a new I-20 form endorsed for OPT before filing for your OPT online. 
    • The I-20 must be signed by an ISA advisor and by you. You can use a digital or handwritten signature. 

    *to obtain your most recent I-20:

    Different Kinds of OPT and Application Timelines

    There are two kinds of OPT, Pre-completion and Post-completion. To understand which type to request, you need to figure out your completion date.

    Definition of Completion Date

    The completion date is generally established as the last day of the last month of the final term in which you will register to complete academic requirements.


    Pre-completion OPT



    Employment begins and ends before the completion of the academic program.

    Earliest time to apply:

    ● If a student has not completed a full academic year: 90 days before completion of full academic year
    ● If student has completed a full academic year: 90 days before OPT start date

    There are three types of Pre-completion OPT:

    Type A: During the student's annual vacation

    • ● Student must intend to register for the next term
      ● OPT may be part- or full-time

    Type B: While school is in session

    • ● Student must be registered full-time
      ● OPT may be part-time only

    Type C: After completion of all course requirements (excluding thesis/dissertation)

    • ● After completion of all course requirements excluding thesis/dissertation
      ● If Type C OPT is part-time, student must be registered full-time
      ● If Type C OPT is full-time, student need not be registered

    Post-completion OPT


    Employment begins after completion of academic program.

    Earliest time to apply:

    • Up to 90 days before program end date

    Deadline for Application to be Received by USCIS:

    ● Up to 60 days after program end date
    ● Within 30 days of the date the OPT I-20 is issued. You can confirm the date your OPT I-20 was issued by viewing the “DATE ISSUED” section on page 1 in the “School Attestation” box.
    ● If you plan to travel outside the U.S. after your completion date, you must submit the I-765 first (even if you plan to return within 60 days) and obtain the Receipt Notice in order to re-enter

    Applying for OPT

    1. Contact the IP by email at iss@valdosta.edu to make an appointment. 
    2. Read the list below and gather all your digital documents for the online application. 

    As of April 2021, you can now apply for OPT online at: https://myaccount.uscis.gov/  

    Here is the list of items you would need to apply for the OPT (if you are filing an online OPT application you will need to have all the items below scanned on your device).  

      1. Digital 2x2 color passport photo that meets USCIS specifications 
      2.  A scan of your passport photograph page 
      3. A scan of the front and back of any previous EAD cards (if applicable) 
      4. A scan of any previous I-20s with CPT or OPT information (if available) 
      5. A digital copy of your I-20 with an OPT recommendation (CIP will provide this for you when you are ready to apply) 
      6. Your most recent form I-94
      7. A credit card with which you can pay the filing fee

    *concerning the I-20:

    • Must be issued within the last 30 days for post-completion OPT and within the last 60 days for STEM extension OPT. You MUST make an appointment with your International student advisor at the CIP to receive a new I-20 form endorsed for OPT before filing for your OPT online. 
    • The I-20 must be signed by an ISA advisor and by you. You can use a digital or handwritten signature. 

    *to obtain your most recent I-20:

    If you change your mind

    If after requesting an OPT I-20 from the International Center, you decide not to send your application to USCIS, you must notify us. Please send an email to iss@valdosta.edu telling us that you plan to not apply for OPT and indicating the date you intend to leave the U.S. (must be within 60 days of I-20 completion date). If you do not notify us, we will be unable to adjust your SEVIS record to accurately reflect your situation. You will also continue to be billed for health insurance.

    Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry

    For important information on travel during OPT, refer to Travel Advisory

    Travel during Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    Overview

    This section applies only to F-1 students who have applied for or have been approved for Optional Practical Training (OPT) by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and want to leave and re-enter the U.S. after the completion of their academic program.

    Before the completion of your academic program, the usual procedures for travel still apply. After completion of your academic program, the guidance for travel is related to whether your OPT has been approved yet or not.

    Post-Completion OPT is Pending

    If your post-completion OPT has not been approved and you do not have a job or a job offer, you may leave and then re-enter the U.S. to continue to look for employment.
    In order to have the best chance of re-entering the U.S. without problems when your post-completion OPT is pending, you should travel with the following documents:

    ● Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the U.S)
    ● Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (this requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens)
    ● I-20 (with a travel signature no older than six months *)
    ● I-765 receipt notice (Form I-797)
    If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa when your post-completion OPT application is pending, you should also be sure to have your I-765 receipt notice (Form I-797) in addition to the usual documents required for a visa application.

    Post-Completion OPT is Approved

    If your post-completion OPT has been approved (EAD card has been issued by USCIS) and you have a job or a job offer, you may leave and re-enter the U.S. in order to begin or resume employment.

    After USCIS has issued an EAD card for post-completion OPT, in order to have the best chance of re-entering the U.S. without problems, you should be sure you have the following documents:

    ● Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the U.S.)
    ● Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (this requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens)
    ● I-20 (with a valid travel signature no older than six months*)
    ● EAD card
    ● Evidence that you already have a job in the U.S. or that you have a job offer.

    If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa, you should also be sure to have your EAD card and evidence that you already have a job in the U.S. or that you have a job offer in addition to the usual documents required for a visa application.
    * Regulations state that during post-completion OPT, the travel signature should be no older than six months. The International Center recommends while on post-completion OPT that you get a valid travel signature every six months. Source: 8CFR214.2(f)(13)(ii)

    Summary of Guidance

    Students who have an EAD card for post-completion OPT and evidence of either a job or a job offer are allowed to leave and re-enter the U.S. during their OPT period. Of course, re-entry to the U.S. is never guaranteed.

    We highly recommend waiting to receive your OPT card before leaving the states because there could be a high possiblty of non-re-entry. 

    If a student who has an EAD card but does not have a job or a job offer leaves the US during the post-completion OPT period, OPT ends. Border officials might not allow someone in this situation to re-enter the U.S. Thus, students who do not have a U.S. job or a U.S. job offer but who plan to leave and re-enter the U.S. after their EAD card has been issued (their OPT has been approved by USCIS) are taking a risk.

    For more information, see U.S. Department of Homeland Security FAQ for Travel.

    Maintaining your status while on OPT

    1. Employment and Address Updates: You are still on an F-1 status, therefore you must keep your SEVIS record updated. This means that if you change your address, employment status (employed vs. unemployed (instead of your major!), you must let the international student advisor know about the change through the SEVP Portal.

    2. Unemployment Limit: You must not be unemployed more than a cumulative of 90 days. You will need to return to your home country at the end of the 90 day grace period if you have not found employment. Check Sample Scenarios

    3. What is considered employment for OPT? Internships (paid or unpaid), Volunteer Work, full-time employment are all considered employment for OPT. You can also have 2 part-time jobs at the same time that equals a full-time job. 

    4. What is full-time employment? More than 20 hours/ week .

    5. How do I record volunteer work? While there is no strict rule on how to record volunteer work, it would be for your benefit to have a letter or some other official documentation that you have done volunteer work at [place/organization], from [date] to [date], what your responsibilities were/are [must be related to major]. Make sure you update any new changes to your employment and address in the  SEVP Portal.

    6. What type of jobs can I apply for? The job must still be related to your major. You cannot engage in employment that is not related to your major. 
      • Ex. Student A is a Biology major. Student A cannot work as a worker at Chik Fil A.

    While You Are On Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (F-1 Students)

    General Information

    Once your application is approved, USCIS will issue you an EAD. Submit a scanned copy of your EAD card to the International Center using our online form. Your F-1 status continues through the OPT period.You must stop your employment when the end date on the EAD card is reached, but may remain in the U.S. for the 60-day grace period.

    You may begin working once

    ● you have obtained the EAD card (you may not begin employment if your OPT has been approved but you have not yet received the EAD in the mail)
    ● and the begin date on the card has been reached.

    The EAD is not employer specific, so you may change employers at will. However, employment must be directly related to the field of studies. Any employment outside your field of study is unauthorized and is a substantive violation of your status.

    Social Security Number

    If you do not yet have a Social Security Number (SSN), you will be required to have one for tax reporting purposes. You may apply for a SSN after you have received the EAD card and the begin date on the card has been reached.

    If you already have a SSN, do not apply for a new one. Social Security Numbers are for life.
    You do not need your SSN to begin working. On your first day of employment, you will be asked to complete employment paperwork. If you do not yet have your SSN, you may write “applied for” in the space where the SSN is to be provided. Once you receive the Social Security Card in the mail, provide the number to your employer.

    U.S. Department of Homeland Security Address Notification Requirement

    You are required to update your address in Banner within 10 days of any change, even while you are on OPT.

    Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry

    For important information on travel while you're applying for OPT, refer to the Travel Advisory “Travel while on post-completion OPT”. This section includes important information on documents required to reenter the U.S. while on OPT, plus information about applying for a new visa stamp.

    If your F-2 dependents travel outside the U.S. and reenter without you during your OPT period, they should carry their own original documents along with photocopies of all the documents you are required to carry for reentry. The list of required documents is provided in the Travel Advisory.

    OPT Employment Requirements and Reporting

    You are expected to be employed in your field of study during OPT, and you are required to submit employer information to SEVIS. The maximum period of unemployment is 90 days.

    Documenting OPT Employment

    It is recommended that you keep documentation of all your employment. In the future, you may be asked to provide proof of your detailed employment history during OPT.
    Specifically, you should maintain evidence — for each job — of the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, the hours worked per week, contact information for your supervisor or manager, and description of the work.

    If it is not clear from the job description that the work is related to your degree, we highly recommend that you obtain a signed letter from the employer's hiring official, supervisor, or manager stating how your degree is related to the work you performed. Keep this in your personal records.
    Types of employment allowed during pre- and post- completion OPT

    All OPT employment, including post-completion OPT, must be in a job that is related to your degree program.

    This employment may include the following (does not apply to students on a STEM extension):

    Paid employment

    Students authorized for post-completion OPT may work part time (at least 20 hours per week) or full time.

    Multiple employers

    Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student's degree program. Employment during pre-completion OPT cannot exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.

    Work for hire

    Work for hire means that an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. It is sometimes called “1099 employment” because people who
    “work for hire” receive Internal Revenue Service Form 1099-MISC – which shows how much money was earned for a particular year – from the contracting company. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.

    Self-employed business owner

    Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student's degree program.

    Employment through an agency

    Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.

    Unpaid employment

    Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

    Reporting Employment

    Students are required to report changes in employment to the IC as soon as possible. We recommend that you report changes within 10 business days of the change to avoid situations where a DHS official may determine you to be out of status.

    To report periods of employment along with employer information, start the IC OPT Employment Record web form by entering your VSUID. You will be directed to update your current employer or create a new employer/unemployed record. If your employment information changes, revisit the web form to provide an update. For instance, you must enter an end date for your current job before adding a new employer/unemployed record. The IC will enter this data into SEVIS for you.

    Periods of Unemployment

    Students on post-completion OPT are only allowed a total of 90 days of unemployment. 

    What counts as “unemployment time”?

    ● Unemployment time is counted each day during the OPT dates indicated on the EAD.
    ● Students who have OPT extended due to the cap gap provisions continue to accrue unemployment time and are subject to the 90-day limitation on unemployment.
    ● If you have a job offer that begins more than 90 days after your OPT begins, you will exceed your allowable unemployment time. Receiving a job offer within the 90 days is not sufficient, you must be employed in one of the employment types listed above.
    ● If you travel outside of the United States while unemployed, the time spent outside the United States will count as unemployment against the 90 day limit.
    ● Permanently leaving the U.S. without notifying the International Center result in the accidental accrual of unemployment. For this reason, you must contact the IC if you decide to abandon your OPT.

    What does not count toward “unemployment time”?

    ● If you travel abroad while employed either during a period of leave authorized by an employer or as part of your employment, the time spent outside the United States will not count as unemployment.

    Consequences of exceeding allowable period of unemployment

    ● If you exceed the allowable period of unemployment while on post-completion OPT, you are considered to have violated your status.

    If you cannot find employment that meets the definition of OPT employment, you may have the following options:

    ● Apply to VSU or another university to continue your education by a change of level or transferring to another institution. See Starting a New Program below.
    ● Depart the United States (be sure to notify the IC if you abandon your OPT and leave)
    ● Change status to another legal status if possible

    Ending OPT Early

    Abandoning OPT

    If you decide to abandon your OPT before the end date of your EAD and leave the U.S., you must notify the International Center so we can end your SEVIS record. Please submit a departure form telling us that you have decided to abandon your OPT and the date you plan to depart the United States. We will end your SEVIS record effective the date you indicate you plan to leave the U.S. or the date you notify us, whichever is later. If you do not notify us, you may continue to be billed for health insurance.

    Starting a New Program — at VSU or at Another Institution

    During the period you are authorized for OPT, you may decide to apply to another academic program, either at U-M or another University. Once you are admitted to another degree program, it is important to discuss the situation with an advisor at the International Center, as the issuance of a new I-20 will effect/terminate your OPT. Please call the IC to request an appointment (appointments may be in-person or by telephone). If you are admitted to a degree program at another University, the International Center must transfer your I-20 to that institution so they may issue a new I-20 for you.

    ● Admission to VSU for a new degree program/change of level. Once you have been admitted to a new degree program at VSU, the admissions office will issue a new I-20 to you. The issuance of this new I-20 does not end your OPT immediately. Your EAD is terminated as soon as you enter the U.S. with the new
    I- 20 or you check-in for the new program, whichever is earlier. Either one of these events will activate your SEVIS record for the new degree and deactivate your OPT SEVIS record. This means you must immediately stop employment regardless of the card's appearance of validity if you reenter with your new I-20 or check-in at the IC.
    ● Transfer to another school in the U.S. in order to begin a new degree program. Authorization for OPT is not transferable. Your authorization for OPT ends on the transfer release date. If you wish to complete OPT, set the release date for a date after the OPT ends. You can set the transfer release date to occur during the 60-day grace period following post-completion OPT (see the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transfer for F-1 Students (refer to section 6.7)). On your transfer release date, you must stop employment regardless of your EAD card's appearance of validity.

    In order to maintain your F-1 status, a new I-20 for change of academic level, new degree program, or transfer must be issued before the end of your 60 day grace period.

    Change of Status During OPT

    If you change your immigration status (e.g. from F-1 to H-1B, F-2, or J-1) during the period of your OPT your OPT ends on the effective date of the USCIS action notice and any unused OPT time is lost (you cannot have both F-1 OPT status and another status at the same time, nor can you return to OPT if your new status is terminated for any reason).

    The Valdosta State University is required to notify SEVIS of your new status and requests that you notify the Office of the Registrar immediately. To officially record your new status, the Office of the Registrar will need a copy of the approval notice you received from USCIS.


    STEM OPT


    General Information

    Definition of STEM OPT

    Practical work experience in your field of study, typically after completion of a degree for a maximum of 36 months (12 months of “regular” OPT with a 24-month extension possible).

    Eligibility Criteria for the 24-month OPT extension

    ● Students who have already been approved for 12 months of post-completion OPT; and
    ● Who have earned a bachelor’s or higher degree in a field included on the U.S. Government's list of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields within the last 10 years; and
    ● Who are employed in a paid job directly related to his/her field of study; and
    ● Who have a job or job offer with an employer enrolled in the U.S. Government's E-Verify program.

    Please Note: All four of the above criteria must be met in order for a student to be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension.

    List of degrees in STEM fields

    If a student earned a degree in a field that appears on the U.S. government's official list of STEM fields, he/she may be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension. In order to verify that your degree is on this list, look at the major code(s) listed in the "Program of Study" section on Page 1 of your I-20 form, and then look for that code in the CIP code column of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security STEM Designated Degree Programs list.

    E-Verify

    E-Verify is a database system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees. E-Verify is currently voluntary in most states. For more information visit https://www.e-verify.gov/.

    Application time frame for the 24-month OPT extension

    Students must apply for the 24-month OPT extension prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of
    “regular” OPT. The application must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the first OPT period EAD in order to be properly (timely) filed. USCIS will not accept I-765 applications for STEM extensions any earlier than 90 days before the current EAD expiration date. Accordingly, International Center will process a STEM recommendation I-20 no more than three months and one week in advance of your current OPT end date. *Please note: you cannot apply during the 60 day grace period.

    Work authorization status while STEM extension is pending: If you successfully file the application for your 24-month OPT extension prior to the expiration of your current 12-month OPT period EAD, you may continue employment even if your previous EAD card is expired until your OPT extension is processed or until 180 days has passed, whichever is sooner.

    Additional Information

    Reporting requirements during the 24-month extension

    Students approved for the 24-month OPT extension have additional reporting requirements in order to maintain their status and work authorization. Students must report to the IC within 10 days if there is any change of:

     ● Legal name
    ● Residential or mailing address
    ● Employer name
    ● Employer address, and/or
    ● Loss of employment

    Students must make a validation report to the IC every six months to confirm name and address, employer name and address, and continuation of employment. The report is due within 10 days of the six-month reporting date. Use the STEM Extension Reporting Requirement web form to submit your validation report.

    Types of Employment Allowed during an OPT STEM extension

    A student authorized for a 24-month extension must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a paid position directly related to his or her DHS-approved STEM CIP code.
    For students who are on a STEM extension, this employment may include:

    Work for one or more employer. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student's degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
    Multiple employers. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student's degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
    Self-employed business owner. Students on a STEM extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-Verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program. HOWEVER, under the new STEM regulations, students may not fill out their own Form I-983, Sections 3 to 6, nor act as their own employer for the purposes of the form. This might result in the student NOT being eligible for a STEM extension if self-employed.
    Employment through an agency or consulting firm. ** details to come.

    24-Month Extension Available Twice

    The 24-month extension of OPT is available to each student at TWO non-consecutive periods of time. Please note that this rule is different from the application rules for the “standard” 12-month OPT, under which students could be approved for multiple OPT periods for each higher degree earned in the U.S. (i.e. bachelor's, then master's, then doctoral). Each STEM extension must meet the above-listed STEM eligibility requirements.

    Starting and Ending Dates

    The start date of the 24-month OPT extension will be automatically set to the day after the expiration of the current 12-month OPT authorization. The end date will be 24 months later. (It is not possible to request smaller increments of time for the OPT extension.)

    Approval

    If an application for a 24-month extension is approved, USCIS will issue an EAD with a validity period that starts on the day after the expiration date stated on the 12-month OPT EAD.

    During the 24-month OPT Extension

    How to maintain your F-1 status

    Information reporting requirements are more strict during the 24-month OPT extension. Take special care to comply with these obligations. Failure to do so can jeopardize the validity of your OPT and your legal visa status in the U.S.

    1. You must report any change of address in Banner within 10 days of moving to your new residence. Your address must describe where you live. It cannot be a P.O. Box or an office address.

    2. If the name or address of your employer changes, you must report this information to the IC within 10 days of the change.

    3. If you experience an interruption in employment, you must report it to the IC. Students are allowed a maximum of 150 days of unemployment time, which is cumulative including the 12 month OPT and the 24 month STEM extension.

    4. You are required to make a validation report to the IC every six months starting from the date your 24-month OPT extension is approved. The report is due within 10 days of the required reporting date. Use the STEM Extension Reporting Requirement web form to submit your validation report. The validation report must contain the following information:

    • Legal name 
    • Residential/mailing address
    • Employer name
    • Employer address
    • Confirmation that you are currently employed by the employer named

    Ending Your OPT

    Your F-1 status remains valid until 60 days after the expiration of your EAD card. During this 60-day grace period, you are no longer authorized to work, however you may legally stay in the U.S. If you depart the U.S. during the 60-day grace period, you are no longer eligible to re-enter under your previous F-1 visa status.

    ● If you plan to return home after the end of your OPT, please make sure that you depart the U.S. before the end of your 60-day grace period.
    ● If you decide to abandon your OPT and depart the U.S., please submit a departure form.
    ● If you plan to change your visa status, we recommend you begin this process before your OPT is expired. Notify the Registrar’s Office if your immigration status does change during the OPT period.
    ● If you plan to start a new degree program at another college or university, please make sure to contact the IC regarding the transfer of your SEVIS record. Transfers must be done before the end of the 60-day grace period.

     

  • On-Campus Employment

    On-Campus Employment for F-1 Students

    Overview

    F-1 and J-1 students are eligible to work on-campus while attending classes. The work does not need to be related to your field of study. You must maintain legal F-1 or J-1 status while engaging in on-campus employment.

    Definition of On-Campus Employment

    ● On-campus employment includes work done as a teaching or research assistant as well as jobs in the university library, dormitory dining facilities, laboratories, and administrative offices.
    ● On-campus also includes employment with on-location commercial firms which provide services for students on campus, such as stores or restaurants located in a University owned building.

    Requirements

    ● Must have a cumulative 2.0 GPA

    ● Are currently taking classes at VSU, or if during the summer break, you took classes in the spring semester

    ● Must be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours during the Fall and Spring semesters.

    • *Note: International undegraduate students must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours during the Fall and Spring semesters! Unless authorized to enroll in less!

    ● May only work up to 20 hours per week during the Fall and Spring semesters if school is in session.

    • *Note: Maximum hours is cumulative, so if a student has 2 on-campus jobs, then the total of the hours from both jobs per week must be no greater than 20 hours.

    What to Consider

    ● Preferably, the job should be one which looks good on resume and provides learning experiences and valuable skills (communication skills, computer skills, etc.)
    ● Try to choose a job which might eventually lead to a better job. For example, work as a grader, then go on to become a teaching assistant (TA).
    ● It is quite possible for an international student to be hired as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) or as a Research Assistant (RA). Both GSIs and RAs generally receive tuition, a stipend and university benefits. You may receive a GSI or RA award either from your department or another department on campus. For most departments, an international student applying for a GSI position must take a test called the International Teaching Assistant English Evaluation, or the ITA Test. If you would like to become a GSI, be sure to ask the department when you should take the ITA test in order to be considered for a teaching assistantship.

    Where to Look for On-Campus Jobs

    information coming soon.

    Applying for On-Campus Jobs

    information coming soon.

    U.S. Taxes

    When you get an on-campus job, you will be required to pay tax on your earnings. You may qualify for exemptions if your home country has a tax treaty with the United States.

    Documentation Needed After Getting a Job

    When you get an on-campus job, you will need to complete the following forms:

    ● VSU Student Temporary Employment Form
    ● I-9 Form (Employment Eligibility Verification)
    ● State and federal withholding allowance certificate (W-4) forms
    ● Direct Deposit Authorization Form if you would like to have your paychecks directly deposited into your bank account

    On-Campus Employment and Graduation

    YOU MAY CONTINUE WORKING ON CAMPUS IF: you graduate from one program (example: Bachelor's), and start another program of study (example Master's), as long as you plan to start your new program in the next semester. 

    Example: You graduate in Spring 2016 with your Bachelor's degree, and start your Master's program at VSU in Fall 2016. You may continue working on campus. 

    "An F-1 student may only work on-campus after the program end date (the date your degree was awarded, not when you participated in the graduation ceremony), if continuing at the next program level at the same school."

    YOU MAY NOT CONTINUE WORKING ON CAMPUS IF

    • you are transferring to another US college/university
    • you have completed your program at VSU, and will start a new program at another university

    Example: Your Bachelor's degree was awarded on May 9, 2015. You are transferring to another university in the US for your Master's degree in Fall 2015. You cannot continue working on-campus at VSU. 

    Student Assistants - Undergraduate Level

    Create a Blazer Briefcase profile.
    • Complete an online student employment application. All job postings are available online, and do not require you to have a social security number (even though it may look like it!).

    Note: Applying for a job online does not guarantee you will be hired. Feel free to apply for different positions that you qualify for. Think of it as practice for when you are applying for jobs after college. 

    If a department on-campus has offered you a job, then you will need to work with Human Resources to complete your new hire /employment paperwork. One of the items that you will need is a Social Security Numbers. But if you do not have a Social Security Number, what do YOU need to do to get one?

    • Let Human Resources know that you are an international student and that you will need to apply for a Social Security Number.
    • Apply for a Social Security Number. Use the Social Security Number Application Checklist located under Resources as a guide.

    Graduate Assistantships - How to get one?

    1. You NEED to be accepted into a graduate program as a regular or probationary student.
    2. Using your VSU email and password submit an application through the graduate assistantship portal, or talk to your graduate program's coordinator to see if there are any openings that you could apply for.
    3. Get an interview, and be offered a position by a department.
    4. Complete the paperwork needed for the Graduate Assistantship with the Graduate School, which includes applying for a Social Security Number if you do not have one.

     

  • Social Security Card

    Getting a Social Security Number and Card

    About Social Security Numbers and Cards

    A Social Security number (SSN) is used to report your wages to the U.S. government and to determine eligibility for Social Security benefits. Social Security numbers can be assigned to foreign workers who are authorized to work in the United States.

    When a Social Security Number is Required

    Social Security numbers are required for the following situations:

    You cannot begin work while you wait for your Social Security number to be issued. You can only begin working if you have your Social Security card present in hand. 

    Refer to Social Security Administration Policy Regarding Foreign Students (see item #1c) about working while waiting for a Social Security number to be processed. If an employer tells you that you cannot work or cannot be paid until you have received your Social Security number, let them know that:

    • An F-1 student may work while the Social Security number application is being processed. Employers may wish to reference SSA’s fact sheet, Employer Responsibilities When Hiring Foreign Workers
      http://www.ssa.gov/employer/hiring.htm. This fact sheet contains information on how to report wages for an employee who has not yet received an SSN.
    • Also, employers are required to abide by Federal and State laws with respect to the payment of wages toemployees who have completed the agreed-to amount of work. Please see the U.S. Department of Labor Fair Labor Standards Act website that discusses the basic requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) http://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/index.htm.
    • The Social Security Administration strongly recommends that an employer and/or their payroll or HR
      departments check Federal and State labor laws and their own legal counsel before withholding wages from their employees. There is no provision in the Social Security Act (the Act) that employers must have their employees’ SSNs before hiring them. Neither is there any provision in the Act that prohibits an employee from beginning work if he or she has not yet obtained an SSN.

    If you are going to receive a fellowship or scholarship payment from Valdosta State University, you will need a Social Security number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) if you are not eligible for a Social Security number.

    All students in F-1 status who are non-resident aliens for tax purposes are required to submit a tax return form to the Internal Revenue Service if they have any U.S. source income (other than bank interest). A Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is required on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax return forms.

    When a Social Security Number is Not Required

    Social Security numbers are not required for the following situations:

    Registration for Classes

    It is not necessary to have a Social Security number in order to register for classes. Students use an eight-digit number called the U-M I.D. number to register for classes.

    Banking

    You do not need a Social Security number to open a bank account or for most other financial transactions. If you are an F or J visa holder, the bank may ask you to fill out Internal Revenue Service Form W-8BEN to prove that you are exempt from the requirement of providing a Social Security number.

    Determining Eligibility for a Social Security Number and Card

    Eligibility for a Social Security number and card varies, depending on your situation. If you need a Social Security number but are not eligible for one (based on the eligibility requirements listed below), you may apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) through the VSU Bursary. 

    Visa Type & Eligibility Requirements

    F-1 students

    • On-campus employment
    • Curricular Practical Training (C.P.T.) with C.P.T. endorsement on page 2 of your I-20 form
    • Optional Practical Training (O.P.T.) with an Employment Authorization Document (E.A.D.) card.
    • NOTE: F-1 students who were issued E.A.D. cards for other reasons
    (employment authorization due to severe economic hardship, for example) are also eligible to apply for a Social Security number.

    F-2 dependents

    Not eligible to receive a Social Security number.

    Applying for a Social Security Number and Card

    1. Click the link https://valdosta.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_ezCPCB88jvQi1GB and fill out the information requested.
    2. Once the form is completed, the CIP is notified and will provide you a letter for the social security office.
    3. Once the letter is provided, please email iss@valdosta.edu to schedule an appointment to assemble the documents in the Social Security Number application, which will be mailed. 

    F-1 students: The Social Security office will only accept original (not scanned) letters and all signatures must be in ink.

    * Required Documents Needed for the SSC Application

    ● Complete and printed Application for a Social Security Card form (SS-5).
    ● Original passport
    ● Form I-94 printed from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home  
    ● Original I-20 form (for F-1 visa holders only)
    ● For F-1 or J-1 visa holders: Proof of employment or employment eligibility (see below for details)

    F-1 students remember:

    With on-campus employment:
    Social Security Letter 
    Curricular Practical Training (C.P.T.): I-20 with C.P.T. endorsement on page two. You can't apply earlier than 30 days before your C.P.T. start date.
    Optional Practical Training (O.P.T.): U.S.C.I.S. Employment Authorization Document (E.A.D.) card. You must apply on or after the start date on your EAD card.

    You will receive a Social Security card in the mail approximately one to two weeks after applying for it. If you have questions while waiting to receive your Social Security number, contact the Social Security Administration directly at (800)-772-1213. 

  • Taxes

    How to File Your Non-Resident Tax Forms

    Overview

    Taxes are necessary in every country one lives in. If you are unsure what tax form you need to fill out you can first check this flow chart

    1. Gather the documents you may need to use Sprintax

    Your personal situation determines the documents you may or may not receive.

    List of documents

    1. Passport
    2. Visa/Immigration status information, including form I-20 (F status) or form DS-2019 (J status)
    3. U.S. entry and exit dates for current and past visits to the U.S. In addition to passport stamps, you can review or print your U.S. travel history here.
    4. Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. This is required if you have U.S. income to report, but NOT required if you had no income and the 8843 is the only form you have to file.
    5. W-2. This form reports your wage earnings if you worked. If you had more than one employer, you should get a W-2 from each employer. It is issued by the end of January for the previous year. Make sure all employers from last year have an up-to-date address for you. If you worked in the U.S. and have not received a Form W-2, contact your employer for a copy.
    6. 1042-S. This form is issued to report: (1) stipend, scholarship, fellowship income and travel grants. Tuition exemption or reduction is NOT taxable income or (2) income covered by a tax treaty.

      i. If you received a scholarship or grant that is less than the cost of tuition and fees, you will not receive a 1042-S. If you are working on campus and believe you should have received a 1042-S due to a tax treaty, check with your Human Resources (HR) office.

      ii. Only Nonresident Aliens receive this form. If your tax status changes to a Resident Alien because of having spent more than 5 years in the U.S. you will not get a 1042-S. If you're not sure of your tax status, log in to Sprintax to check.

    7. 1099. This form reports miscellaneous income. May be interest on bank accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, earning through freelance employment

      X 1098-T. This form is NOT needed and can NOT be used for a nonresident tax return because NRAs are not eligible to claim education expense tax credits. If, however, you have become a resident for federal tax purposes, the office of Student Accounts has 1098-T information.

      X 1095-A1095-B, 1095-C. These forms report healthcare coverage and are not needed for a Nonresident tax return.

    2. Go to the Sprintax website & Create an Account

    Go to the Sprintax website, www.sprintax.com

    Create your account. Remember: The federal tax and form 8843 are free, but there will be a fee for the state tax upon completion of your tax returns. 

    After you enter all required information into Sprintax, it will generate a cost for the service. At this point, you will type in an access code that VSU CIP staff has provided you in your VSU email. Refer to the email sent by CIP staff for your code. This access code will waive the fee by Sprintax for preparing your federal income tax return. If you have questions about this access code, please contact the VSU CIP office for guidance.

    Sprintax will save your information so you can log in and out without starting over. Additionally, if you use Sprintax in subsequent years, your information will carry over

    3. Follow Sprintax instructions

    If You Did Not Have U.S. Income: Sprintax will generate a completed Form 8843 for you and each of your dependents (if you have any).

    If You Had U.S. Income: Sprintax will generate your "tax return documents," form 1040NR. If you have any dependents, Sprintax will generate a completed Form 8843 for each of your dependents.

    4. If applicable, complete your state tax return

    After you finish your federal return, Sprintax will inform you if you need to complete a state tax return because of your income. If so, they will give you the option to use Sprintax for an individual fee. It is your choice whether to use Sprintax for state taxes or to do the state tax return on your own.

    Need Sprintax Support?

    If you need help while using Sprintax, contact them:

    ITIN Information

    International students who had income from scholarships or fellowships, and those who are claiming tax treaty benefits may need to apply for an ITIN. See the IRS website for more details about ITINs. If you already have a Social Security Number (SSN), you do not require an ITIN. If you need to apply for an ITIN, Sprintax will guide you through the application process. You may need to take your original immigration documents to the local IRS office for certification. You can find contact information and hours for the Binghamton IRS office on the IRS website. VSU CIP does not recommend mailing your original immigration documents to the IRS.

    How to File Your Resident Tax Forms

    If you have lived in a state for over five years, you are considered a resident of that state even if you are an international student. 

    IRS Free File

    The IRS offers many options to file your taxes for free. Some options include free state tax return.