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F-1 Student Employment

On-Campus Employment
CPT (Curricular Practical Training)
OPT (Optional Practical Training)
STEM OPT Extension
Severe Economic Hardship Employment

Maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status is your responsibility. The International Offices are available to assist you in understanding your responsibilities if you have any questions.

On-Campus Employment

Students maintaining F-1 status may work for Caltech a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session and more than 20 hours per week during Institute breaks and holidays.  Graduate stipends are considered on-campus employment.  Caltech students whose employment location is at JPL are considered to be engaged in on-campus employment.  On-campus employment is a benefit of F-1 status and does not require International Office approval.

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)

CPT is an off-campus employment benefit available to students in F-1 status when the experience is considered to be an integral part of the established curriculum and directly related to the student's major. "Training" refers to a paid or unpaid internship, practicum, or other work experience that is required for the degree program, or for which course credit is awarded, or for institutionally sponsored cooperative education internships or research projects.  Students are required to submit an application and receive an updated I-20 endorsed for CPT prior to beginning employment.

Please review and submit the CPT Recommendation Form at least three weeks prior to your anticipated employment start date.

CPT Application Process

  • Obtain a letter from your prospective employer stating terms of employment, including:  employment start and end end dates, full-time or part-time employment (part time is a maximum of 20 hours per week), and the address of your employer.
  • Graduate students must submit the completed and signed CPT Recommendation Form along with a copy of your employment offer letter to the Graduate Office.  A petition for sabbatical or detached duty is required. Non-academic positions may require a sabbatical.  The Graduate Office will then forward the approved forms to ISP to reveiw and create a new I-20 for the purpose of CPT.  ISP will contact you once your new CPT I-20 is ready for pick up.
  • Undergraduates submit the completed and signed CPT Recommendation Form along with a copy of your employment offer letter to ISP at least three weeks prior to anticipated start date.  Please note:  The form does require a Dean's signature.

OPT (Optional Practical Training)

OPT is an employment benefit that is available to students in F-1 status. OPT requires an application to, and authorization from, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) prior to beginning any employment.  OPT applications may be received by USCIS a maximum of 90-days prior to completion of your academic program and must be received within 60-days after program completion.  Graduate students may choose to use their defense date or the last date of the term in which they defend as the program completion date. Undergraduates will use the June commencement date as their program completion date.  Undergraduate students completing in fall or winter quarter should contact their international advisor to determine the program completion date.  Contact ISP to schedule an OPT application appointment. 

OPT Basics

  • No job offer is required to apply for OPT.
  • Authorized for a maximum of 12 months of full-time employment.
  • Employment must be directly related to your field of study.
  • Approval is granted by USCIS by issuance of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • Employment is not permitted until you receive the EAD and not until the start date printed on the EAD is reached.
  • The first year of OPT is authorized for 12 months only. If the approved EAD is different from the authorization dates requested on the I-20 issued by ISP, notify ISP immediately.

OPT Application Process

  • Review the OPT instructions and complete your part before visiting ISP to complete the application. Some considerations:
    • If you previously had OPT, bring your EAD and OPT I-20.
    • If you had CPT authorized while at Caltech, bring any CPT I-20s.
    • USCIS processing times are unpredictable.  Your EAD may take 90-110+ days from the date your application is received. Average processing time is 3.5 months from the date USCIS receives your complete OPT application.

STEM Extension

F-1 students currently on post-completion OPT based on a prior Bachelor's, Master's, or PhD degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field on the DHS STEM-Designated Degree Program List can apply to USCIS for a 24-month extension of OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 36 months).  Below are some of STEM OPT basics and links to important resources.

STEM Extension Basics

  • You must apply for the STEM extension before the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT expires.
  • You can have your STEM application recevied by USCIS up to a maximum of 90 days before the end of your OPT.
  • USCIS must receive your completed STEM application and all required documents prior to the end of your OPT.
  • USCIS must receive your completed STEM application within 60-days of ISP endorsing your I-20 for the STEM extension.
  • You can have multiple (concurrent or sequential) employers, but you must be employed a minimum of 20 hours per week per employer.
  • All employers must be on the E-Verify Employers and Federal Contractors List
  • Authorized for a maximum of 24 months of full-time employment (beyond the initial 12 months of OPT).
  • Employment must be directly related to your prior STEM field of study.
  • Must not have exceeded 90 days of unemployment during the first 12 months of OPT.
  • Must have a SEVIS I-20 for a BS, MS or PhD program.
  • May apply for the STEM extension twice per lifetime.

STEM Resources + Application Procedures

Severe Economic Hardship Employment

Students experiencing serious, urgent, and unforeseen economic circumstances during their academic program may qualify for special permission to work off campus.  Contact your international advisor to determine if you are eligible to apply.

* Photo Requirements for USCIS:  The I-765 application form for OPT and STEM OPT requires two standard, passport-style color photographs with your application. Please check the instructions on the form to verify photo requirements. Acceptable photographs must have been taken within 30 days of the date they are sent to USCIS. They should be on a white background, with a full view of your face. Your head should be bare (including no glasses) unless you are required by your religious beliefs to wear a headcovering. In all cases, your facial features must be visible.