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 ISP approval; however, F-1 students must meet with ISP to complete the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification prior to beginning their first on-campus job. ISP will also support students' application for a Social Security Number (SSN).
Students experiencing serious, urgent, and unforeseen economic circumstances during their academic program may qualify for special permission, called Severe Economic Hardship Employment, to work off campus. Contact your international advisor to determine if you are eligible to apply.
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 must receive an updated I-20 endorsed by ISP for CPT prior to beginning employment.
- Step 1: Submit the CPT Recommendation Form to your dean's office at least 3 weeks prior to your job start date.
- Step 2: After your dean's office approval, ISP will issue an updated I-20 to authorize CPT.
- Step 3: ISP will send you the CPT I-20 via email.
- Step 4: Present the CPT I-20 to your employer as proof of employment eligibility.
Important: Do Not work at all before or after the dates of CPT authorization, as indicated on Page 2 of your I-20. If your employer wishes to extend your internship, notify ISP immediately to request an updated CPT I-20 BEFORE you continue work. Never work outside of the dates or employer, as specifically authorized on the I-20.
Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is 12-month employment authorization available to students in F-1 status at the completion of their academic program of study. OPT requires an application be filed with, and approved by, USCIS.
- Step 1: Review Important OPT Application Filing Guidelines
- Step 2: Determine your Program Completion Date
- Step 3: Determine your OPT Start Date
- Step 4: Email ISP to request OPT I-20
- Step 5: ISP issues you the OPT I-20
- Step 6: Submit your OPT application online
ISP will shorten your I-20 program date to match your academic Program Completion Date.
- PhD: The defense date or as late as the end of the academic term in which you defend.
- Master's: The end of the academic term in which you last enrolled.
- Bachelor's: The end of the academic term in which you last enrolled.
The OPT Start Date is the date you want your period of post-completion work authorization to begin.
- Must be after your program completion date but no more than 60 days after your program completion date
- Cannot be changed after the OPT application has been mailed
- USCIS-approved OPT Start Date may differ from the requested date, due to USCIS processing times
- USCIS may take 3 - 4 months to process an OPT application (sometimes more)
- Absolutely no employment of any kind during any gap between your program completion date and OPT Start Date. This includes being paid by Caltech as a student.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Sign Up for USPS Informed Delivery
When you apply for OPT or STEM OPT, you must indicate a reliable mailing address for USCIS to send your physical Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Occasionally, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has lost the EAD by mail. Their error could potentially cause you to re-apply with another application fee at your expense. To limit such problems, we highly recommend that you sign up for USPS Informed Delivery. Read about it here.
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.
When you apply for OPT or STEM OPT, you must indicate a reliable mailing address for USCIS to send your physical Employment Authorization Card (EAD). Occasionally, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has lost the EAD by mail. Their error could potentially cause you to re-apply with another application fee at your expense. To limit such problems, we highly recommend that you sign up for USPS Informed Delivery. Read about it here.
A critical part of maintaining your F-1 status while on OPT or STEM is making sure your SEVIS record (your I-20 online) contains accurate information. Your SEVP Portal helps you meet your legal reporting requirements, but allowing you to make updates to SEVIS. Once the initial period of OPT is Active in SEVIS, you will receive an email notification from DHS-SEVP (Student & Exchange Visitor Program) prompting you to create an account.
You will continue to work with ISP, who serve as your designated school officials (DSO), for the duration of your F-1 status.
Learn how your SEVP Portal works
What data can I change through my SEVP Portal?
- U.S. Residential Address
- U.S. Mailing Address
- Phone Number
- Employer (only when on initial OPT; update through ISP when on STEM)
- Supervisor (when on STEM)
You must create your SEVP Portal Account in order to receive occasional, time-sensitive alerts from SEVP to confirm your U.S. residential address and U.S. employment. You are responsible for updating your U.S. residential address and U.S. employment within 10 days of any change. Enter updates through your SEVP Portal AND directly to ISP. Maintaining lawful F-1 status is your responsibility.
You will continue to work with ISP, who serve as your designated school officials (DSO), for the duration of your F-1 status. ISP is available to assist you in understanding your responsibilities.
I-983 Evaluation on Student Progress - Page 5 due (top section)
Submit to ISP the completed evaluation at the end of the first 12 months of work on STEM. (This is NOT related to any time on the initial OPT.) We do not require an entirely new I-983; only the Evaluation/Page 5 is needed.
I-983 Final Evaluation on Student Programs - Page 5 (bottom section)
All STEM participants must submit to ISP the completed final evaluation:
- upon completion of the current job, or
- upon completion of your STEM EAD, or
- upon completion of F-1 status (if you obtain H1B status, a green card, or other prior to the STEM EAD expiration)
Submit New I-983 to ISP for any New Job or material change to Current Job
- Form I-983 is required for each new employer or change within employment.
- Employer Site Information must include your Direct Supervisor's Name, Phone Number, and Email Address.
Update ISP within 10 days of any change in employment, including if you become unemployed. Maintaining lawful F-1 status is your responsibility. ISP is available to assist you in understanding your responsibilities if you have any questions.
Primary sources for STEM guidance: