Although there are limits, international students (F-1) in the United States have options for employment benefits in the United States.
On-campus employment is available for students to begin immediately upon enrollment at Monroe Community College without special work authorization required. However, students should seek guidance from International Services to ensure that the hiring process with the college goes smoothly.
Off-campus employment is not permitted without first obtaining the required work authorization, either from International Services or the United States government. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an option for pursuing internships off-campus, while Optional Practical Training (OPT) is great for employment authorization after graduation.
Students must use caution when pursuing unpaid or volunteer "work" opportunities and should consult with International Services before beginning.
Applying for a U.S. Social Security number (SSN) is an important part of the employment process, which International Services is here to assist you with.
All international students are required to file U.S. tax forms each year. Tax reporting is required even if you have not worked, but it is especially important if you have been employed.
International students are generally permitted to work on-campus at MCC. You must have a valid Form I-20 issued by MCC, enroll in a full course of study and otherwise maintain your F-1 status. Your I-20 is proof of work eligibility; no special work permission is required to begin, but there are certain regulations that must be followed:
- F-1 students can work a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session. During school break periods, F-1 students can work a maximum of 40 hours per week.
- F-1 students may work directly for the college, hired by the Human Resources office on campus. Examples of jobs for the college include Peer Tutor in the TAAC, Peer Navigator in Admissions, or a student aide in the Office of Student Life & Leadership, or a lab assistant in a science department. Please see International Services for a list of potential employers.
- F-1 students may also work for a commercial firm that provides direct services to students on campus. For example, the MCC Association hires students to work in the Bookstore, the Photo ID Office, or the Campus Center Service Desk. Students can also work at any of the firms that serve food to students on campus such as Sodexo, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, or coffee shops.
- F-1 students are not eligible for "federal work study" positions on campus, as this is a federal financial aid program available only to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. If you are interested in a job on campus, you can clarify with the employer or department whether or not you must have a "work study financial aid award" to be eligible for the job.
- Your on-campus work eligibility will expire when you graduate, or on the program end date of your Form I-20. If you transfer to another college or university in the U.S., your work authorization at MCC expires on the day of your SEVIS record release date. If your violate your F-1 status (ex. you do not maintain full-time enrollment), your work eligibility effectively ends.
- To complete the hiring process, you will need to apply for a U.S. Social Security Number. Please schedule an appointment with International Services for assistance with applying for the SSN.
CPT is a temporary authorization for off-campus work or "practical training" which is directly related to your major or field of study. Practical training can include employment, an internship experience, a cooperative (co-op) experience, or required practicum for your program. It can be paid or unpaid. CPT must be authorized by International Services. Please schedule an appointment with International Services if you are interested in pursuing CPT.
These are some regulations to keep in mind for CPT:
- To be eligible for CPT authorization, you must have valid F-1 status and have completed at least one academic year full-time at a U.S. college or university.
- You must register and earn course credit toward your degree program for the CPT experience. The course credit should be earned during the same academic period that the CPT is authorized.
- You must first receive an offer of employment and an official job or internship offer letter in order to receive the CPT authorization.
- CPT can be authorized as part-time (less than 20 hours per week) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week).
- CPT can be authorized during the semester or during a break period. If you pursue CPT during the semester, you must still maintain full-time course enrollment.
- International Services must authorize CPT in SEVIS and issue a new I-20 for you which notates the work authorization period. Do not begin working until you receive the authorization and new I-20.
- CPT work authorization is approved only for that specific employer, location, and period of time. You must inform International Services of any changes to your employment period ahead of time, so that your CPT authorization can be edited or updated.
- The use of 1 year or more full-time CPT authorization will eliminate your eligibility for OPT at the associate's degree level. Please keep this in mind if you plan to pursue OPT after finishing your associate's degree.
OPT provides F-1 students with an opportunity to apply for work or "practical training" authorization in the United States that is directly related to their academic field of study (major). Post-completion OPT gives F-1 students the opportunity to work for up to 12 months in their field of study following completion of their degree program. Although pre-completion OPT is an option, International Services recommends utilizing the CPT benefit (above) for students wishing to pursue off-campus work while still pursuing their studies.
Unlike CPT which is authorized by International Services only, OPT authorization requires you to receive a recommendation from International Services AND submit an application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There is currently an application fee of $410 USD and applications take approximately 3 months or more for USCIS to approve.
You are eligible to apply for OPT if you meet the following criteria:
- You are currently maintaining F-1 status
- You have been enrolled in a full course of study for at least one academic year, or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins
- You are currently in your final term of study, or within your 60-day grace period following program completion
- You have not been authorized for 1 year or more of full-time CPT in the past
- You have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the associate's degree level or a higher degree level
- You do not need a job offer to apply. You may apply for OPT before you receive a job offer.
At the beginning of your final semester of study, please schedule an appointment with International Services to go over the OPT application process and regulations. In this appointment, International Services will:
- Help you to select employment dates
- Authorize the required OPT recommendation and issue a new Form I-20 for you
- Provide you with a checklist of materials necessary for a complete OPT application
- Review your application for accuracy and completeness before submission to USCIS
- Explain information reporting requirements and travel advice while on OPT
Please note that you are limited to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment while on your 12 months of approved OPT. This benefit is designed for students seeking bona fide employment in the United States. If you exceed 90 days of unemployment you will be required to depart the United States, transfer to another school or otherwise maintain status.
Students approved for OPT at the associate's degree level are not eligible to apply for the 24-month STEM Extension of OPT at this time.
This F-1 employment benefit is intended to address situations where severe financial need beyond the student's control arises, which was unforeseen at the time the student applied to the school he/she is currently attending, and after all other potential employment opportunities have proven to be insufficient. Examples include:
- Death or severe illness of financial sponsor
- Extreme changes to currency/exchange rates in the student's home country
- Natural disaster (such as earthquake, hurricane, tsunami) in the student's home country which impacts the family and financial sponsorship
- Unforeseen medical bills for the student or financial sponsor
Like OPT, this employment authorization has an application fee and takes approximately 3 months or more to be reviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Students must have completed at least 1 year in F-1 status to apply. The application requires recommendation and assistance from International Services.
Approved applications are rare! Highly recommended to seek other financial options first. If approved, students are required to maintain full-time enrollment and can work up to 20 hours per week during the semesters and full-time during school breaks. Approved students can work anywhere; not limited to the student's field of study.
F-1 students may only obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) for employment purposes!
If you want the SSN in order to apply for a driver's license, it is not needed! Please see International Services for assistance with the process of obtaining a NYS driver's license.
You are not eligible to apply for SSN unless you have a job offer. The simplest way is to seek on-campus employment, but you can also apply for SSN if you have a job offer from CPT or have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) for OPT. If you receive a job offer and apply for the SSN, you are required to fulfill your employment obligations to the employer!
First, request and receive an offer letter from the employer.
Next, schedule an appointment with International Services and bring the employment letter with you. International Services will provide you with an employment authorization letter at this appointment.
You must take the following original documents (no copies) to the Social Security Administration to apply for the SSN in person:
The Social Security Administration is located at: 200 E Main Street, Second Floor, Rochester NY 14604. They are open from 9:00am - 4:00pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. They are open from 9:00am - 12:00pm on Wednesday. CLOSED Saturday & Sunday and on all U.S. federal holidays.
You should receive your Social Security card in the mail within 1-2 weeks of applying. It will be printed on a blue card and you must sign your name on it. You must visit MCC Human Resources (Building 6, room 301), or your hiring manager immediately upon receipt of your card to complete your employment paperwork. Failure to do so could result in loss of your job offer.
Keep your Social Security card in a safe place at home— NOT in your wallet or backpack. Your SSN is very sensitive information and can be used to steal your identity. Do not give your SSN to anyone except for employment purposes or when absolutely necessary— such as banking, applying for housing, or purchasing a car.
All international students are required to file tax forms to the U.S. government (IRS) in the spring of each year, for the previous tax year. They are due by April 15.
You must file tax forms even if you did not work or earn income! You still must report your presence in the United States to the IRS.
International Services will send detailed information and instructions to you each spring semester by email about tax filing requirements. There is a tax preparation website you can use to help file your tax forms. The company is called Sprintax. It is especially for international students who are considered U.S. non-residents. In most cases, you cannot use tax preparation software meant for U.S. residents and citizens, like Turbo Tax.