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My F1 Status

The U.S. job market is extremely competitive with thousands of students graduating annually and looking to start a new career related to their Bachelors, Masters or MBA degree.  As an international student, you not only have to find a suitable position, but also an employer who is willing to spend the extra time and money sponsoring your visa.

To realistically compete with the U.S. citizens, you need to be able to prove that you have skill sets they don’t have.  Companies need to be clear on the extra value you add over and above the value a U.S. citizen can add for them to even contemplate the visa process.


F1 Status

How do I maintian a valid F1 status?

The following list will help you to ensure you maintain a valid F-1 status:

  • Have an EIU SEVIS I-20 properly processed by travel and reentry to the United States OR processed throughOffice of International Students and Scholars (OISS) for an immigration School Transfer.
  • Have a machine-readable passport that is valid at all times (at least 6 months into the future).
  • Maintain full-time enrollment at EIU each Fall and Spring semesters.   Summer registration is optional.  Undergraduates must enroll for at least 12 credits and Graduate students must enroll for at least 9 graduate-level credits.  
  • Maintain good academic standing and make normal progress towards completing degree. 
  • Report any legal changes to your name OR any change of address within 10 days of the change to OISS. For a name change, provide OISS with legal documents such as your passport to request a new I-20 with the new name. 
  • File for a program extension in a timely manner if you need more time beyond the original completion date of your program (See item #5 of your I-20.). An extension must be completed within 120 days BEFORE the original completion date expires.
  • Limit on-campus employment to a total of 20 hours per week during Fall/Spring semesters and full-time work during the summer and holidays.
  • Obtain required authorization before engaging in any off-campus employment, whether employment is paid or unpaid. Unauthorized employment is a deportable offense under the law.
  • Meet with an OISS Advisor as soon as you fall out-of-status for appropriate advising.
  • Comply with federal tax filing requirements by applicable deadlines (refer to www.irs.gov).

What does my F1 status mean?

F-1 nonimmigrants, as defined in section 101(a)(15)(F) of the Act, are foreign students pursuing a full course of study in a college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, private elementary school, other academic institution, or language training program in the United States that has been approved by the Service to enroll foreign students. For the purposes of this rule, the term "school" refers to all of these types of Service-approved institutions. An F-2 nonimmigrant is a foreign national who is the spouse or qualifying child (under the age of 21) of an F-1 nonimmigrant.

Source: USCIS website http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis


Working on your F1 Visa 

Getting Work Experience in the US

Companies look for more than your degree and grades when they are looking to hiring new people to join their workforces.  They are just as interested in the work experience and/or extra-curricular activities you undertook during your studies as such endeavors allow you to develop important work-related skills such as:

  • Time management - principles and systems you use to make conscious decisions about activities that occupy your time
  • Communication - verbal and written fluency in English
  • Problem-solving - objectively identify causes of a problem and propose potential, often creative, solutions
  • Team work - cooperative effort by the members of a group or team to achieve a common goal
  • Creative thinking - look at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions
  • Leadership - the ability to lead, including inspiring others in a shared vision

These transferable skills, among others, stay with you from job to job, helping you become effective and efficient.  If you have some of these skills when getting out of university, it will help you to stand out from your peers in our increasingly competitive job market, in the US and across the globe.


How can I develop my transferrable skills?

There are a number of ways to develop your transferable skills:

  • Managing your study commitments alongside your involvement in on-campus activities such as student societies, for example, demonstrate your time management skills.
  • Getting involved in volunteer work devising fundraising ideas or ways to get more people involved demonstrate your creative thinking skills.
  • Working on-campus in a variety of different positions may help you to develop your problem-solving and team work skills.

Each experience you are able to talk about to employers will help you to:

  • Tell them something about your personality
  • Demonstrate you have more to offer than your academic ability
  • Show you can cope outside the university environment

As an international student, your options are more limited than your American counterparts to gain some of this important experience.  The University (OISS and Career Services) is here to help guide you into making smart choices within the regulations set down for you by the US Government through your F-1 visa.


Can I work while I study?

Holding a non-immigrant F-1 (Student) visa means you are classified and authorized to be in the United States for the principal purpose of pursuing a full course of study as a degree-seeking student in an academic or educational institution which issued you a SEVIS Form I-20 and where you are expected to enroll on a full-time basis.

There are sections of federal law and regulations that define what F-1 students can and cannot do while in the U.S. Under such law and regulations, employment is highly regulated and very limited.

"Employment" is defined under federal regulations as a rendering of services either on a part-time basis or full-time basis for financial compensation or educational/learning compensation (academic benefits or practical experience).

Employment on-campus or off-campus, paid or unpaid, should be authorized in writing either by OISS or by the U.S. of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Employment is a "benefit" and available only to students who maintain valid F-1 status prior to the application and through the duration of authorized employment.



What is Practical Training?

Practical Training is employment that is directly related to your major or program of study and commensurate with your degree level.

Employment under practical training must always be authorized, either by an OISS Advisor or USCIS. The two types of practical training are:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)


How do I know if I am eligible for Practical Training?

You must maintain valid F-1 status at the time of your application AND throughout the duration of your practical training per immigration law and federal regulations.  In addition, you must have been enrolled full-time for at least two consecutive academic terms.

NOTE: Graduate (Masters or Doctoral) students whose programs REQUIRE them to engage in practical training during their first semester of study are exempt from the two consecutive academic term rule provided that the practical experience requirement is clearly stated in the University Graduate Catalog under program curriculum and confirmed in writing by the Academic Advisor.


What is Curricular Practical Training?

CPT is employment that is performed for academic credit (part of school curriculum; commensurate to degree level OR that is required as part of the academic plan or program curriculum). This includes:

  • Required internship, practicum, student teaching or field experience
  • Optional internships for credit (MUST be in student's major or program of study)
  • Cooperative (Co-op) education programs for credit (MUST be in student's major or program of study).

Graduate Students: 
If your internship is not required under your curriculum, you can request for CPT only under the following conditions:

  • You have been enrolled full-time for at least two consecutive academic terms.
  • You register for a graduate-level Internship course in your program during your course work segment.
  • CPT must be requested as part of/during your regular course work OR on your FIRST semester of enrollment for THESIS credits only or DISSERTATION credits only.

It is your responsibility to prove that your internship or co-op is an integral part of your established graduate curriculum and that it will be counted towards your degree.


What does CPT Authorization allow me to do?

Your CPT may be authorized for either part-time or full-time employment. Once your authorization is granted, you cannot change your CPT hours. If you received CPT authorization during Fall and Spring semesters, you MUST remain enrolled for a full-time course load even if your CPT was authorized for full-time employment.

Your CPT is authorized for a specific employer, location and academic periods only. If you are doing it for academic credit, CPT can only be authorized:

  • to begin by first day of classes (if authorization is received prior to or by that day) OR by date of approval, whichever is later


  • to end on the last day of final exam period (for Fall/Spring semesters) OR last day of classes (for Summer term).

You are reminded that once CPT authorization is granted, it CANNOT be cancelled, rescinded, revoked, or changed. Authorization cannot be retroactive. If a change of employer is necessary, you must re-submit your CPT application.

NOTE: The time period and hours/week will NOT change; only the name of the employer and site can be changed. ALL authorized CPT is counted and recorded in SEVIS regardless of whether you actually worked or not.

CAUTION: A STUDENT WHO ENGAGES IN 12 MONTHS OF FULL-TIME CPT WILL LOSE ELIGIBILITY FOR Optional Practical Training (OPT). DO NOT begin work without the required OISS authorization. 

For more information about the proper procedures and forms, contact the Office of International Students and Scholars at: (217)581-2321. 


What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

In the following cases, you may apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is employment authorization that permits you to take a job that is both directly related to your field of study and commensurate with your educational level.

1.  During your annual vacation period or when school is not in session. *

2.  During the fall or spring semesters, for a maximum cumulative employment total of 20 hours per week.  

3.  After completion of graduate course work, but prior to deposit of thesis or dissertation.*

4.  After completion of your program of study. Your application must be submitted to the USCIS before you finish your program of study.

 *You must be registered, or intend to register, in the same program after your OPT.

For more information about the proper procedures and forms, contact the Office of International Students and Scholars at: (217)581-2321.