Work Opportunities for International Students

Published: Tues., November 27

Each year, hundreds of thousands of international students come to the U.S. to study at institutions of higher education. In addition to pursuing degrees at American universities, many students hope to gain work experience in the U.S., which may provide greater opportunities for employment in the U.S. and abroad after graduation. For international students, the ability to work during or after their studies is complicated by their visa status, which limits their opportunities for employment. Despite these restrictions, international students are allowed several options to gain work experience while in the U.S.

On-Campus Employment

International students in F-1 or J-1 visa status are allowed to work on-campus in positions that are typically filled by student workers. These may include clerical positions in admissions or department offices, service jobs in landscaping or housing, or technical support in information technology. On-campus employment is restricted to half-time (20 hours per week) during the Fall and Spring terms, although students are allowed to work more than half-time during semester breaks, University holidays, and summer vacations. For more information about available positions on-campus, visit UNL Career Services.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

For F-1 students, Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides an opportunity to gain full-time work experience directly related to your major field of study. Typically undertaken after completing a degree, F-1 students are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT, with students in STEM fields allowed an additional 24-month extension of OPT status. Authorization must be granted by USCIS before you’re allowed to work, so if you intend to apply for OPT, it is recommended that you do so early in your last term of study. UNL’s International Student and Scholar Office (ISSO) hosts several OPT information sessions each term, which you must attend in order to apply for OPT. A schedule of upcoming information sessions is online at the ISSO website.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

F-1 students can also engage in Curricular Practical Training (CPT), which allows for full- or part-time employment during your studies if it is required for your major. Employment on CPT is typically in the form of an internship, co-op, or practicum, and requires that you enroll for credit for the experience. CPT must be approved by your advisor, department, or department head before authorization is granted by ISSO. See the ISSO website for detailed information on this option.

Academic Training (AT)

J-1 students are eligible for one month of Academic Training (AT), up to a maximum of 18 months, for each month they are in J-1 status. Academic Training is available during and after completion of studies and must be directly related to a student’s major. Students who wish to apply for AT must do so prior to completing their programs, and they must begin working no more than 30 days after completion of their programs. ISSO will approve requests for AT; instructions for requesting AT are on the ISSO website.

Additional Resources

For international students seeking employment opportunities, the UNL Career Services website offers information specific to F-1 and J-1 students, including employment restrictions, understanding the U.S. employer perspective, career planning, and identifying and connecting with employers. If you have any additional questions about your visa status and what you are allowed to do, please contact ISSO first. Before applying for a position, be sure to schedule a consultation with Graduate Studies to review your resume, CV, or cover letter and receive individualized feedback on your job search documents. Job documents used in the U.S. may vary from your home country so it is worth making sure your job documents are in line with what would be expected by U.S. employers before you apply.