Office of Global Citizenship
What is Employment?
"Employment" is any type of work performed, or services provided, in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, lodging, or for any other benefit. The U.S. government has a wide definition of 'employment', so it is very important to understand the work authorization options for your visa and have any necessary approvals/documentation before work begins. If international students work without authorization, they can fall out of status and risk deportation from the United States.
Students who are maintaining F-1/J-1 status are eligible to work on campus while they remain students at the University. Please note:
- International students are only permitted to work on campus, no more than 20 hours/week during the fall and spring semesters. Students may work 40 hours/week during university breaks (e.g. summer, winter, fall, and spring)
- International students are not permitted to work off-campus.
'On campus employment' is work that is paid for directly by Sewanee or an approved, close educational affiliate, and it does not usually need Office of Global Citizenship approval. For immigration purposes, 'on campus employment' is quite narrowly defined. 'On campus employment' includes:
- Work done on campus and paid for by the University directly
- Work done at an off campus location that is paid for by the University directly (such as research at Sewanee facility in a different city)
- Work done on school premises that provides direct service to students (such as working in the bookstore or McClurg)
- Work performed on or off campus at an approved, close educational affiliate of the University may also be accepted. You must meet with the Office of Global Citizenship before accepting this kind of employment.
Curricular practical training (CPT) is off-campus work authorization for F-1 students. The employment must be part of a credit-bearing course that will count toward your degree or an established co-operative educational agreement between your department and employer (e.g. Beacon Scholars). Non-degree students or students in non-degree exchange programs are not eligible for CPT.
CPT is approved by the Office of Global Citizenship, not the government, and the application is free. Once you have submitted your completed CPT Application Packet, it will take one week to be approved.
Additional information on CPT may be found here.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization for F-1 students in degree programs to gain experience in jobs directly related to their major area of study. F-1 students are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT per educational degree level (e.g. Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate). Students may do their 12 months of OPT in post-completion (after graduation) or pre-completion (before graduation, while they are still enrolled as students). More information on OPT can be found here.
Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns without additional authorization, where this practice does not violate U.S. labor law. Refusing or delaying payment to make a position "unpaid" is considered a violation of your F-1 or J-1 student status.
Unpaid internships are a very specific type of opportunity in labor law that is of benefit to the intern and not necessarily the company. With bona fide unpaid internships, neither an international or domestic student would get paid. If you are changing anything about the opportunity to “make” it an unpaid internship, or if you will eventually get paid for doing the same job, then it is most likely not a bona fide unpaid internship and you would need approved work authorization to do it.
If it is truly an unpaid internship, you do not need work authorization for it. It is recommended that you keep thorough documentation, such as a copy of the original position posting and/or a letter from the organization, showing that the position is a true unpaid internship or volunteer opportunity.
See the Department of Labor Unpaid Internship Factsheet for more information.
Unpaid Work for the University
Any potential unpaid work for a Sewanee faculty member or department must also meet the unpaid work criteria stipulated on the Department of Labor fact sheet listed above. Taking an unpaid job for which you should receive compensation would be a violation of both immigration and labor law. If you are offered an unpaid research opportunity at Sewanee, you must check with the Department Chair to confirm: 1) Whether or not it is a bona fide unpaid internship opportunity, and 2) Whether or not the proposed unpaid employment would violate labor law.
A student who receives a grant, stipend or scholarship is not considered to be employed under that award, even if service, research, or other requirements are a condition of the award being made.
On-campus jobs and internships can be found through your department, by networking with professors and friends, and through TigerNet and Career and Leadership Development. Review the jobs closely to see which opportunities are considered 'on campus' for immigration purposes, and which are off campus and will require CPT authorization.
Before applying for any job, we highly recommend utilizing the resources at the Career Center. The staff there can help students with resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills, applying to graduate school, and much more!
If you are able to find employment that falls within your work authorization guidelines, you will need to apply for a Social Security Card in person. Applying for your Social Security Card is free, and you may apply at any Social Security Office, though we recommend the one in Tullahoma, TN.
Please note: In order to apply for your Social Security Card, you must meet the following criteria:
- Secure employment that falls within your work authorization guidelines
- Be in the U.S. for at least 10 Days with an 'Active' Record
- Be "registered" or "validated" in SEVIS. When you arrive in the U.S. for your new program/job, you must check in with the Office of Global Citizenship. In most cases, this is accomplished through an online check-in form. When this check-in procedure is completed, the office will register/validate your record in SEVIS within three business days.
When applying for your Social Security Card, you will need to take the following documents with you:
- Social Security Application
- Valid I-20 or DS-2019
- Valid Passport
- Printout of current I-94 record
- Proof of employment and work authorization*
*Proof of employment
- J-1 students must have a completed Sewanee Social Security Verification Form for on-campus employment. J-1 students engaged in Academic Training must show a DS-2019 with Academic Training authorization and have a letter from the Office of Global Citizenship
- F-1 students must have a completed Sewanee Social Security Verification Form for on-campus employment. For CPT, F-1 students must show an I-20 with CPT work authorization. For OPT, F-1 students must show an I-20 with OPT recommendation, as well as their EAD.
- J-1 Scholars do not require proof, but you you may be asked for documentation, regardless. Should you be asked for such a letter, please indicate that you are a J-1 Scholar and do not need a letter. Should the official at the SSA insist, please ask to speak with a supervisor. The supervisor will likely be familiar with the relevant regulations and policies, which are addressed in Section RM 00203.480 C1 of the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) which is the SSA policy manual. This section states that "[a]n individual who presents a valid Form DS-2019 with one of the [aforementioned] categories [as] identified in Item 4 of the Form is presumed to have work authorization and does not require a sponsor letter."
Please also review the Social Security Administration Publication "International Students and Social Security Numbers" for additional information.