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International Students

As an international student it is important to know that with the proper employment authorization you are eligible to participate in on- or off-campus employment that includes internships and other experiential learning opportunities in your field of study under Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

Obtaining an internship not only helps build your resume but also provides you with valuable work experience that will develop your skills, help you understand how classroom theory translates to the workplace, while expanding your network. Understand, however, that not all employers recruit international students or non-U.S. citizens. Although this may limit your ability to participate in some campus interviews, there are always opportunities that await you with the right job search technique.

You also have the opportunity to embark upon employment after graduation under Optical Practical Training (OPT).

It is important that you become familiar with the primary employment categories, requirements, and processes. Every visa type has different employment specifications and procedures.

F-1 and J-1

F-1 and J-1 students are permitted to work on or off campus, provided they meet the eligibility requirements and obtain authorization when necessary. Off-campus work must be related to your field of study and certain conditions apply. International students are eligible to work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session; and full-time hours when school is not in session or during the student’s annual break. This applies to both undergraduate and graduate students.

J-1 Students - As a graduate or professional J-1 student you are eligible for academic training employment authorization for up to 18 months or the length of your program. The nature of the work must be directly related to your academic program as it provides an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge obtained to a practical work experience. Doctoral students are eligible for an additional 18 months of post-doctoral academic training. Authorization for this type of employment is granted by the Office of International Student and Immigration Services(OISIS).

As long as you are enrolled at the university, maintaining your status and following the guidelines for on- and off-campus employment, you can continue to work. Non-compliance with employment regulations may be a violation of status that could result in the withdrawal of an F-1 status and the student having to leave the United States.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training is for international students who wish or need to engage in off-campus employment in their field of study. It must be a requisite part of your curriculum, fundamental to your thesis research or part of a co-operative education program. It allows an F-1 student to work for a maximum of 12 months over the course of their studies at an off-campus job. This type of employment is for students who have not yet graduated and in general, students must have completed nine months (two consecutive semesters) of study in F-1 status. 

Authorization for CPT is granted by the University and not a federal agency. If a student completes 12 months of CPT, s/he will not be eligible for OPT. However, students can take advantage of CPT employment/internship activities which have a cumulative total of less than 12 months and still be eligible for OPT. CPT applications are processed in the International Students’ Office but require signatures from each student’s faculty advisor and authorized personnel at the Office of Career Services.

There is no fee for this application, but students should be prepared to register for a course that links the CPT to their academic experience. In some cases, students may work on campus while receiving funds from an outside source (i.e., not Howard University). Those students should also apply for CPT before starting any activity linked to that payment. 

Immigration considers stipends for travel, food, lodging and the provision of books, food, lodging, and travel expenses as income. Therefore, students participating in summer internships where they receive the aforementioned must apply for CPT.

Apply for CPT

  1. Search and secure an internship.
  2. Download and complete the CPT Application Form (advisor signature of approval must be obtained prior to submitting the form to the Office of Career Services for approval.
  3. Take completed form with signatures to the Office of International Student and Immigration Services.
  4. Make the best of your internship! 

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

This is employment after graduation. Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides an opportunity to apply knowledge gained through your academic program to a practical work experience in the United States. As an F-1 student you are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT upon completion of your degree program. This employment must be directly related to your major field of study and eligible students do not need a job offer in order to apply for OPT. However, you will have 3 months from your employment authorization start date to attain employment.

Authorization must be acquired from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and you can begin employment on or after the date indicated on your Employment Authorization Card (EAC). This authorization can take up to 90 days to obtain. A student however, may submit an OPT application up to 90 days before the end of program date listed on his/her I-20. Students cannot begin work before the date on the EAC and there is no way to expedite the request for permission to work.

Apply for OPT

Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT)

Additionally, students who have completed a degree in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics), may apply for an additional 24 months of employment authorization. For more information on the STEM Extension click here.


If an employer wishes to retain your services after the OPT or academic training period has expired, they can do so under the H-1B visa program. This work authorization is issued by the USCIS for up to of six years (two three-year periods). A bachelor’s degree is usually required for this type of visa status and the standard processing time for an H1-B application is two to three months. This process can, however, be expedited via Premium Processing. Under the Premium Processing Service, USCIS guarantees petitioners (employers) that, for a stipulated processing fee, it will provide a response within 15 calendar days of receipt of the H1-B application. While the content of this article attempts to provide guidelines for international students regarding employment in the United States, it should not be construed as legal advice or as pertaining to specific situations. International students should therefore contact an advisor at Howard University’s International Students’ Office for additional information and assistance. You may also visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Additional Resources

For more information please contact the university’s Office of International Student and Immigration Services

Office of International Student and Immigration Services
2400 6th street NW
Administration Building, Room G-10
Washington DC 20059
202-806- 2777 / 202-806- 2775
Fax: 202-238- 8521

Hours of Operations
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
Monday - Friday

Office of Career Services
C.B. Powell Building, Suite 212  
525 Bryant Street, NW
Washington, DC. 20059