Information for F-1 Students

Students must be aware of and comply fully with the following:

  • You must maintain a valid passport at all times.
  • You must maintain a valid, unexpired I-20 Form at all times. This includes an I-20 Form with;
  1. The correct level and major,
  2. Current funding and,
  3. Correct personal information.
  • You must enroll in and attend classes. If you plan on taking a semester off other than summer, you must obtain prior approval from the Office of International Student Services and Programs (OISSP).
  • You must attend the college/university listed on your I-20. Prior approval from OISSP is needed if you plan to take classes at another school. If you dual enroll, you must take not less than the minimum required credits per semester at Andrews University.
  • You must complete a full course of study during normal enrollment periods (fall & spring semesters).
  • Full time is defined as;
  • 12 credits per semester for undergraduates,
  • 9 credits per semester for Master of Divinity students,
  • 8 credit hours for Graduates
  • The deadline for meeting the full-time registration requirement is the end Drop/Add period for each semester. OISSP is required to report under-enrollment to DHS (Department of Homeland Security) within 30 days of the end of the registration period. Any student who is not enrolled will be reported and will be considered out of status.
  • Do international students living in the US need a visa to study online?
    1. International students living in the US must have an F1 visa with a valid I-20 document issued by the international student office at the university to which they have been admitted to any residential (NOT online) program of study.  In order to obtain this I-20, students must also fulfill all of the financial support requirements/documents.  An I-20 issued by one university is not valid to study at another university.
    2. International students with valid I-20s may take up to 25% of their course load each semester online, as long as the balance (75%) is taken in a traditional classroom (face-to-face) setting.
    3. International students do not need F1 visas to study fully online while living outside of the US.

    Note: You must be registered full-time during your first term of admission. If admitted to begin summer, you must be full-time during that semester. Courses that you visit or audit do not count towards full-time enrollment for immigration purposes.

 

Overview

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined as employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including: “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” Source: [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)]. CPT is available only prior to the completion of your degree program and you must have a job offer at the time of application. CPT employment may not delay completion of the academic program.

Types of CPT

There are two types of CPT: required for the academic program and non-required. For CPT that is required, the academic program mandates practical work experience in the field of study to graduate. For CPT that is a non-required part of the program, the practical work experience is for credit and directly related to your field of study.

Requirements for Non-Required CPT
  • You must be enrolled in a CPT course.
  • The designated CPT course must have been set up and approved by the university.
  • If you wish to engage in CPT during Fall or spring semester, you must be registered for the CPT course during that term.
  • Non-required CPT will not be allowed in the student's final term unless you need to register for other courses which are required for the completion of your academic program.
  • Failure to complete the CPT course will result in your falling out of legal F-1 status.
  • Be aware that adding a CPT course may have an impact on your tuition and fees.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time CPT

Part-time CPT: Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time. Though there is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in part-time CPT, you must be simultaneously enrolled in classes full-time in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.

Full-time CPT: Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time. Please be aware that 12 months or more of full-time CPT will invalidate your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). During the academic year (fall and winter semesters), you must be simultaneously enrolled full-time in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for CPT, you must:

  • Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year (i.e. two full consecutive terms). If you are a graduate student and the program requires immediate participation, this requirement is waived.
  • Be in lawful F-1 status
  • Have an approved health insurance
  • Have a job offer
  • Not be enrolled in an intensive English language training program

NOTE: CPT is processed and authorized term by term. Contact your academic department regarding your department's specific guidelines and follow those guidelines for CPT applications. Please note that your department has discretion in recommending CPT.

Documentation Needed to Apply
  • Academic/Faculty Advisor Recommendation Form for CPT, completed and signed
  • Your unofficial transcript from IVue
  • A copy of the job offer letter from the employer. The letter must:

Be written on the company's letterhead
Be addressed to you
Include job title
Provide job description
Specify the employment address (street, city, state, and zip code)
Specify if the employment is full- or part-time (if part-time, the number of hours per week you will work)
Specify the exact dates of CPT employment (keep in mind that CPT can only be authorized one term at a time).

Please note: the job offer letter must have ALL of the information listed above, or your CPT application cannot be processed. 

  • A legible copy of your current I-20
  • A copy of your form I-94

How to Apply for CPT

  1. Gather the required documentation and bring your complete CPT request to the International Center during walk-in advising hours, or schedule an appointment with an advisor to submit your request.
  2. Our office will send your CPT recommendation to SEVIS electronically to generate a new I-20. The CPT work authorization will be printed on page 3 of the new SEVIS I-20.
  3. We will notify you when your new I-20 is available.
  4. Bring your AUID to this office to pick up your new I-20.
  5. Sign your name on the new I-20. Be sure to keep a record of all I-20s issued to you.

*****Incomplete requests will not be accepted *******

NOTE: You are authorized to be employed only for the employer, location, and time period specified on the new I-20. Documents that will help you to establish your work eligibility are, for example, your valid passport, Form I-94 and the SEVIS I-20 with CPT work authorization.

You are required to update your address in IVue within 10 days of any change while you are in F-1 status.


CPT for Unpaid Work

CPT authorization is recommended even for unpaid positions (such as unpaid internships), even if the student does not need to provide employment authorization documents to the company. The F-1 regulations are written in such a way that CPT is an authorization to do practical training as part of the curriculum for the academic program, and as such is significant in more ways than simply for the employer to verify employment eligibility.

A position such as an internship may involve employment authorization even when the person is not paid. According to U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there are multiple reasons for officially authorizing CPT:

  • CPT authorization by the university serves to demonstrate that this practical experience is part of the curriculum.
  • CPT authorization is a way of reporting in SEVIS the student's activity, employment, and location where they are working and therefore maintaining their status.
  • If ever a student is doing a job on an unpaid basis that someone would be hired and paid for, employment authorization in the form of CPT, OPT, etc. is advised.

Finally, if the unpaid internship at some point changes into a paid one (or if your employer decides to compensate you for your work in any way – for example, give you a monetary gift), you won't be able to accept the payment if your internship was not authorized as CPT.

Based on the above, we would advise that if you will have an internship that meets CPT eligibility criteria that you should apply for CPT authorization, even for an unpaid position. If it is not possible for you to obtain CPT authorization, we recommend that at the end of your internship you ask your employer to provide you with a letter confirming that you received no compensation of any kind for your work. Please keep such a letter for your permanent records.

Please meet with us if you have any questions regarding CPT.

OPT is defined in the Federal Regulations as temporary employment directly related to a student's field of study. During OPT, a student remains in F-1 status. The end result of the OPT request process is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS).

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for OPT, the student must:

  1. Be in legal F-1 immigration status
  2. Be a full-time student for at least one academic year

Note: Post-completion OPT applications are typically denied by USCIS if the Level of Education indicated in item #4 on the I-20 is “non-degree.

How long can OPT be offered for?
  • The standard OPT period is a cumulative maximum of 12 months.   
  • Part-time OPT is deducted from the 12-month limit at 50%.
  • An F-1 may become eligible for another 12 months of OPT if he/she advances to a higher educational level. However, you cannot apply for OPT for a previous educational level that you completed and did not take advantage of this opportunity then. Some students may be eligible for a 17-month STEM extension of OPT.
Exceptions and Problems

If for any reason you decide you do not want OPT, you must take immediate action to prevent your I-765 application from being adjudicated by USCIS (i.e. approved or denied).

  • If your check has not been cashed, contact your bank to cancel it. USCIS is expected to reject any application without the appropriate fee, so this should prevent your I-765 from being approved.
  • Sign up for email updates using the case status search feature of the USCIS web site.
  • Email iss@andrews.edu with your full name, AUID, and case number (if you have already received a Receipt Notice). Indicate that you mailed your I-765 and want to withdraw your OPT application in the email subject line.
  • Mail a letter to USCIS requesting your I-765 application be withdrawn. Mail your letter directly to the USCIS Service Center which is processing your OPT application.  Do NOT send your request to the lockbox office (in Phoenix, AZ or Dallas, TX) where you originally mailed your OPT application.  You can find the address for the Service Center at the bottom of your OPT receipt notice. Note “Re: I-765 Withdrawal” on the letter.
  • Include biographical information to identify yourself, including name, date of birth, and SEVIS ID number
  • Request that the Form I-765 application for Optional Practical Training be withdrawn and include a short statement of why you are withdrawing your request, date and sign this letter.
  • If you have received the Form I-797 Receipt Notice, include the receipt number in your letter and attach a copy of the Receipt Notice
  • USCIS will send a confirmation letter to the address you listed on the I-765 indicating your application has been withdrawn.
  • Keep this original and a photocopy in your records.
While You Are On Optional Practical Training (F-1 Students)
General Information

Once your application is approved, USCIS will issue you an EAD (employment authorization card). Make a copy of your EAD and write your AUID somewhere on the page. Scan and email to iss@andrews.edu with a note indicating you applied for OPT and have received your EAD.

  • Your F-1 status continues through the OPT period.
  • You must stop your employment when the end date on the EAD card is reached, but may remain in the U.S. for the 60-day grace period.
  • You may begin working once you have obtained the EAD card (you may not begin employment if your OPT has been approved but you have not yet received the EAD in the mail)and the begin date on the card has been reached.
  • The EAD is not employer specific, so you may change employers at will. However, employment must be directly related to the field of studies. Any employment outside your field of study is unauthorized and is a substantive violation of your status.
  • Paid employment

Students authorized for post-completion OPT may work part time (at least 20 hours per week) or full time.

  • Multiple employers

Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student's degree program. Employment during pre-completion OPT cannot exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.

  • Short-term multiple employers (performing artists)

Students who are musicians and other performing artists may work for multiple short term employers. The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of all gigs.

  • Unpaid employment

Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

  • Reporting Employment

Students are required to report changes in employment to us as soon as possible. We recommend that you report changes within 10 business days of the change to avoid situations where a DHS official may determine you to be out of status.

  • Periods of Unemployment

Students on post-completion OPT are only allowed a total of 90 days of unemployment.

What counts as “unemployment time”
  • Unemployment time is counted each day during the OPT dates indicated on the EAD.
  • Students who have OPT extended due to the cap gap provisions continue to accrue unemployment time and are subject to the 90-day limitation on unemployment.
  • If you have a job offer that begins more than 90 days after your OPT begins, you will exceed your allowable unemployment time. Receiving a job offer within the 90 days is not sufficient, you must be employed in one of the employment types listed above.
  • If you travel outside of the United States while unemployed, the time spent outside the United States will count as unemployment against the 90 day limit.
  • Permanently leaving the U.S. without notifying us will result in the accidental accrual of unemployment. For this reason, you must contact us if you decide to abandon your OPT.
Ending OPT Early

If you decide to abandon your OPT before the end date of your EAD and leave the U.S., you must notify us so we can end your SEVIS record. Please submit a departure form or send an email to iss@andrews.edu telling us that you have decided to abandon your OPT and the date you plan to depart the United States. We will end your SEVIS record effective the date you indicate you plan to leave the U.S. or the date you notify us, whichever is later. If you do not notify us, you may continue to be billed for health insurance.

Starting a New degree program at Andrews University or another Institution

During the period you are authorized for OPT, you may decide to apply to another academic program. Once you are admitted to another degree program, it is important to notify our office as the issuance of a new I-20 will effect/terminate your OPT. Please call this office to request an appointment to meet with one of us. If you are admitted to a degree program at another University, our office must transfer your I-20 to that institution so they may issue a new I-20 for you.  The issuance of this new I-20 does not end your OPT immediately. Your EAD is terminated as soon as you enter the U.S. with the new I-20 or you check-in for the new program, whichever is earlier. Either one of these events will activate your SEVIS record for the new degree and deactivate your OPT SEVIS record. This means you must immediately stop employment regardless of the card's appearance of validity if you reenter with your new I-20.

Transfer to another school in the U.S. in order to begin a new degree program. Authorization for OPT is not transferable. Your authorization for OPT ends on the transfer release date. If you wish to complete OPT, set the release date for a date after the OPT ends. You can set the transfer release date to occur during the 60-day grace period following post-completion OPT (see the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transfer for F-1 Students (refer to section 6.7)). On your transfer release date, you must stop employment regardless of your EAD card's appearance of validity.

In order to maintain your F-1 status, a new I-20 for change of academic level, new degree program, or transfer must be issued before the end of your 60 day grace period.

Change of Status During OPT

If you change your immigration status (e.g. from F-1 to H-1B, F-2, or J-1) during the period of your OPT your OPT ends on the effective date of the USCIS action notice and any unused OPT time is lost (you cannot have both F-1 OPT status and another status at the same time, nor can you return to OPT if your new status is terminated for any reason).

Andrews University is required to notify SEVIS of your new status and requests that you notify our office immediately. To officially record your new status, we will need a copy of the approval notice you received from USCIS. You can get this information to the Registrar's Office in one of two ways:

“Cap Gap” Relief for OPT — H-1B Transitions

Some students may be eligible for an extension of OPT and F-1 status due to the new Cap Gap Relief rules.
F-1 OPT Special 17-month STEM Extension

Changes in federal regulations from April 2008 have created an opportunity for extension of OPT for F-1 students in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Information about the STEM extension can be found at F-1 OPT Special 17-month STEM Extension.

**NOTE: The Office of International student services and program will conduct OPT orientation in the middle of each semester and you will be required to attend it in order to process your OPT application. If you are in your final semester of study, you are most likely eligible to apply for OPT so please pay close attention to an email that will be send with the OPT orientation date. We plan to hold 3 OPT session and one for each of the following semesters- fall, spring and summer semesters.