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International Students

Current F-1/J-1 Students

Contact International Students  

International Students

Center for International Programs
West Chester University
320 Mitchell Hall
675 S. Church Street
West Chester, PA 19383


Email: international@wcupa.edu
Phone: 610-436-3515
Fax: 610-436-3426


Office Hours:
Monday - Friday, 8:00am - 4:30pm


International Student Advising:
Make an appointment.
Limited availability for walk-ins.

Employment

On-Campus Employment

On-campus employment for F-1 international students is limited to 20 hours a week (part-time) during the fall and spring semesters and 40 hours a week (full-time) during summer and university breaks. F-1 undergraduate and graduate students may begin on-campus employment at the beginning of their first semester at WCU. Many international students apply for positions in various campus locations such as the bookstore, library, student union, dining services, or are employed through a graduate assistantship in their academic department.

International students are not eligible for work-study positions on campus, as these positions are funded only for U.S. citizens and permanent residents by the U.S. government.

A Note of Caution

While the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations provide a variety of opportunities for F-1 international students to be employed during their time in F-1 student status, working without proper authorization is a serious violation of the F-1 student status. Please consult with a DSO with any questions/concerns.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT is work authorization that allows F-1 international students to participate in paid off-campus academic internships during their degree program. CPT is an Internship offered by sponsoring employers through agreements with the university that is required as an integral part of an established curriculum, or will count toward degree requirements. CPT is recommended by the Academic Advisor and endorsed by the DSO. Students CANNOT accept any kind of compensation for work performed in an unpaid internship. 8 CRF § 214.2 (f)(10)

F-1 Student Status Requirement

Students must have been in F-1 student status for at least one academic year in a degree-seeking program before they can apply for CPT and must have properly maintained F-1 status each semester. The only exception to this rule applies to those students who are in degree programs that require an internship or practicum hours to fulfill degree requirements and this is stated in the WCU catalog.

Hours of Employment

  • CPT may be either full or part-time. Part-time is limited to 20 hours or less per week. Full-time CPT is anything more than 20 hours per week.
  • Full-time CPT that continues for more than 12 months makes the student ineligible for OPT
  • During summers, students may be registered for CPT credits only and still be able to maintain student status. The Reduce Course Load (RCL) request form is not required in this case.
  • Program extensions will not be granted only for the purpose of working with CPT.

Duration of Authorization

CPT authorization is given on a semester basis and students must apply separately for each semester they wish to participate in CPT. CPT is only authorized for the dates of the specific semester.

Application Process

  • Students must complete the CPT application form, completed by the student and their academic advisor
  • Immigration documents must be included with the application: Current I20, Passport, and Form I-94 card
  • A training offer letter from a specific employer that includes the following information
    • Job title and brief job description
    • Exact dates of employment (cannot precede or exceed the start or end dates of the semester)
    • Compensation (if any)
    • Number of hours of work per week
    • Physical place of employment (Street address, no PO Boxes)
    • Supervisor's name, phone number, and email address
    • The term internship/practicum
    • Printed on official business letterhead

CIP Processing Information

Once all documents are submitted to the CIP and the application is complete, the CIP will process an updated I20 that lists on page 2 the location of the internship and whether the CPT is part or full-time. CPT I-20 start dates will be listed either as the requested start date or the approval date whichever is later. Processing time for the CPT application is 4 business days. Students cannot begin working until they receive their new I20 with CPT authorization from the DSO.

OPT: Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training is a benefit given to F-1 students who are completing a undergraduate or graduate degree in the United States. Its purpose is to provide an opportunity for employment experience in a student's field of study. OPT is approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Types of OPT

  1. Pre-Completion OPT is employment authorized before the student's program end date. Students with approved pre-completion OPT may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students who are eligible to register for the next term, and who plan to do so, may have approval to work full time when school is not in session.
  2. Post-Completion OPT is employment authorized after the student's successful completion of studies and program end date.
  3. STEM Extension OPT - F-1 students who completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM field (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and are currently engaged in post-completion OPT may apply for the STEM extension if they have a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer.

Understanding Optional Practical Training

OPT gives F-1 students completing a bachelor's or graduate degree in the U.S. an opportunity to gain employment experience in your field of study. It is a benefit authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that extends the F-1 student status to allow you to work in the U.S. n order to gain practical training in your major field of study.

  • An employment offer is not required to apply for OPT.
  • OPT must be directly related to the student's major field of study.

Eligibility Requirements

Students who have been in lawful, full-time student status for at least one full academic year are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT. Any period of OPT used before the completion of the program is subtracted from the 12-month total limit. Students may be authorized for 12 months of OPT and become eligible for another 12 months of OPT when they change to higher education level (i.e., from Bachelors to Masters; from Masters to PhD). The 12-month total limit of OPT applies to each educational level (Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degree programs).

  • Only students pursuing a degree are allowed to apply for OPT.
  • Special non-degree students are not eligible to apply for OPT.

Students may apply for pre-completion or post-completion OPT

  • Pre-completion OPT, part-time only (maximum 20 hours/week), while school is in session; no other on or off-campus employment is allowed
  • Post-completion OPT, full-time, after completion of course of study

Application Deadlines

  • For Pre-completion OPT, not earlier than 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year
  • For Post-completion OPT, within 90 days prior to and no later than 60 days after completion of the program

The USCIS Processing Center must receive the complete OPT application and all required documents (see below) before the final deadline, which is the 60th day from the official program end date. Failure to comply with this deadline will result in loss of the entire OPT benefit.

USCIS processing times can take as long as 3-4 months. Please apply as soon as possible to ensure that you receive Employment Authorization Document (EAD) on time. The EAD is the official work permit issued by USCIS that allows you to be hired and work in the U.S. during OPT. It is not possible to request an expedited of an OPT application from USCIS, so please plan your OPT start date accordingly and allow for at least 100 days to receive your EAD card.

Important: Students are not permitted to begin employment until they receive the EAD and until the approved start date listed on the EAD.

How to Apply

All students who will apply must attend the OPT information session. Attendance is required to submit your OPT application. The sessions are offered each semester and you will receive an invitation at the start of each semester to register for the session.

After you attend an OPT session, you may submit a request the OPT Request Form along with the application materials. It will take our office up to three-weeks to prepare your new Form I-20 with the OPT recommendation, after which you need to submit your application to USCIS.

Application Checklist

  • Check for $410 made payable to US Department of Homeland Security
  • 2 passport photos (put your name, date of birth, and SEVIS # in pencil on back of each photo)
  • Completed original I-765 application for employment authorization (can be downloaded from USCIS website, Indicate 'Renewal of my permission to accept employment' and in field #16, indicate (c)(3)(B) for eligibility code. (please keep a copy for your records)
  • Photocopy of new Form I-20 with DSO recommendation, pages 1 and 2 (remember to sign the I-20 form)
  • Photocopies of all previously issued Forms I-20 forms, pages 1 and 2 or pages 1 and 3
  • Photocopies of all previously issued EAD cards (if applicable)
  • Photocopy of F-1 entry visa stamp in passport (received from US Consulate abroad) and most recent I-94 record (either I-94 paper card - front and back; or PDF retrieved from www.cbp.gov/i94)
  • Photocopy of identity page(s) in passport (which include name, passport number, photo, birth date, and issue/expiration date of passport)

Mailing the OPT Application to USCIS

Important: The application and the required documents must be mailed and received at the USCIS Processing Center within 29 days from the date of the DSO recommended the OPT and issued the new Form I-20

Checklist of documents to be mailed to USCIS

  • Check for $410 made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • 2 passport photos less than 30 days old (write your name and SEVIS number in pencil on the back of each photo)
  • Original Form I-765 application
  • Copy of Form I-20 with OPT recommendation (pages 1 and 2; please remember to sign your Form I-20)
  • Copies of all previously issued Form I-20's
  • Copy of F-1 visa
  • Copy of I-94
  • Copy of identity pages in passport (passport must be valid)
  • Copy of any previously issued Employment Authorization Documents (EAD cards), if applicable
  • (Optional) To receive a text message and/or email when USCIS accepts your Form I-765, complete Form G-114, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, and attach it to the front of the entire application (including check) in the package. You will also receive a physical receipt notice in the mail.

Please mail documents either visa U.S. Postal Service or via Private Courier Service to the address below. This USCIS address is valid for students with a mailing address within Pennsylvania. Please read the Form I-765 instructions for more information on mailing.

Tip: Keep a copy of all documents submitted to USCIS for your records. Also, you should keep a mailing return receipt of your package as evidence that you submitted the application in a timely manner.

Via U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries (choose Priority mail with Return Receipt):

USCIS
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

Via Private Courier Service:

USCIS
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

Reporting Requirements while on OPT

Students in F-1 status authorized for employment under OPT are responsible for maintaining their nonimmigrant status. According to Federal Regulations, F-1 students are required to report information directly to the ISO regarding their employment as well as changes to personal information and immigration status. Failure to comply with these reporting requirements may result in denial of future benefits (i.e. extension of employment under the H-1B OPT Cap-Gap rule and STEM OPT program) and termination of status and OPT authorization.

Periods of Unemployment while on OPT

Students may accumulate up to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment during 12 months of authorized OPT. Days of unemployment begin to accumulate:

  • If employment does not start on the approved start date of OPT on the EAD
  • If you receive the EAD after the approved start date of OPT on the EAD
  • Between periods of employment

Accumulating more than 90 days of unemployment is considered a violation of F-1 status by U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

What constitutes qualified employment?

  • Paid employment in a job directly related to major field of study, part-time or full-time that is for multiple employers, short-term multiple employers, contracting work (evidence of duration of contract, name of company and address needed), self-employed business owner (proper business license and evidence of active engagement in business needed), employment through an agency or consulting firm (evidence of work for at least 20 hours per week).
  • Unpaid employment in a job directly related to major field of study as volunteer or intern that does not violate labor laws and is at least 20 hours per week.

Travel after completion of Program while on Post-completion OPT

Travel while on OPT is not restricted. However, based on USDHS practice, the DSO recommends that you wait until you receive the EAD and secure employment before making plans to leave the U.S. after graduation.

You must carry the following documents when entering the U.S.A. during post-completion OPT. If you are missing any one of these documents you risk being denied entry and losing your OPT.

  • EAD card
  • Letter from your employer verifying employment
  • OPT Form I-20 form with travel signature not older than 6 months (Only a DSO can endorse the Form I-20 with a signature)
  • Valid F-1 entry visa stamp issued by the U.S. Consulate (do not use a tourist visa or visa waiver program to enter the U.S. while on OPT)
  • Valid passport (at least 6 months beyond the re-entry date)

OPT: 24 Month STEM Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT) Extension

Overview

Recipients of a Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral degree in a field listed among the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) STEM-Designated Degree Program List, and who are currently on post-completion F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) may be eligible to apply for a STEM OPT Extension.

On March 11, 2016, the DHS published a final rule providing enhancements and additional reporting requirements to the F-1 STEM Optional Practical Training Extension benefit.

The issuance of the final rule provides different scenarios for eligibility and application timelines for students who are applying for their initial period of 12-months of post-degree completion OPT, as well as individuals planning to apply for 17-month or 24-month STEM OPT Extension, or those on 17-month STEM Extension wishing to apply for a 7-month STEM OPT Extension (to the maximum of 24-months under the new rule).

  • 24-month STEM Extension (on or after May 10, 2016)
  • Currently authorized for 17-month STEM OPT Extension (7-month STEM OPT Extension)

For more information, Study in the States has launched the STEM OPT Hub.

What is the STEM OPT Extension?

Recipients of a Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral degree in a field listed among the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) STEM-Designated Degree Program List, and who are currently on post-completion F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) may be eligible to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension for a maximum of two periods based on different STEM degrees.

The STEM-Designated Degree Program List is organized based on CIP Codes and can be found at the Study in the States website.

  • The CIP Code is used to determine eligibility for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension
  • Please check your CIP Code in page 1 of your Form I-20 (under “Program of Study” in the middle of the page) against the DHS STEM-Designated Degree Program List to confirm that your program is a STEM-Designated degree program

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for the 24-month STEM extension, individuals must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Is participating in post-completion OPT in a field that is based on your most recent degree on May 10, 2016
  • Must have earned Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral degree in a field that is currently on the DHS STEM-Designated Degree Programs List within the last 10 years
  • Employed/have a job offer from an employer registered in an E-Verify Program; STEM OPT Extension restricts work to E-Verify employer only
  • Be able to complete the Form I-983 Training Plan with your employer
  • Accumulated no more than 90 days of unemployment during the current post-completion OPT authorization
  • Employment during the 24-month STEM OPT Extension must be directly related to your WCU primary/major field of study and the STEM degree in which you qualify for the extension
  • Have not previously received more than one STEM OPT extension in total and have not yet received an extension under this STEM degree
  • Be within 90 days of the end of the current OPT benefit period

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be advised that not all employers are certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for E-Verify for a number of institutional reasons. Therefore, please check with your current employer to ensure that they are an E-Verify certified employer before you assume that you are eligible to continue work with the 24-month STEM OPT extension.

E-Verify Employer Search Tool – It is recommended that even if your employer appears on this E-Verify listing that you contact your employer to confirm that your employer for the position for which you are hired.

How to Apply for F-1 STEM OPT Extension

Make an appointment to speak with a DSO either by phone or in person. To request the 24-month STEM OPT Extension recommendation from the DSO, you must submit the following documents:

  • Complete the STEM OPT Request form
  • Copy of your current valid EAD card
  • Letter on company letterhead signed by your employer verifying:
    • That the employer is enrolled in E-Verify (provide E-Verify number)
    • Employer's name and complete address (including zip code)
    • Supervisor's name, title, and contact information (email and phone number)
    • Employment start date
    • Job title and description of how the employment is directly related to your primary field of study
  • A completed Form I-983 signed by you and your employer
  • A written summary of previous employment while on post-completion OPT, including names and addresses of companies, start and end dates of employment, job title and description of how work was related to your major degree, name of supervisor with contact information.
  • A completed 24-month STEM OPT Extension Worksheet (pdf)
  • Copy of completed Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization

Once eligibility is determined, the PDSO will issue a new Form I-20 with a recommendation for 24-month STEM OPT Extension. It takes approximately 10 days for us to issue the new form I-20.

When you have the Form I-20 with the STEM extension recommendation in hand, you will need to mail the documents to the appropriate USCIS Service Center as instructed on the Form I-765 based on your current US residence.

Submitting your STEM OPT Extension Application to USCIS

After you receive the new Form I-20 with the 24-month STEM OPT Extension recommendation, mail the following documents to the correct USCIS Processing Center. Please note that the Processing Center (Lockbox) address where you mail your documents depends on the address and State you write on the Form I-765, Section 3. See Form I-765 instructions at www.uscis.gov to determine the correct USCIS mailing address of your application.

Application Checklist

  • Check for $410 made payable to US Department of Homeland Security
  • 2 passport photos (put your name, date of birth, and SEVIS # in pencil on back of each photo)
  • Completed original I-765 application for employment authorization (can be downloaded from USCIS website, Indicate 'Renewal of my permission to accept employment' and in field #16, indicate (c)(3)(C) for eligibility code. (please keep a copy for your records)
  • Photocopy of new Form I-20 with 24-month STEM OPT Extension recommendation, pages 1 and 2 (remember to sign the I-20 form)
  • Photocopies of all previously issued Forms I-20 forms, pages 1 and 2 or pages 1 and 3
  • Photocopies of all previously issued EAD cards
  • Photocopy of F-1 entry visa stamp in passport (received from US Consulate abroad) and most recent I-94 record (either I-94 paper card - front and back; or PDF retrieved from www.cbp.gov/i94)
  • Photocopy of identity page(s) in passport (which include name, passport number, photo, birth date, and issue/expiration date of passport)
  • Photocopy of STEM degree (official transcript, or copy of your diploma with level and program of study)
  • Letter from STEM OPT eligible employer as mentioned above (confirming job offer and E-verify)

Application Timelines

  • IMPORTANT: Your complete application and required documents must be mailed and received at the USCIS Processing Center within 60 days from the date the DSO issued the Form I-20 with the STEM OPT Extension recommendation. We strongly recommend that you express mail the application and keep a copy of the full application for your records.
  • You may submit your application for STEM OPT extension to USCIS no earlier than 90 days prior to the expiration date of your current OPT authorization.
  • The complete application must be received at the USCIS processing center before your current OPT authorization expires.
  • The 24-month STEM OPT Extension begins on the day after the approved OPT end date printed on your current Employment Authorization Card (EAD).
  • The student's employment authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 days if the 24-month STEM Extension application remains pending after the current post-completion OPT EAD expires. Note travel issues below.

NOTE: Processing times vary at each USCIS Center, but generally it takes approximately 3 months to receive a new EAD card from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Travel while on 24-month STEM OPT Extension

During the 24-month extension, you must carry the following documents in order to return to the U.S.:

  • STEM OPT Employment Authorization (EAD) card
  • STEM OPT Form I-20 form with a valid travel signature (valid for 6 months)
  • valid F-1 entry visa stamp in passport (issued by US Consulate abroad)
  • valid passport
  • letter from your E-Verify employer confirming your employment

If you are missing any one of these documents, you risk being denied entry to the United States. If your current OPT EAD card is expired and you do not yet have the STEM OPT EAD card, you should NOT travel.

Periods of Unemployment while on 24-month STEM OPT Extension

During the 24-month STEM OPT Extension, your F-1 status depends on your employment. You are not permitted to accumulate more than a total of 150 days of unemployment for the entire period of OPT (including the first 12 months of OPT prior to the STEM OPT Extension). The limits of unemployment time are 90 days for the first 12-months of OPT and 60 days during the 24-month extension Accumulating more than 150 days of unemployment is a violation of your immigration status that could result in termination of your practical training.

What constitutes Qualified Employment while on 24-month STEM OPT Extension?

  • Paid employment, full or part-time for one or more employers, contracting activity, employment through an agency or through a consulting firm, as long as all employers are registered with E-Verify and the employment is at least 20 hours/week (variable schedule, within a month, must average out to at least 20 hours/week)
  • AND
  • Employment in a position directly related to the student's STEM degree on which the STEM OPT is based and/or earned at WCU
  • Valid Form I-983 completed for each employer and position

Alumnus/ae Responsibilities while on Authorized STEM OPT

After an F-1 student is granted the 24-month STEM OPT Extension, the student must report to his or her DSO (within 10 days) any change in:

  • Alumni/ae's Legal name
  • Alumni/ae's Residential or mailing address
  • Alumni/ae's E-mail address and phone number
  • Employer name
  • Employer address
  • Employer contact phone number
  • Supervisor's name and contact information (phone, email address)
  • Dates of employment (beginning and ending dates) at each employer
  • Verification of how the job is related to the degree/field of study
  • Loss of employment (within 5 business days)

How to Report a Change of E-Verify Employer during 24-month STEM OPT Extension

Within 10 days of change, you are required by law to report a change of your employer to the DSO. You must submit a letter from your new employer and an updated Form I-983 to the DSO so that we can update your SEVIS record and issue an updated Form I-20 with your new employer information printed on Page 2 of the I-20.

Please refer above to the requirements of the employer letter. Send e-mail with the updated information to the DSO (international@wcupa.edu) and attach both the updated Form I-983 and a new employer letter.

If your employment is terminated, your employer and/or you must report this termination to the DSO within 5 business days.

Validation Report Required Every 6 Months

  • During the 24-month STEM OPT extension, you are required by law to send a Validation Report to the DSO every 6 months starting from the date the 24-month extension begins and ending when the student's F-1 status is completed or the 24-month extension ends, whichever is first.
  • Please refer to the 24-month STEM OPT Extension Worksheet on how to send the Validation Report to the DSO.
  • This Validation Report is required even if there have been no changes in your employer, living address, or other required reporting information.

Student Self-Evaluation Required Every 12 Months

  • During the 24-month STEM OPT extension, you are required by law to send a Self-Evaluation Report on the Form I-983 to the ISO every 12 months starting from the date the 24-month extension begins and ending when the student's F-1 status is completed or the 24-month extension ends, whichever is first.
  • Please refer to the 24-month STEM OPT Extension Worksheet on how to send the Self-Evaluation Report to the ISO.
  • The 12-month Self-Evaluation Report can be found on page 6 of the Form I-983 and the 24-month Self-Evaluation Report can be found on page 7 of the Form I-983.
  • Students who have changed employers during the STEM OPT Extension period are required to submit a new Form I-983 at the time of the employment change.

NOTE: The requirement to report any updates while on OPT continues if the student's 24-month STEM OPT Extension is extended further by the automatic H-1B OPT Cap-Gap extension.

Please feel free to contact your DSO if you have any questions concerning the F-1 STEM OPT Extension Process.

Travel while on 24-month STEM OPT Extension

During the 24-month extension, you must carry the following documents in order to return to the U.S.:

  • STEM OPT Employment Authorization (EAD) card
  • STEM OPT Form I-20 form with a valid travel signature (valid for 6 months)
  • valid F-1 entry visa stamp in passport (issued by US Consulate abroad)
  • valid passport
  • letter from your E-Verify employer confirming your employment

If you are missing any one of these documents, you risk being denied entry to the United States. If your current OPT EAD card is expired and you do not yet have the STEM OPT EAD card, you should NOT travel.

Periods of Unemployment while on 24-month STEM OPT Extension

During the 24-month STEM OPT Extension, your F-1 status depends on your employment. You are not permitted to accumulate more than a total of 150 days of unemployment for the entire period of OPT (including the first 12 months of OPT prior to the STEM OPT Extension). The limits of unemployment time are 90 days for the first 12-months of OPT and 60 days during the 24-month extension Accumulating more than 150 days of unemployment is a violation of your immigration status that could result in termination of your practical training.

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