Students in F-1, J-1 and J-2 status may be eligible to work in the U.S. with certain restrictions. Students should consult the International Services Office for information on the work-related immigration regulations pertaining to their status.

F-1 Students

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    Work regulations for F-1 students

    Students in F-1 status are eligible to work both on and off campus. No authorization is required in order to work on campus and students may work at any non-work/study job which meets the regulatory criteria for on-campus employment. On the other hand, off-campus employment always requires prior authorization either from International Services or from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), depending on the type. Students who engage in off-campus employment without first obtaining the required authorization are in violation of immigration regulations and risk termination of their status.

    Please review the detailed information about employment on this site and be sure to consult International Services before engaging in any off-campus employment.


    On-campus employment for F-1 students

    Immigration regulations

    F-1 students can work part time (up to 20 hours per week) on campus while they are attending classes and full time (more than 20 hours per week) during vacation semesters or when classes are not in session.

    University regulations

    You can work 20 hours per week during the fall and winter semesters. If you are taking fewer than six credits in the summer term, you can work up to 35 hours. If you are taking at least six credits during the summer, work is limited to 20 hours per week.

    How to look for an on-campus job

    First visit the Financial Aid Office, on the ground floor of the Fisher Administration Center. There you will find postings advertising jobs available on campus. International students are eligible to work only at non work-study jobs — jobs which are not funded by the federal (U.S.) or state government. If you do not find any non work-study job opportunities listed, try visiting individual areas such as the library, Public Safety or the computer labs. Graduate students may also be able to find jobs as research or teaching assistants. Check with your department for information on these positions. You must secure a job no later than October 31 for the fall term and February 28 for the winter term.

    Doing the paperwork

    If you find a job, report immediately to the Financial Aid Office to complete your employee paperwork. Ask for the International Student Employee Packet. The packet contains an I-9 (Employment Eligibility) form. You must fill out this form and have your employment eligibility verified by the ISO within three days of being hired.

    For additional information about working on campus as an international student, please visit the Financial Aid website.


    Off-campus work regulations for F-1 students

    Students who have been in F-1 status for two consecutive academic terms are eligible for off-campus employment in a position directly related to their field of study. This type of employment is called "practical training." There are two kinds of practical training: curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT).

    Students may participate in CPT only while enrolled at an institution, and the employment must be an integral part of the institution's established curriculum. That is, the work must be essentially an educational experience, integrating training in the workplace with learning in the classroom (for example, an internship required for graduation or cooperative education). On the other hand, OPT does not have a required educational component and it is available to students both while they are enrolled in an academic program and after they graduate.

    Students are eligible for one year of full-time optional practical training. Students with a degree in certain fields of science, engineering and mathematics who have been approved for 12 months of OPT are eligible to apply for an extension of an additional 24 months.

    F-1 regulations do not limit the length of time a student can engage in curricular practical training. However, students who have participated in 12 months or more of full-time CPT are not eligible for OPT.

    Most Detroit Mercy international students who work off campus participate in CPT while enrolled, then engage in OPT after completing their program.

    Practical training always requires authorization. You may not engage in CPT until you have been authorized by the International Services Office. Authorization for CPT can be granted within a few days of application. Before engaging in OPT, you must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The approval process for OPT can take several months.

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

    As stated above, curricular practical training must be integrated with the school's curriculum. You cannot be authorized to participate in CPT simply because the off-campus work you wish to do is related to your major field of study. Some examples of work that can be authorized as CPT are an internship or practicum (including student teaching and clinicals done at a hospital) required by the department for degree completion, a credit-bearing training program described in the school's course catalog or cooperative education. If you are unsure whether a particular job meets the criteria for curricular practical training, please consult the foreign student advisor in the ISO.

    Here is a summary of the immigration regulations governing curricular practical training:

    • The position must be directly related to the major indicated at item No. 5 on your I-20 form.
    • The training must be an integral part of an established curriculum.
    • Before you are eligible to participate in curricular practical training, you must have maintained status for two consecutive academic terms, including vacation terms. For example, if you registered for the first time in the winter term, you would be eligible to work in the fall term. 
    • Before you can begin employment, you must be authorized to work by a Designated School Official in the ISO (usually the foreign student advisor).
    • Curricular practical training can be part time (up to 20 hours per week) or full time (more than 20 hours per week). If you are authorized for part-time work, you must be registered for a full load of courses: 12 credits for undergraduates; nine credits for graduate students. If you are authorized to work full time, you will be required to register only for the course that relates to your employment.
    • Immigration regulations do not limit the length of time you can participate in CPT, but if you engage in 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you won't be eligible for any optional practical training after finishing your program.
    • You may not do curricular practical training after completion of studies.

    If you have obtained employment that meets the criteria for CPT and you are eligible per USCIS regulations to engage in CPT, the foreign student advisor will authorize you to work by issuing you a new SEVIS I-20 endorsed on Page 3 for curricular practical training. The authorization will state the name and address of the company, whether the work is full time or part time, and the dates you are authorized to work. Show this to your employer to confirm your authorization to engage in curricular practical training.

    Important: Authorization for CPT is granted on a semester to semester basis and is valid only for the employer and dates indicated on Page 3 of your I-20. You must be re-authorized by the ISO in the following cases:

    • You wish to be employed during the next semester (even if you are continuing the same job).
    • You change jobs during the semester.
    • You wish to change from part-time to full-time work or vice-versa during the semester.

    Curricular Practical Training and Cooperative Education

    At Detroit Mercy, most students authorized by the ISO to engage in curricular practical training are participating in the cooperative education (co-op) program. Cooperative education is a required part of the curriculum for undergraduate architecture, engineering and nursing students. Co-op is also available to students in most undergraduate majors except dental hygiene and education and is available on a limited basis to graduate students. Co-op is generally not available to post-graduate/doctoral-level students.

    If co-op is required for your major or if you are interested in working off campus through the co-op program, it is important that you familiarize yourself early in your stay at Detroit Mercy with the services of the Detroit Mercy Center for Career and Professional Development and with the CEC's Guide to Cooperative Education for information about additional requirements, policies and procedures.

    • Undergraduate students are not eligible for co-op until the end of their sophomore year and must have been in F-1 status for at least 2 consecutive academic terms, including summer vacation terms.
    • Graduate students are not eligible for co-op until the second semester at Detroit Mercy if they have been in F-1 status for at least one term elsewhere or after being in F-1 status at Detroit Mercy for at least two consecutive academic terms, including summer vacation terms.
    • You must be in good academic standing with a minimum GPA. (Minimum GPA varies by program and level. (Please refer to the Guide to Cooperative Education for specifics).
    • The co-op program limits undergraduates to three full-time or six part-time co-op experiences for academic credit and one full-time or two part-time experiences for non-credit.
    • Graduate students are limited to two full-time or four part-time co-op experiences for academic credit and one full-time or two part-time experiences for non-credit.
    • All full-time co-op experiences are alternating. That is, you cannot participate in full-time co-op two semesters in a row.
    • You must complete at least 12 weeks of full-time or part-time work during the academic term.
    • You may not participate in co-op in the final semester of study unless it is a requirement for the degree (can be full- or part-time). If co-op is not required for the degree, it can only be done part-time and with other required on-campus academic coursework.

    Remember that approval to participate in a co-op experience does not constitute authorization to work off campus. Once you have been approved for co-op by a coordinator in the Center for Career and Professional Development or in your College, you must obtain authorization for curricular practical training from International Services before reporting to your job. Working without authorization is a violation of your F-1 status. If you are considering a cooperative education experience, it is a good idea to consult with the ISO foreign student advisor well in advance of the time you will need to obtain your authorization for CPT.

    In order to be authorized for CPT under co-op, please present the following to the foreign student advisor in the ISO:

    • Proof of registration for co-op credit
    • An offer letter from your employer on employer letterhead stating the start and end date of the employment and the number of hours per week

J-1 Students

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    On-campus employment

    On-campus employment regulations for students in J-1 status are essentially the same as those for students in F-1 status: You are permitted to work part time (up to 20 hours per week) while attending classes and full time (more than 20 hours per week) during vacation period and school holidays. University rules for on-campus employment also apply. For more information, please refer to the section on F-1 on-campus employment.


    Off-campus employment

    Students in J-1 status are eligible to work off-campus work in their field of study only. This type of employment is referred to as academic training. At Detroit Mercy, a period of academic training is often a part the J-1 program.

    • You must be authorized by the ISO before you can begin to work.
    • Have your employer write a letter of offer stating the dates of employment and the employer's address.
    • Take this letter to your academic advisor or dean and ask him or her to complete a Recommendation for Academic Training for J-1 Student form. (If your advisor does not have a copy of this form, please ask for one at the ISO.)
    • Bring the advisor Recommendation form to the ISO. Upon receipt of these forms, the ISO director will issue you a letter which authorizes you to work. Show this letter to your employer when you report to work.

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    Social Security card

    Students in F-1 status:

    In order to obtain a Social Security card, you must meet one of the following criteria:

    • You have obtained on-campus employment at your school
    • You have been authorized for Curricular Practical Training by a Designated School Official (DSO) at your school
    • You have been authorized for Optional Practical Training by USCIS

    When applying for a Social Security card, you must present the following documents:

    • Passport (Canadians who do not have a passport may present a Canadian birth certificate.)
    • I-94 card
    • I-20
    • One of the following:
      • For on-campus employment, a letter from the DSO that identifies your employer and the type of work you are, or will be, doing AND evidence of that employment such as a recent pay slip or a letter from your employer. The letter must describe your job, your employment start date, the number of hours you are, or will be working, and your supervisor's name and telephone number. The letter must be printed on University letterhead, signed by your supervisor and dated. A form letter is available for your supervisor to fill out online.
      • Form I-20 with Page 3 endorsed for Curricular Practical Training by a DSO
      • Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) issued by USCIS (for Optional Practical Training)

    Students in J-1 status:

    When applying for a Social Security card, you must present the following documents:

    • Passport (Canadians who do not have a passport may present a Canadian birth certificate.)
    • I-94 card
    • DS-2019
    • A work authorization letter from the Responsible Officer (RO) at your school (for on- or off-campus work)

    At the Social Security Office, you will be asked to fill out an application. Depending on the time of day you visit the office, you should expect to wait up to one or two hours.

    Although you may visit any Social Security office to obtain your card, we recommend that you visit the one near the McNichols Campus. Since they are familiar with Detroit Mercy foreign-student applications, there should be less likelihood of problems.

    Turn left onto 6 mile road, then right onto wyoming until you arrive at the social security office


    Other statuses

    Working under other statuses

    Once you have found off-campus employment, you may find that your employer is willing to sponsor you for H-1B status, or even for adjustment to Permanent Resident status. If your employer intends to file a petition for you, you should be sure to consult the company's attorneys about the regulations and procedures involved so you have a thorough understanding of your situation and can avoid any problems with your status that might arise.

    Applying for TN Status (Canadian & Mexican Citizens Only)

    Under the terms of the NAFTA trade agreement, Canadian and Mexican citizens (not landed immigrants) in certain professions are eligible to work in the U.S. in TN status. To see a list of qualifying professions, click here. TN status is currently granted for a period of six months to one year and is renewable indefinitely.

    Application for TN status is made at a U.S. port of entry (including border points and international airports). The applicant must present:

    1. Proof of Canadian or Mexican citizenship
    2. A letter of offer from a prospective American employer, which includes a description of the position, the job title, the salary and benefits, and the anticipated length of stay
    3. Any diplomas, transcripts or professional licenses which show that the applicant meets the criteria to perform the occupation at a professional level

    Applying for H-1B status

    This U.S. work visa status may generally be used for persons and categories not eligible for the TN visa status. For more information, click here and speak with your employer.


    U.S. taxes

    Income Taxes

    International students who work in the U.S. may be required to pay income taxes on all or part of their earnings (including tuition remission). Although the ISO does not offer advice or assistance with specific tax matters, the following general information may be of help:

    • The U.S. agency responsible for the collection of taxes is called the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
    • Any student who was present in the U.S. for any part of the previous tax year (calendar year) must file IRS form 8843, whether or not he or she had income.
    • You must also file IRS form 1040 NR or 1040 NR-EZ in addition to Form 8843 if you had U.S. earned income (or tuition remission in exchange for services as a teaching or research assistant) in excess of $3,300, had wages or scholarship income exempt by treaty, or are due a refund of taxes.
    • Students employed in the U.S. are subject to income tax withholding. That is, the employer deducts some of your wages each pay period to pay any income tax you may owe to federal (U.S.), state and local governments.
    • When you are first hired, your employer will require you to fill out form W4. This form allows your employer to withhold the correct amount from each of your paychecks. Sample W4s for federal, state and local withholding are available at the ISO.
    • After the end of the tax year, your employer will send you a form W2. This form reports to both you and the government how much money has been withheld to pay your taxes. You must submit this form when you file your income taxes (due April 15). When you have figured how much tax you owe, you will compare this amount to the amount on the W2. If your employer has withheld more than the amount of the tax that you owe, the government will refund the additional amount to you. If you owe more money than your employer has withheld, you will be required to pay the additional money to the IRS when you file your taxes.
    • In some cases there is a tax treaty between the student's country and the U.S. which makes all or part of the student's wages exempt from taxes. Students should check IRS publication 901 (U.S. Tax Treaties) to find out if they are exempt from taxation and withholding under a treaty. If a student claims to be exempt under a treaty, he must file IRS Form 8233 with his employer.

    At tax filing time, forms are available at the Detroit Mercy library. In addition, you can obtain information and download IRS forms and publications at any time of the year from the IRS website: www.irs.gov.

    Although ISO staff members are not qualified to offer advice or assist you in filing your income tax return, we can confidently refer you to a website created by the University of Texas at Austin that can guide you through the federal tax filing process.

    For problems that cannot be resolved through this resource, please consult a tax preparation service or a tax attorney or visit the IRS website for instructions on how to obtain information on federal tax filing from the IRS.

    Social Security Taxes

    Most U.S. workers are required to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. These taxes provide income and medical care benefits to retired workers who have paid into the fund. These taxes, like income taxes, are withheld from employees' wages each pay period. However, students in F-1 and J-1 status who have been in the U.S. for less than five years do not have to pay Social Security taxes and should not have these taxes withheld from their paychecks. Since not all U.S. employers are aware of these regulations, you should make sure when you are first hired that your employer is informed of them. The ISO has printed information packets available which students may present to their employers. Should your employer withhold Social Security taxes, you can receive a full refund, either from the employer or the government. Consult IRS publication 519 for more detailed information.