International Students and Scholars Office

F-1 Student Employment


“Employment” is work performed in exchange for compensation. Compensation can include money, room and board, or other significant benefits. Before accepting any kind of employment, be sure it is allowed by the F-1 regulations. Note that the off-campus employment opportunities generally require you to have completed one academic year at an SEVP certified school to be eligible to apply for authorization.


There are 5 categories of employment available to you:

  1. On-campus employment
  2. Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  3. Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  4. STEM Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT)
  5. Severe Economic Hardship 

Each type of employment has restrictions and limitations. Learn about your responsibilities, and contact your International Student Advisor if you have questions.


H-1B Information Session with Adam Green


Job Search: Frequently Asked Questions

Please read up about CPT, OPT, and STEM OPT for information on working off campus, and attend a CPT or OPT Information Session. If you are still unsure, please contact your assigned International Student Advisor to determine your specific eligibility to work in the US and the process that you must follow for authorization.

Your visa status and nationality does not need to be included on your resume (though certain industries, like defense, recommend including nationality). That said, employers will likely ask about your status during the recruitment process. You should never lie about your visa status, but be prepared to answer their questions should status come up regarding the process for hiring you and your right to work. However, if you are a green card holder or U.S. citizen and your resume might suggest otherwise, you may consider including your immigration or citizenship status to indicate that you are legally authorized to work in the U.S.

  • “Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?”
    • If you have CPT or OPT, YES, you are legally authorized to work and should be indicating this, especially when completing applications online.
  • “Will you now or in the future require sponsorship for an employment visa?”
    • You might be wondering if answering “yes” to this question could mean that an employer won’t consider you for a position. This is a possibility; however, it’s better for that to happen early in the application process rather than finding out when you have a job offer that the organization won’t be able to hire you.
  • “Which languages do you read, speak or write?” (if such language skills are job related)
    • Language skills are desirable! Be sure to frame this as being bilingual and trilingual in English and X language.

Sometimes companies will mention that they do not hire international students, but this may mean that they are not familiar with the process of hiring an international student. Some employers have a misconception that hiring international students (particularly for OPT) is difficult, requires sponsorship, or costs money. Therefore, it is your responsibility to educate them, ease concerns, and advocate for yourself regarding your ability to work.

This is a very sensitive question that should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. It is important to be clear with a potential employer about requiring sponsorship after CPT and OPT, so they are not surprised after you accept an offer and fill out any legal paperwork. It is recommended that students address the issue of their work status during the first or second interview, and no later than the time of the job offer.

While some employers adhere to strict policies against hiring foreign nationals, others can be persuaded. Your first goal is to be offered an interview with the company. That said, you should mention your status before the employer has spent a significant amount of time and money trying to hire you. If you are unsure how to navigate a specific process, contact your International Student Advisor for guidance on immigration and your visa or the career center for questions about communicating with employers.

Begin by explaining that you have legal authorization to work in the U.S. while you are a student in areas related to your major using CPT employment authorization. After graduation, you are eligible for 12 months of work authorization using OPT (STEM students will have up to 36 months available). CPT and OPT do not require any financial commitment or obligation from the employer.

Here is an example of how you can explain your status: “I really enjoyed learning more about your company and I’m very interested in working with you. Before we proceed, I want to make sure that you understand that you would not have to do anything extra to hire me as an intern. Even after graduation, if you were interested in hiring me as a full-time/long-term employee, I am authorized to work for 12 months for OPT (or 36 months for STEM OPT) as a benefit of my student visa.”

If they ask you if you will at any point need sponsorship: “While I am able to work for you full-time for X months without you doing anything extra, after X months, I would require sponsorship.”

Such documentation is only required if an employer wishes to hire a foreign citizen on a permanent basis and sponsor them for future permanent resident status (a Green Card). If you have an F-1 visa and CPT / OPT, employers do not need to provide such proof.

Emphasize the advantages of being an international student:

  • For bilingual students, your language and cross-cultural communication skills can be an asset especially as more companies are increasing their global presence.
  • Global/Intercultural Fluency is one of the career readiness competencies that prepare students for a successful transition in the workplace. As an international student, you demonstrate openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences.
  • Studying abroad takes initiative, persistence, and ability to interact with diverse individuals and adaptability to new environments – these are all skills employers value and look for in candidates.

  • Become familiar with immigration regulations and the benefits attached to your specific visa status, and learn to communicate the process.
  • Improve your English skills by speaking up in class, making presentations and expanding your circle of native English-speaking friends.
  • Have your resume and cover letters reviewed by the Career Center.
  • Schedule and participate in a mock interview with a Career Center professional.
  • Work with a career specialist to strategize your job search process
  • Utilize GoinGlobal to identify employers who have sponsored H-1B Visas in the past and use Handshake to search for jobs/internships that are open to international students by clicking “Accepts CPT/OPT” in the filters
  • Research the positions and employers in which you are interested so that you can ask questions during your interview. US employers expect you to ask questions that show you have done research on the company.
  • Practice understanding and speak confidently about your skills, interests, and career goals
  • Be mindful of your non-verbal communication
    • Give a firm handshake to show confidence
    • Maintain good eye contact


Brought to you by Cal Poly Pomona’s International Students and Scholars Office and Career Center. Adapted from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Job Seeking Tips for International Students.
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