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Work & Visa Information

Employment in the US

**This is general information, summarized from information provided by the US State Department, and does not constitute legal advice.**

Hiring international students who are attending college in the U.S. is not as difficult as many employers perceive.  In general, foreign students may work in a paid internship or temporary employment provided certain conditions are met.  However, with few exceptions, they cannot work until after completing their first academic year.

Canadian and Mexican citizens interested in internships and jobs in the U.S. can check here for more information regarding the TN Visa (NAFTA Professionals). State Department - NAFTA Professional Workers Visa

All other international citizens should visit with the International Students & Scholars Office - OPT for information about U.S. employment post-graduation.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Students may work on CPT if the work is in a training program that is an “integral part of an established curriculum," a determination which is made by the school.
  • Student works with the school’s Designated School Official (DSO) to obtain or complete the necessary documentation. (This is the ISS office at UW.)
  • Job offer related to the major field of study is required to apply for CPT.
  • The DSO issues Form I-120 with annotation of CPT approval.
  • Annotated I-20, student’s passport and I-94 show authorization to work.
  • May work up to 20 hours/week during school and full-time during official school breaks.
  • Students may only use CPT prior to graduation.
Students who use 12 months of full-time CPT are ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation (see below).*

Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training 

Students who wish to work in an internship/job other than one which would qualify for CPT can generally apply for OPT. 
  • Student works with the DSO to obtain or complete the necessary documentation. (This is the ISS office at UW.)
  • The DSO issues Form I-20 with OPT recommendation.
  • Student uses the updated I-20 to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) from USCIS.
    • Generally takes 2-3 months to obtain EAD.
    • Approved EAD shows authorization to work and is required for employment
  • OPT used during school is deducted from allowed post-completion OPT time:
    • Full-time OPT deducted at equal rate
    • Part-time OPT deducted at half-time rate

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training

Foreign graduates of a U.S. university or college are eligible for 12 months of post-completion OPT, regardless of field of study.
  • Student works with DSO who issues Form I-20 with OPT recommendation
  • Student uses the updated I-20 to apply for an EAD from USCIS
    • Must apply within 30 days of DSO having issued the I-20
    • Generally takes 2-3 months to obtain EAD
    • Approved EAD shows authorization to work and is required for employment
  • Post-completion OPT may be limited by student’s use of CPT or OPT during school. See prior section on employment while in school for details.

STEM Extensions: 

Graduates in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering or math) may apply to extend OPT an additional 24 months, for a total of 36 months OPT.
  • Employer must participate in the E-Verify program.
  • Employer must create training plan and sign Form I-983.
  • Employer must report to DSO if employee is terminated or leaves employment prior to expiration of STEM EAD.
  • Graduate submits Form I-983 to DSO who reviews it for completion.
  • DSO issues I-20 with STEM recommendation.
  • Graduate uses updated I-20 to apply to USCIS for STEM extension EAD.
    • Must apply within 60 days of DSO having issued the I-20.
  • Graduate may work while STEM extension application is pending, provided application was timely filed.

TN Visa

Canadian & Mexican graduates may be eligible for a TN if they have an offer to work in a TN eligible position and meet the requirements
  • List of TN eligible positions and requirements is found at 8 CFR § 214.6(c).
  • TN can be processed at U.S. border/pre-flight inspection with documentation showing proof of job offer and individual's eligibility for the position.
  • Individual must be coming to the U.S. for a temporary stay.
  • The TN can be obtained for up to 3 years.

H-1B Visa

Employers may also apply for an H-1B for an international business professional, regardless of whether s/he graduated from a U.S. university or college. 
  • The H-1B is highly regulated and details are beyond the scope of this handout. 
  • Employers may wish to seek counsel in applying for an H-1B for an employee or potential employee.   
Contact Us

Petroleum Engineering

EN 4015

Dept. 3295

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071


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