Employment options for international students are limited but available. In most cases, F-1 and J-1 students must obtain specific employment authorization from the IO (and in certain instances USCIS), particularly when pursuing off-campus work.
You must obtain permission before beginning employment, even if it is for purposes of fulfilling an internship requirement.
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F-1 students can work on-campus without authorization, as long as they follow certain requirements. Learn more about on-campus job options for F-1 students.
F-1 students may also seek authorization for off-campus work through Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Work or intern through Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
CPT authorizes employment for a credit-bearing off-campus job, internship, or cooperative program that is directly related to a specific course. Learn about CPT eligibility and apply for authorization.
Work temporarily through Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT is authorization for a temporary job is usually completed after graduation, and it provides practical experience in a student's field.
OPT is most often awarded upon completion of an academic degree, for a 12-month period. The following application-types are available under OPT authorization:
- Post-Completion OPT -- The most common type of OPT; used after your I-20 and degree are finished.
- Pre-Completion OPT -- Used before the end date listed on your I-20, usually during the summer vacation and only if CPT is not an option.
- 17-Month STEM Extension OPT -- Extension of the post-completion OPT period for students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
J-1 students can only be employed when the employment is related to:
- Academic funding, according to the terms of a scholarship or assistantship (teaching/research);
- On-campus work occurring on-campus at Northwestern University; or
- Economic necessity, necessitating off-campus employment due to serious, urgent, and/or unforeseen economic circumstances that have arisen since acquiring visa status.
All require authorization from the International Office.
Conditions for employment
Student must be in good academic standing.
Student must continue to engage in a full course of study, except during official school breaks and annual vacation.
Employment is limited to 20-hours per week when class in in-session. Full-time employment is allowed during official school breaks and annual vacation (i.e. summer quarter).
J-1 students must consult with their advisor at the IO when applying for off-campus employment authorization due to unforeseen economic circumstances. Documentation must be provided supporting the unforeseen and urgent nature of said circumstances.
Applying for authorization
On-campus employment and employment due to financial necessity must be authorized in advance by the IO.
- To apply for on-campus employment, you must complete a required form. Visit the J-1 On-Campus Employment page for application procedures.
- To apply for off-campus employment due to unforeseen economic circumstances, you must provide documentation that supports the urgent and unforeseen nature of the circumstances. Consult with your IO advisor for details
- Any J-1 student not currently sponsored by Northwestern (i.e. Fulbright) must contact their sponsoring agency for the required employment authorization.
Employment authorization is automatically withdrawn if the student's program is transferred to another institution or terminated.
Work or volunteer through Academic Training
J-1 can also be authorized for Academic Training (AT), which allows students to participate in an off-campus job, internship, practicum and other types of practical experience that is directly related to an academic program of study.
A spouse with J-2 visa status is eligible to work after receiving authorization from USCIS. Learn more about the authorization process.