International Education Center

How to Work in the U.S.

This page provide a list of options for F-1 international students to work while in the U.S.

On-Campus Employment

Working on-campus is a great opportunity to gain experience and earn a bit of extra income. All F-1 visa students are eligible to work on-campus as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status and enrolled full-time in 12 or more units. You are allowed to work part-time on-campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week during the spring and fall semesters and 30 hours per week during summer and winter sessions. No special permission is needed from the IEC Office. Your work must meet one of the following conditions:

  1. The employment takes place on the SMC campus and is paid by SMC. This includes any student services offices, departments, library, recycling center, etc. This is the most common type of on-campus employment.
  2. The employment takes place at one of the vendor locations that is on-campus such as coffee shops, bookstore, and cafeteria located at SMC.
  3. The employment takes place at an off-campus educationally affiliated location. This includes SMC's satellite campuses.

You can start your search for on-campus employment by visiting the Hire SMC website!

Note: F-1 students can only apply for jobs designated as Student Help positions. Those positions designated as Federal Work Study are reserved for students on U.S. government financial aid. Students who are offered a job are then given the necessary paperwork to apply for their Social Security Card.

A social security number is required before a student can begin working. If a student does not have a social security number and is offered a Student Help position on-campus, a staff member at the International Education Center will advise the student on how to obtain their social security number.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

An F-1 student may be authorized by the IEC Office to participate in a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. Students who have received one year or more of full time curricular practical training are ineligible for post-completion OPT. A student may begin curricular practical training only after receiving his or her Form I-20 with the school's endorsement.

Internship Program Website

Dates for Spring 2024 Internship Program:  
Enrollment opens: Friday, February 9, 2024
Enrollment Period Closes: 5 p.m. on Friday, March 22, 2024

Dates for Summer 2024 Internship Program:  
Enrollment opens: TBD
Enrollment Period Closes: TBD


Please watch the following video to learn more: CPT Presentation Video!

Social Security Number

Paid internship positions will require a student to obtain a social security number if you do not already have one. After you have been approved by the internship program and received an I-20 with CPT permission from the IEC office, please follow the steps listed below to obtain the Social Security Card:

  • Complete the online SS-5 Application and then visit a local Social Security Administration office to show your documents.
  • Required original documents include: 
    • I-20 Form with CPT permission on page 2.
    • Valid Passport
    • Most Recent I-94 Record
    • An offer letter from internship employer. The letter must describe your job, employment start date, number of hours you will work, and your supervisor's name and telephone number.
  • Review the information provided on and International Students handout for additional information.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to a maximum of 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). 

Eligibility Criteria:

  • F-1 status for at least one academic year
  • Good academic standing (not on probation)
  • Completing an eligible Certificate of Achievement program or Associate or Bachelor's degree at SMC

Deadlines to apply:  Can apply up to 90 days prior to the end of the semester/term when finishing the degree but no more than 60 days after the end of the semester/term when requirements are completed for the degree.

Please watch the following video to learn more: OPT Presentation Video!

Economic Hardship 

If other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, an eligible F-1 student may request off-campus employment work authorization based upon severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control. These circumstances may include loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • F-1 status for at least one academic year
  • Good academic standing (not on probation)
  • Employment will not interfere with full-time studies
  • Able to demonstrate financial need

Please contact an Immigration Specialist at the IEC Office for a consultation: 

F-1 Employment Options Presentation

Online workshop presentation in collaboration with Career Services Center regarding employment options for F-1 visa students in the U.S. Including: on-campus, CPT, OPT, and economic hardship work permission. Presentation date October 2, 2023. Play the F-1 Employment Options Presentation video.

Options After OPT Immigration Presentation

The following PowerPoint slides include information presented by Immigration Attorney, Adam Green. Please feel free to review the information and if you have any questions, you may contact Adam directly. November 10, 2022

Link: PowerPoint Presentation