International student visa status basics
Karin Deussing avatar
Written by Karin Deussing
Updated over a week ago

If you are a not a permanent resident of the United States and plan to study at Westminster, you will be an F-1 international student.

F-1 Student Status

F-1 student status will allow you to remain in the U.S. as long as you are a properly registered full-time student. F-1 status will allow you to work part-time in on-campus jobs and work in a “practical training” job directly related to your field of study for 12 months during or after completion of your studies. 

Dependents of F-1 students will be permitted to join you in the U.S. provided you demonstrate sufficient financial resources for their support. A spouse and dependent children of F-1 students hold F-2 status and may not work in the U.S. With respect to study, an F-2 spouse may not engage in full-time study, and part-time study is permitted only to the extent that it is avocational or recreational.

F-1 Employment Options

This section provides you with an introduction to employment issues and options for international students in F-1 status.  

The most important employment issue that you must always keep in mind is the issue of legal (or authorized) versus illegal (or unauthorized) employment. You must make sure that any employment in which you plan to engage is legal employment. Any unauthorized employment, even for one day – even if you did not know it was illegal – poses a grave threat to your ability to remain in or return to the U.S. You must make sure that you have the necessary employment authorization before you begin work, since starting work without prior authorization – even if you receive authorization later – constitutes illegal employment.  

F-1 visa holders are allowed to be employed by the seminary as long as employment does not exceed 20 hours per week during the semesters.

Dependents on F-2 visas are not permitted to work at all.  

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an employment option available to F-1 students in the M.Div. for which practical training is considered an integral part of program curriculum. According to the regulations, this training may be an internship, cooperative education job, a practicum, or any other work experience that is directly related to your degree program.

To be eligible for CPT, you must:

  • Be a M.Div. student;

  • Have been enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year;

  • Have training related to your degree program offered you;

  • Have a letter from an organization offering you CPT

See the CPT instructions in the International Student Resources course in Canvas for full instructions on how to request CPT, including details on the letter from the CPT-offering organization to be supplied.   


Training at 20 hours or less per week while you are enrolled for classes is considered part-time CPT. The CPT authorization section of your Form I-20 will specify permission to engage in part-time training, and so you must limit your work to no more than 20 hours per week. The time you spend on CPT will not be deducted from the twelve months of allowable Optional Practical Training (OPT) unless you use 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training.

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization that gives F-1 students an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off-campus. You may use some or all of the available 12 months of Optional Practical Training during your course of study or save the full 12 months to use after you complete your studies. Authorization for OPT is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and can take from 90-120 days to obtain. It is important that you apply for the authorization as early as possible.

To be eligible to apply for OPT, you must:

  • Have been in full-time status for at least one full academic year preceding the submission of your OPT application;

  • Maintain valid F-1 status at the time of the application; and

  • Intend to work in a position directly related to your major field of study.

If you are requesting OPT for post-graduation, you must apply for OPT prior to graduation, and your start date must be no later than 60 days after graduation. To apply for OPT, please follow the instructions in the International Student Resources course in Canvas.

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