If you are a not a permanent resident of the States and plan to study at Westminster, you will probably be an F-1 international student or a J-1 exchange visitor. The two categories are similar, but they have a few important differences that you should note.
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 that there are 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 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 you plan to engage in 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, although the number of positions available on campus is limited.
Spouses here on F-2 visas are not permitted to work at all.
F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an employment option available to F-1 students where the practical training employment is considered to be an integral part of the curriculum or academic program. According to the immigration regulations, this employment may be an internship, cooperative education job, a practicum, or any other work experience that is required for your degree, such as Mentored Ministry.
To be eligible for CPT, you must:
- Be enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year;
- Your employment must be an integral part of your degree program;
- Your job must be related to your major; and
- You must have your employer prepare a letter to be sent to the International Student Advisor, Westminster Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 27009, Philadelphia, PA 19118.
The letter should be written on the church letterhead and stating that you will be working under the CPT agreement toward fulfillment of the Mentored Ministry requirement. Please state the beginning and ending dates and that you will be working no more than 20 hours per week. A letter will be required for each subsequent year that you will be working.
Employment for 20 hours or less per week while you are enrolled for classes is considered part-time CPT. The employment authorization page of your CPT I-20 will specify permission to engage in part-time training and you must limit your work to no more than 20 hours per week. The time you spend on Curricular Practical Training will not be deducted from the twelve months of allowable Optional Practical Training unless you use 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training. You must have a job offer prior to submitting your application for CPT.
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 the OPT prior to graduation, and your start date must be no later than 60 days after graduation. To apply for OPT, email firstname.lastname@example.org and set up an appointment to learn what you must do in order to apply.
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