Employment/OPT/CPT

On Campus Employment

International students on F1 visas can legally work up to 20 hours per week on campus while classes are in session.  F1 students may work on campus up to 40 hours per week during school breaks.  All International students interested in student employment must complete and submit the following forms to the Student Employment Office (SEO) before beginning to work on-campus:

  • I-9 Employment Eligibility Form
  • Federal W-4 Form
  • Iowa W-4 Form
  • Social Security and Medicare Withholding Form
  • Direct Deposit and/or Authorized Deduction Agreement Form

These forms will be provided by the International Student Programs Office.  International students must be enrolled as a full-time Wartburg College student and have a valid Social Security Number (SSN) before they may begin working on campus. Student-employees earn a monthly paycheck based on rate of pay and number of hours worked. All employees are encouraged to utilize Direct Deposit and/or the Student Authorized Deduction Agreement.  
Direct Deposit – Monthly earnings are deposited into a student’s checking or savings account at their banking institution of choice.

Student Authorized Deduction Agreement – All or part of a student’s monthly earnings is added to their student account each month.

Students utilizing one or both of these processes will receive a monthly pay stub in their on-campus mailbox. Students opting not to utilize either option may pick up their paychecks outside the Controller’s Office in Luther Hall 212 on the 15th of each month. Written authorization is required to mail paychecks.

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Off Campus Employment

OPT (Optional Practical Training)
Optional Practical Training is employment authorization which allows F-1 students to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience. You may be entitled to up to 12 months of optional practical training after receiving your degree from Wartburg. If you go on to graduate study after completing an OPT through Wartburg, you may be eligible for another 12 months of OPT after completing that graduate program.  The beginning date for your OPT will be the ending date of your academic program (graduation) at Wartburg.  OPT must be done within your field of study.  It can be either full-time or part-time employment.  
To be eligible, students must:

  • Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year (9 credit hours)
  • Currently be maintaining a full-time program of study and valid F-1 status
  • Intend to work in a job directly related to your major field of study.
  • You do not need to have employment in place before you apply for OPT. 

To apply, students must:

  • Fill out all forms completely and correctly BEFORE setting up a meeting with the Director of International Student Programs.  When filling out the forms, please use a finished application packet as an example.  These are available in the International Student Programs Office.
  • Have a current copy of your SEVIS I-20 form obtained from the International Programs Office
  • Have an original I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization Document)
  • Pay the required fee of $380 in the form of a money order or cashier’s check from your bank made out to USCIS
  • Have 2 passport photos with your name lightly printed on the back
  • Have a copy of your current, valid passport ID pages.  Passport MUST be valid at least 6 months into the future from your program completion date
  • Have a copy of your United States entry visa
  • Have a copy of the stamp of your most recent entry to the United States
  • Have a copy of your I-94 (front and back)

Note: You must apply within 90 days before the ending date of your academic program.  You cannot apply after the end of your program. 

These forms must be assembled in the order listed above.  Before you mail the forms to USCIS, make an appointment and meet with the director of international student programs.  Processing your materials will take 90 or more days.  Once you apply for OPT, you start a process.  This process is almost impossible to stop once it has been started.  Because of this, OPT is something you must really want to do. 

Send the materials by registered mail.  When you do this, you will get a receipt from the post office.  Be sure to keep this receipt.  If you lose it, you will have no way to prove that you mailed the materials.  MAKE SURE YOU GIVE THEM A VAILD RETURN ADDRESS.  After the processing center receives your materials, it normally takes them 10-30 days to send you a USCIS receipt with a LIN number.  This number enables you to call in and check the progress of your application.  If you lose this receipt, you will not be able to check on your application.  The process receives thousands of calls every day; therefore you may have to call many times before you reach someone.  DO NOT start employment until your OPT is approved. 

You will know it has been approved when you receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).  Take a copy of your EAD to the International Programs Office as soon as it arrives.  Do not leave the United States while your OPT is being processed.  This is called “abandoning the process” and you will not get another chance to apply.  If you have not heard anything about your application for 90 days after the initial INS receipt, we can make inquiries.  We cannot do this before 90 days.  Make a complete copy of everything in your application for your files. 

During OPT, you are still technically a Wartburg student.  If you have any questions or difficulties during the OPT application process, notify the International Programs Office. 

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) allows a student to have a job that is an integral part of an established curriculum where academic credit is awarded, such as an independent study or internship course.  CPT is done during and as a part of the academic program.   The employment must correspond to a credit-bearing course (.25cr, .5cr, 1cr) that appears in the academic catalog for their major. Students must register for this course and the training for which they are being paid must be done within the academic semester for which they are registered for the course.  CPT must fit with the degree that the student is seeking to obtain: either a requirement of the program or to enhance the student’s understanding of their chosen field.  Some departments may have requirements for internships or CPT, so be sure to contact your department to find out the process. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: WHEN THE DIRECTIONS BELOW ARE COMPLETED, CONTACT THE DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENT PROGRAMS TO SET UP AN APPOINTMENT TO PROCESS THE APPLICATION.  EMPLOYMENT CANNOT BEGIN UNTIL AUTHORIZATION IS COMPLETE.
To be eligible, students must:

  • Be in F-1 status for one academic year - two full semesters and one May Term (Note: Summer semester does not count towards the one academic year requirement)
  • Be in good academic and financial standing when applying and must maintain good academic standing while working if approved for CPT

To apply, students must:

  • Talk to your academic advisor or professors in your department to determine what is necessary for you to participate in CPT.   
  • Meet with Jo Dorrance, Internship Coordinator in the Center for Community Engagement, to find possible internship opportunities. You must meet with Jo before the Office of International Programs can finalize the immigration paperwork.  
  • Obtain a complete Internship Learning Contract Letter from Jo Dorrance.
  • Verify that you have registered for a course corresponding to the CPT. 
  • After all required forms have been completed and registration made, schedule an appointment with the Director of International Student Programs, and bring the following items:
    • The Internship Learning Contract Letter
    • A valid passport (including your I-94 card)
    • Your current I-20 Form
    • DO NOT PLAN TO BEGIN EMPLOYMENT UNTIL AFTER THIS APPOINTMENT.

        There is no cost to apply for CPT. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: The ending date on your Internship Learning Contract Letter must be no later than the last day of finals during the semester in which you are authorized for employment.  Authorization for CPT must be renewed EVERY semester.  In addition, more than 20 hours of work per week is considered to be full time by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Generally, you may be authorized for only 20 hours per week or less during the academic year.  If students are in CPT for more than 20 hours per week or for a period of 12 months total or more, they will NOT be eligible for OPT. 

If all forms and requirements for Curricular Practical Training are handed in and the CPT is approved, the Office of International Student Programs will issue a new SEVIS I-20 for employment authorization that you can show to your employer to prove your work eligibility.  Work cannot begin until this is completed.

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The Perils of Unauthorized Off-Campus Employment
F-1 students are reminded that the U.S. government’s regulations concerning the F-1 student status strictly prohibit any form of off-campus employment not specifically authorized through OPT, CPT, or SEH.  The government regulations state that a student engaged in unauthorized employment should have their SEVIS record discontinued and that the student must return home immediately--no grace period. A student with a terminated SEVIS record for reason of “unauthorized employment” faces a very low chance of receiving a future visa from the U.S. embassy in their home country. Please contact the International Programs Office for clarification on any off-campus employment issues to avoid accidentally falling out of status.

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