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International Student Employment

International Students employment is highly regulated, but there are opprotunities for you to seek employment while you are here. Please see below for what options you have available.

Please remember that any unauthorized, off-campus employment is strictly prohibited. If it is discovered you are/have been working illegally, as per USCIS regulations, your visa must be terminatted immediately.

International students in valid F-1 or J-1 status are permitted to work on-campus without any special authorization. Students can start on-campus employment as soon as they arrive on campus, complete the mandatory orientation program and begin classes.

  • Students can work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session.
  • Students can work up to 40 hours per week during official school breaks.
  • Students may not work on-campus after their Program End Date.

There are many different employment opportunities available on-campus for international students. You can browse the available on-campus positions via Handshake. You can also contact a campus program or academic department directly to ask if they are hiring student assistants. Visit our Career Services website for useful tips and resources on how to prepare a successful résumé and how to interview with employers in the U.S..

Click here to download our On Campus Employment Information Guide if you're interested in seeking on campus employment (you must use your SSU account to access the document). 


Employers will require that you apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) before you may start working. Because it can take several weeks to receive your SSN, it is advisable to start the process immediately after receiving a job offer.

You must complete the following steps in order to receive a social security number:

  1. Secure an on-campus job and get your hiring department to complete the Employer Certification on this letter template.
  2. Make an appointment with your International Advisor and bring the letter signed by your hiring department. Your advisor will complete the DSO/ARO certification.
  3. Take this letter, along with your passport, F-1/J-1 visa, Form I-20/DS 2019, and most recent I-94 record (retrievable from to any Social Security Office. The closest office is 2099 Range Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95401 (Building A).

You must have your SSN before you may receive wages for working on-campus, so be sure to apply as soon as possible after you receive an offer of employment, and bring the SSN application receipt to your employer as evidence.

An F-1 / J-1 student may start work while the SSN application is being processed. Employers may reference Social Security Administration’s fact sheet, Employer Responsibilities When Hiring Foreign Workers which contains information on how to report wages for an employee who has not yet received an SSN.

It is not required that students receive their SSN before they start work. However, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires employers to report wages using an SSN. While you wait for your SSN, your employer can use a letter from us stating that you applied for a number. Your employer may use your immigration documents as proof of your authorization to work in the United States. Employers can find more information on the Internet at

Employers may contact the Center for International Education for any questions or concerns. While we cannot answer questions about specific students, we are happy to give general guidance on hiring and working with international students.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

  • General Information
    • CPT is only available to F-1 students in degree-seeking programs. English Language learners and exchange students are not eligible to apply.
    • CPT must be utilized for any off-campus employment or internship opportunity, even if they are unpaid. 
      • Students interested in volunteering for a non-profit organization do not need to apply for CPT. Students who volunteer for for-profit companies need to apply for CPT.  
    • CPT must relate to your major and the experience must be an integral part of your program of study and you must be enrolled in an internship course for each semester of CPT participation. This means your CPT start and end date(s) must correspond with the first and last day of the applicable semester. 
      • Exception: Students in MBA programs are not required to enroll in internship courses and their CPT dates do not need to follow the dates of the semester.
    • CPT is only available after completion of one year of academic study in F-1 status.
      • Exception 1: Graduate students may be authorized for CPT during the first year of study if the program requires immediate participation in practical training (for example: MBA students).
      • Exception 2: Students who have gone through the Change of Status process to an F-1 student visa and have been continually enrolled full-time for an academic year during the Change of Status period. 
    • If you have 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you are ineligible for OPT. Part-time CPT will not limit your participation in OPT.
    • You must apply for work authorization from your DSO by submitting one of the forms below.
  • Current CPT Students

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

24-Month STEM OPT Extension

  • General Information
    • STEM OPT is only available to F-1 students who have a qualifying CIP code
    • The STEM OPT extesion application process is essentially the same as that of general OPT.
    • You may continue to work on your expired EAD for OPT up to 180 days while your 24-month extension petition is pending if you meet these conditions:
      • You are currently in a period of post-completion OPT.
      • You properly and in a timely manner filed your application for the 24-month extension with USCIS.
    • If you would like to apply for an OPT STEM Extension, please click here fill out the STEM OPT Extension Request form

Academic Training (AT)

  • AT is only available to J-1 students.
  • AT must be directly related to your major field of study.
  • AT is available both during (pre-completion) and after (post-completion) your program.
  • Pre-completion AT allows you to work part-time while classes are in session and full-time during vacation periods.
  • You must maintain adequate health insurance coverage throughout the period of AT.
  • AT may not exceed 18 months, or the duration of your program, whichever is shorter.
  • For more information about AT, review the AT Application Instructions.

If other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, an eligible F-1 student may request employment authorization based on severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control. These circumstances may include a 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, or unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses. Source: [8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(C)-(D) and (F)].


Eligibility Criteria
You are eligible to apply for employment based on severe economic hardship if:

  • You have been in F-1 status for one full academic year
  • You are in good academic standing (minimum 2.0 GPA) and are taking a full course load
  • Employment will not interfere with your studies
  • You can demonstrate that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen economic circumstances beyond your control
  • You can demonstrate that on-campus employment is not available or is insuffienct to meet your financial needs


Documentation Needed to Apply

  • Personal statement describing the unforeseen hardship situation and, if possible, attach backup documentation; for example, news articles, a letter from home telling of a change in family circumstances or proof of a currency devaluation in your country, etc.
  • Documentation showing that on-campus employment opprotunities are not available or are insuffiecnt to meet your financial needs
  • Completed Form I-765, using the code (C)(3)(iii) at item 16; do not date the form until you are ready to send the application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Copies of your current and previous I-20s
  • Copy of paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94 (please click on the link for instructions)
  • Copy of your F-1 visa page (except Canadians) or I-797 (approval of change of status to F-1)
  • Copy of your unofficial transcript available from MySSU portal
  • $410 Filing Fee (can be paid via money order, personal check, cashier's check or pay by credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security


How to Apply for Severe Economic Hardship

  1. Fill out the Economic Hardship Request form
  2. Submit the requested documentation to
  3. If your request is approved, you'll be issued a new I-20

Submitting Your Severe Economic Hardship Application to USCIS
Once you have requested a Severe Economic Hardship Employment recommendation and received your new I-20 from the CIE, you will need to prepare and submit the following list of items to USCIS:

  • Two passport photos, taken no more than 30 days before filing the form. You can have these photos taken at the CIE ($4 fee), or you can go to the U.S. Post Office or any CVS location.  Form I-765 filing fee - $410 check or money order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. To request a fee waiver, you should also include a Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver. Review USCIS guidance on fee waivers before completing the Form I-912.  Form I-765
  • A copy of your new I-20 with employment recommendation
  • Copies of your previous I-20(s)
  • Copy of your passport
  • Copy of your F-1 visa or I-797
  • Copy of your Form I-94
  • Your personal statement along with any other supporting documents

Mailing to USCIS

Send your complete request to the USCIS Phoenix Lockbox at one of the following locations:

  • For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) First-Class and Priority Mail Express deliveries: o USCIS P.O. Box 21281 Phoenix, AZ 85036
  • For overnight/courier deliveries (non-USPS, i.e. FedEx, UPS): o USCIS Attn: AOS 1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S Suite 100 Phoenix, AZ 85034

Approval Process
If the application is approved, USCIS will issue an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) to you.
If the application is denied, you will be notified by USCIS in writing. You may not begin employment until you have received the EAD and the dates are valid.


This authorization is designed for off-campus employment. On-campus employment is already permitted under the F-1 visa.

The authorization is granted in one-year intervals, or until the program end date, whichever is shorter.

Hours Per Week
You may work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) while school is in session and full-time (up to 40 hours per week) during official university holidays.

Field/Level of Work
Employment can be in any job. Does not have to be related to course of study.






General Tax information

Sonoma State University does not verify that you fulfill your tax obligations. However, we do want to ensure that you are provided with all of the information possible to ensure that you do file your taxes/forms successfully.

When do I file my taxes?

Taxes are based on each calendar year (January 1st- December 31st). Generally, you can file your taxes/submit the appropriate forms between January 1st and April 15th for the previous year's taxes.

Who needs to file taxes?

Any F-1 or J-1 student who received income in the United States for the previous calendar year.

What if I didn't work or receive income for the previous calendar year?

If you did not receive any source of income in the United States during the past calendar year, then you do not need to file income tax returns.However, you are obliged to still file a Form 8843 with the IRS.

You can file your Form 8843 with Sprintax, but you will have to pay their service fee. 

If you would like to file your Form 8843 by hand, please click here to access our guide on how to complete and submit the form

What is the IRS?

The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) is the United States’ federal institution which collects and analyzes taxes for the country. It is important to note that when you work in the United States, you will be paying both Federal and State income taxes. 


Information on Filing Taxes as an F-1/J-1 Students

If you earned income in the United State in the previous calendar year, then you are obligated to file taxes with the IRS and the State of California. 

Filing taxes can be a complicated process, so that is why Sonoma State University has arranged access to Sprintax Tax Preparation for you. Sprintax will guide you through the tax preparation process, arrange the necessary documents and check if you’re due a tax refund. 

Sprintax was used by over 225,000 international students and scholars last year, and the average Federal refund received by eligible students was over $1,126.

Sonoma State University does not receive any compensation for recommending Sprintax Tax Preparation services. We promote their services simply because they can make the tax-filing process much easier. 

Students can also see the support of a tax professional to file their taxes. 

You can click here for a full explanation of F-1 tax information.

You can click here for a full explanation of J-1 tax information. 


2023 Tax Filing Information

  • You should receive your W-2 form from your employer(s) between mid-January and mid-February. Reach out to your employer if you have questions about your W-2. 
    • If you were working as an independent contractor, then you should also receive 1099 forms from each of your clients
  • Once you have your W-2/1099s, you can file your tax return

*please note there is no guarantee that you will receive this amount in refunds as it is based on each individual’s specific circumstances