Student Employment Program and Work Authorization Resource

Wagner College Student Employment program

Wagner recognizes that while obtaining an education is each student’s priority, gaining valuable work skills is also important. SEP supervisors should be ensuring that the student employees are gaining information, skills and values that can be applied to their academic life or future career. The Wagner College Office of Financial Aid maintains two types of student employment, CWS and Regular Payroll, through the Student Employment Program (SEP). Both are vital to the operation of the campus and to some of the community organizations that Wagner has contracted with.

Review the Student Employment program web page for more information on campus job opportunities.

What is Employment?

Employment is any type of work performed or service provided, in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing, or for any other benefit. The U.S. government has a wide definition of ’employment’,  so it is very important to understand your work authorization options and have any necessary approvals/ documentation before work begins.

International Student On-Campus Employment

On-campus employment’ is work that is paid for directly by Wagner College. Students who are maintaining F-1/J-1 status are eligible to work on campus while they remain students at Wagner College.

Eligibility for On-Campus Employment

To be eligible for on-campus employment work authorization, you must:

  • Be in valid F-1/J-1 status currently
  • Have checked in at the Center for Intercultural Advancement at the beginning of your program
  • Still be full registered student (you are not eligible for on-campus employment after your I-20/ DS-2019 end date
  • Work for an ‘on campus’ employer as described below
  • Otherwise, maintain your F-1/J-1 status (e.g. remain full-time enrolled, report any changes,etc)

Authorization and Applying to On-Campus Jobs

On-campus employment does not require authorization, permission, or additional documentation from the Center for Intercultural Advancement Office; it is an automatic benefit of F-1 or J-1 status. You do not need anything from the Center for Intercultural Advancement office to apply for on campus jobs or begin working. Contact the Center for Intercultural Advancement if you need help figuring out whether or not the job would be considered ‘on campus’.

Although you do not require additional work authorization for on campus jobs, you will require a Social Security Number (SSN) when you begin work.  If you do not already have one, an on campus position makes you eligible to apply for an SSN.  Application information and instructions found below.

What is considered ‘on campus’ employment?

For immigration purposes, ‘on campus employment’ is quite narrowly defined and may be different from how other entities at the University define ‘on campus’ employment. ‘On campus employment’ includes: Work done on campus and paid for by the College directly.

How to find on Campus Employment?

On Campus jobs can be found through the office of financial aid student employment database, by networking with professors, staff and friends. Additionally, when you go to the job website, you will see that some jobs are classified as ‘work study’ or ‘ws’. International students are not eligible for federal work-study jobs. Work-study is a type of federal financial aid which subsidizes campus jobs, and is only available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents as part of their financial aid package.

Review the flowchart for student employment hiring process eligibility information and contact the Center for Intercultural Advancement Office if you have any questions.

F-1 Student Off-Campus Employment Based Severe Economic Hardship

Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns without additional authorization, where this practice does not violate U.S. labor law. Refusing or delaying payment to make a position “unpaid” is considered a violation of your F-1 or J-1 student status.

Unpaid internships are a very specific type of opportunity in labor law that is of benefit to the intern and not necessarily the company.  With bona fide unpaid internships, no one would get paid—international or domestic, it is advertised as unpaid, the position is usually called ‘unpaid intern’, you are not refusing or delaying payment to make it ‘unpaid’ etc), and it does not violate any labor laws.

As it is not considered ‘employment’ you do not need work authorization for it.   It is recommended that you keep thorough documentation, such as a copy of the original position posting and/or a letter from the organization, showing that the position is a true unpaid internship or volunteer opportunity.

If you are changing anything about the opportunity to “make” it an unpaid internship, or if you will eventually get paid for doing the same job, then it is most likely not a bona fide unpaid internship and you would need approved work authorization to do it.

See the Department of Labor Unpaid Internship Factsheet for more information.

Social Security Number

The Social Security Number (SSN) is a tax identification number that tracks employee salary in a payroll system.  Social Security Numbers are issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is the tax authority of the United States, at birth for U.S. citizens.  To be eligible to apply for a SSN, foreign nationals must be required to have one for a specific immigration status or as an employee onboarding requirement.

In order to accept any form of employment either on- or off-campus, it is necessary to have a Social Security number. To obtain a Social Security number you must visit a Social Security office and complete an application. You may complete the application before hand and bring it with you to the office.


To apply for a Social Security number you must appear in person at the Social Security Office and complete an application form (available only at the Social Security Office). Take with you the following items:

  • Your valid passport
  •  Your valid I-94 (electronic printout)
  •  Your I-20 for F-1 visa holders or DS-2019 for J-1 visiting students
  •  A copy of your class schedule
  •  A letter from the prospective employer stating a job offer or with an immediate begin date

If you are authorized for optional practical training, academic training or off-campus work permission based on economic necessity, you should present your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). If you are authorized for J-1 curricular practical training, you should present your Form DS-2019 endorsed for curricular practical training.
It may take about six weeks to receive your card in the mail. When you apply, you will receive a receipt from the Social Security Office. You should keep this receipt as proof of your application for a number.
Please be aware that a Social Security Number does NOT authorize you to accept employment off campus. Permission to accept off-campus employment can only be granted by USCIS.

WHERE Is The Office?

There are multiple office locations on Staten Island. Click the following link for the office locator:

Social Security Office Locator


Optional Practical Training (OPT) is off-campus employment authorization which lets F-1 students get work experience in their major field of study. The amount of work permitted is a maximum of 12 months of full-time employment for each educational level (undergraduate, graduate, doctoral) during which you are an F-1 student. You can use it during or after your studies in whatever portions you choose. You can work for any employer, anywhere.

OPT Quick Facts

  • You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT
  • You may not pursue a new course of full-time study while on OPT.
  • The application is approved by United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS), but OPT must first be recommended by the Center for Intercultural Advancement Office.
  • The approval process for USCIS takes between three and four months. USCIS is allowed up to 90 days to process your application once it is received; it will take additional time for USCIS to receive your document, receipt it, and mail it back to you.
  • You must be in a degree program to be eligible. Students  in non-degree programs (e.g. short-term exchange programs) are not eligible for OPT.
  • You must not have used OPT at a higher degree level.  For example, if you do a Phd, then use OPT, and then do a Master’s-level program (lower degree level), you will not be eligible for OPT for the Master’s level.
  • You must be in the U.S. to apply.  You will not be eligible to apply for OPT if you are outside of the U.S. at the time of application.
  • You are eligible for 12 months OPT per education level.  If you do two Master’s degrees, you will still only be eligible for 12 total months of OPT. If you used all of your OPT time during a previous degree program at the same education level, you will not be eligible for additional OPT time.
  • Each segment and type of OPT requires separate, complete applications to USCIS.
  • As long as they otherwise meet all employment criteria, you can work for multiple employers simultaneously

Pre-Completion OPT (Before program end date listed on I-20)

  • Not very common
  • Usually used for summer internships that do not fit into program’s CPT option, startups, and independently found jobs
  • Part-time while classes are in session (20 hours or fewer per week, cannot be averaged)
  • Full time or part time during breaks or vacation quarters
  • Master’s/Doctoral Students ONLY: Full-time or part-time after courses finished while working on a thesis

Post-Completion OPT (After graduation, or after completion of course requirements for BA/MA students)

  • Very common
  • Used for jobs after completion of your program or graduation
  • Granted on a full time basis only (over 20 hours a week)
  • All previous periods of OPT at the same level are deducted from the 12-month total. Part-time OPT is counted at a half-rate.  Example: Four months part time OPT is subtracted from the total as two months.Eligibility for Pre- and Post-Completion OPT is based on program end date listed on your I-20, which might be different from your actual graduation date/quarter.  If your current I-20 end date does not currently reflect the actual end of your program, it must be adjusted.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for OPT you must:

  1. Be registered full-time in a degree program for at least one academic year (three quarters) in valid F-1 status
  2. Have not used 12 months of OPT for a previous degree at the same level (e.g. you are doing an MBA and have already used your Master’s level OPT after a previous MA/MS degree)
  3. Have not used OPT at a higher-degree level (e.g. you previously finished a MA and now you are pursuing an BA etc)
  4. Be present in the U.S. in valid F-1 status at the time of application

OPT Application Checklist

  1. Form G-1145: Electronic Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (optional)
  2. Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization
  3. Fee: $410 (Check/Money Order) payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  4. Photocopies of all previous I-20’s
  5. Two Passport format photos (Taken within 30 days of filling the application) (Print name on back with SEVIS ID# in pencil)
  6. Photocopies of previous EAD’s and Passport ID pages, Visa, I-94 (paper or electronic form

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular practical training (CPT) is an F-1 off-campus work authorization option for employment which is: 1) required for all students in your degree program, 2) required for a credit-bearing course that will count towards your degree, or 3) for an established co-operative educational agreement between your department and employer. The type of CPT requirement, for your degree, course, or co-op internship affects the conditions and the application process.  Non-degree students or students in non-degree exchange programs are not eligible for CPT.

CPT is approved by the Center for Intercultural Advancement, not the government, and the application is free.  Once our office has received your complete CPT application, it will take about 3-4 business days to be approved.  You will receive an email when your new I-20 with the CPT authorization is ready to pick up.

Eligibility to Work

You cannot begin work until your CPT has been approved, you have the I-20 showing CPT in hand, and the CPT start date printed on your I-20 has been reached.  Working outside of the dates or working for an employer other than the one listed on your I-20 is unlawful.  CPT cannot be approved with a start date that is in the past.

CPT eligibility requirements include:

  • Valid F-1 status
  • Full-time enrollment for one academic year (three quarters) prior to a quarter when work is performed
  • Enrollment in a degree program (non-degree students are not eligible for CPT)
  • A specific job offer that meets your major course of study CPT requirements
  • The job occurs before your I-20 end date
  • A letter from your department chair affirming that employment is a requirement for your major course of study