Off-Campus Employment

This information is intended for prospective work authorization applicants. It is not comprehensive and students are encouraged to speak with the international student adviser in the fall of their first year to learn more about the process so that they can plan ahead appropriately.

Off-Campus Employment FAQs:

Some frequently asked questions regarding off-campus international student employment include: 
 

What is employment authorization?

Students with an F-1 visa are not eligible to work off campus without authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Optional Practical Training (OPT) is intended to provide F-1 visa holders with up to 12 months of practical (typically paid) work experience in the U.S. Most students generally tend to save it for a year after graduation but students who apply for paid internships over winter or summer break, have to apply for work authorization as well. Note, when you apply for work authorization for summer or winter work, the duration of time is subtracted from the 12 months for which you are eligible. A recent ruling from USCIS has increased the amount in some special cases.

Who is eligible?

You must be enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year. That is, first-year students will be eligible to apply for work authorization only in the summer after their first year. Students who get grants from Swarthmore to work off campus during breaks may or may not need to apply for OPT. Students should check with their prospective employers and the international student adviser to confirm.

What is required for the process?

The following documents are needed for you to apply for work authorization. The requirement for these documents (for example, the attributes of the picture) change quite often. Please consult the international student adviser before you apply to get the latest updates.

Application Process

Only the international student adviser can apply for work authorization on your behalf. You cannot apply for it yourself. Thus, the first step is to approach the adviser to apply.

A) Application Information:

Some things to note while filling in the application

Be sure to use an address in the U.S. where you can receive the receipt and EAD. Note that the U.S. postal system will not forward the EAD.

Do I need to specify a job when I apply for work authorization?

Currently, information about an employer is not initially required, but applications for OPT -STEM extension will require employer information. However, you do need to know the exact dates you want to work. It is very difficult to change the dates for OPT after the application is submitted or to have time restored if you decide not to use it, so be sure of your plans before you apply.

When should we start applying for work authorization?

You can apply for work authorization starting 90 days (3 months) before graduation or up to 60 days after. Most students apply around spring break for work beginning in the summer. If you are a senior contemplating working in the United States after Swarthmore, plan ahead!

What happens after I submit the application? When will I be notified?

I have my work authorization card with me, what should I do now?

Do not assume the process has ended after you receive your EAD. Here's a list of things we recommend you do: