Ask an OISS Advisor: Off-campus work

QUESTION: I’m on F-1 status and I want to get some work experience. I’m thinking about getting a job off campus – not sure if it will be paid or not.  Do I need to talk to OISS about this?
          by Martha Turner, Director, International Student and Scholar Advising

ANSWER: Yes, you ALWAYS need to work with OISS to obtain off-campus work authorization before you begin working, even if the work will be unpaid.

Answering the following questions will help you figure out how to move forward:

  1. Have you been a student for at least two semesters?
    If no, then you can’t work off-campus yet.
    If yes, then you are eligible to apply for off-campus work in certain circumstances.
  1. Do you want to work in the field of study listed on your I-20?
    If no, that is a problem, because working off-campus outside of your field of study is rarely possible.
    If yes, then you might be able to work with Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training     (OPT) authorization.

If you are eligible for CPT…

CPT options are specific to each academic program and are different in each school at WashU.  If you want more info, here’s who to talk to at your school:

Undergrad Business students – Lanna Skadden
MBA students – Laura Fogarty
SMP students – Dave McKee and other SMP advisors
Law students – Sue Eggemeyer
Architectural students – Aaron Aiken
SEVER students – Holly Stanwich
Undergraduate and Graduate Engineering students – Sue Kruessel
Social Work students – Field Education Office
All others should consult with OISS for a specific school contact.

Where to Learn more about OPT

To learn more, you can attend one of the OPT workshops which are offered weekly at OISS.  The schedule of OPT workshops for each semester are listed under the events section of the OISS website at the beginning of each semester. You can also stop by to see an OISS advisor to ask general questions during walk-in hours.

Keep in mind that working (paid or unpaid) at a job, internship or practicum without work authorization will violate your immigration status. So, I’m sure glad you are thinking about these issues.


Send us your questions! “Ask an OISS Advisor” is a regular feature in the International Voice where OISS advisors answer questions that have been submitted by International Students and Scholars from Washington University. This means that we need your help! If you have a question that you would like to have answered in this column, please send it to us. It might be a question for which you don’t know the answer or it may be a particular issue that you have noticed causes confusion for many other international students. If you’re not sure if it’s a good question for this feature, go ahead and send it in, and we will decide. Please send your questions to the editor of the International Voice at: . Indicate if you prefer for your question to be anonymous.