Working as an F-1 Student

Photo of Hollins students and internship sponsor

U.S. Work Authorization for International Students

There are a number of ways to obtain work authorization for jobs and internships while in the U.S. Because legal regulations regarding work and internships are detailed and complicated, only a brief overview is provided here. For more information, contact Ramona Kirsch in International Programs.

Please remember that any changes to your financial situation (employment, scholarships, etc.) must be reported to International Programs as soon as they occur.

On-Campus Employment

Students in the U.S. on an F-1 visa are eligible to work for Hollins University for up to 20 hours per week during academic terms and up to 40 hours per week during official school breaks. Hollins work-study positions are assigned as a part of the financial aid package. Hollins also offers some part-time openings throughout the year and a few full-time, on-campus jobs during the summer.

See International Programs if you are able to obtain on-campus employment.

Internships and Off-Campus Employment

Students can obtain off-campus employment through either CPT (internships) or OPT (post-graduate work experience). Please see below for more information about each category.

Any F-1 student seeking an internship is responsible for completing all paperwork required by both the Career Center and the International Programs office. Failure to do so could result in the termination of your F-1 status.

For assistance with securing internships or completing the required paperwork, please email the Career Center at careercenter@hollins.edu.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
CPT enables F-1 students to undertake an internship or assistantship as part of their program of study. The position must carry academic credit, and must be directly related to your program of study (e.g., field research for an Environmental Sciences major).

Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Students may be granted a total of 12 months of OPT for each degree level that they complete (Bachelors, Masters, etc.). These months may be taken all at once (post-completion) or in smaller blocks throughout the program of study (pre-completion). Unlike CPT, however, OPT is nearly always a paid, professional position.

Post-completion OPT, and any OPT completed during the summer break, can be full-time (40 hours/week); pre-completion OPT cannot exceed 20 hours per week during the school year.

Note: Students in certain qualifying STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) can apply to have their post-completion OPT period extended by an additional 24 months. For more information on eligible degree programs, please visit International Programs.

International Programs will hold an optional OPT orientation in the Fall and Spring for students in their final semester.

Eligibility for CPT and OPT
Students must be enrolled at a U.S. institution for at least one full academic year to be eligible for CPT or OPT.

Timing of CPT and OPT
While there is no limit on how much CPT you can be authorized for, 
a student who uses 12 months of full-time (40 hours/week) will begin cutting into the amount of time they’re permitted to remain on OPT once they graduate. 

For instance, a student who has used CPT for 14 months during their four-year program, they would only be able to do 10 months of OPT once they graduate.

For this reason, we strongly recommend that students NOT participate in CPT during their program of study in order to maximize the use of OPT for postgraduate work.

Students who wish to take advantage of any of these opportunities should first meet with International Programs to discuss what steps must be taken before work of any kind can be authorized. Any unauthorized work during your program of study could result in termination of your F-1 status.

Work and Social Security

Getting Your Social Security Number
Once you’ve secured on-campus employment, you’ll need to apply for a social security number (SSN). Your unique SSN is used by the U.S. government to track your tax liability once you’ve begun working, and is required for any F-1 student to be eligible to work. To apply for an SSN, you will first need a job offer and employment authorization.

Qualifying for an SSN
F-1 students applying for an SSN will need to show that they are eligible. In order to do so, you must be able to prove that:

  1. you have a job offer that from Hollins University (work-study, RA, etc.) or from Meriwether Godsey (Greenberry’s, Moody, etc.), and
  2. you have been in the U.S. for at least 10 days

It can take up to 10 days after you enter or re-enter the U.S. for your record to be updated with your new arrival information. Please note that this applies to students returning to the U.S. after breaks, as well, as you will still receive a new I-94 entry record/number any time you cross the border.

Applying for the SSN
Students applying for an SSN will need to go to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and apply in person. The nearest SSA building is located near downtown Roanoke; Cultural & Community Engagement will provide assistance with transportation.

Before you travel to the SSA, you’ll need to get a few documents in order. You will not be issued a social security number if you fail to provide any of the following:

  • ​Completed SSN Application Form
  • Valid passport
  • F-1 visa (can be expired)
  • I-20
    • International Programs will give you a new one that reflects your employment
  • I-94 (most recent one)
  • PDSO letter
    • printed and signed by the director of International Programs
  • Evidence of employment
    • offer letter from MG, or
    • contract from the Office of Scholarships & Financial Assistance, signed by your work-study supervisor

In order to get all of these documents, you may need to visit several departments on campus, including International Programs, Meriwether Godsey, and the Office of Scholarships & Financial Assistance.

As soon as you have your documents in order, contact the Office of Cultural and Community Engagement to request transport to the Social Security Administration building. You will need to allow them one month to schedule that transportation.