• Employment

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is work authorization that allows F-1 international students to participate in paid off-campus academic internships during their degree program. The purpose of CPT is academic, not just for employment purposes, and the internship must be considered an integral part of a student’s degree program. Students must have a specific job/internship offer to apply. If the internship is an unpaid or volunteer position, CPT is not required but students CANNOT accept any kind of compensation for work performed.

    Please note that USC Language Academy students are not eligible to apply for CPT.

    OPT: Initial 12-Month

    STEM Extension

    Extending Your I-20

    F-1 Student Status Requirement

    Students must have been in F-1 student status for at least one academic year before they can apply for CPT and must have properly maintained F-1 status each semester. The only exception to this rule applies to those students who are in degree programs that requires an internship/practicum hours to fulfill degree requirements.

    Hours of Employment:

    • Work hours are limited to 20 hours per week (part-time) during fall and spring semesters and 40 hours per week (full-time) during the summer semesters.

    • Total hours worked in any semester for the combined TOTAL of on- and off-campus work cannot exceed 40 hours per week (including graduate assistantship positions) for full-time employment

    OPT: Initial 12-month

    Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit given to F-1 students who are completing a bachelor's or graduate degree in the United States. Its purpose is to provide an opportunity to gain employment experience in a student’s field of study. OPT is adjudicated (approved) by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

    To apply for 12-month OPT, please come into the Office of International Students and Faculty Services for the application.

    STEM Extension

    Recipients of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields may be eligible for a one-time 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months). The 17-month Stem Extension OPT is adjudicated (approved) by USCIS.

    The end result of filing for the OPT 17-month STEM extension is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) which shows dates students are able to work legally in the United States.

    STEM Extension Overview:

    • Only one 17-month STEM extension is granted PER LIFETIME, regardless of additional degrees awarded or level of degrees.

    • The new STEM extension EAD card begins the day after the expiration of the 12-month EAD card and ends 17 months later, no matter the date of adjudication.

    • The 17-month extension will be granted in one EAD card period and cannot be split into smaller periods.

    • It is possible to change eligible employers during the 17 months, but only after the student has received the extension EAD card.

    • Students whose applications are received before the EAD card expires will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending until they receive the final decision from USCIS on the application or for 180 days, whichever comes first.

    • If the extension application is denied, the student will still have a 60-day grace period after the expiration of the 12-month EAD card to begin a new degree program at USC, transfer to another institution, change status, or depart the United States.


    If you need to file for your OPT STEM extension for 17 months please come into the Office of International Students and Faculty Services for the application.

    Extending your I-20

    Do you need additional time to finish your degree requirements?

    F-1students whose I-20s are set to expire during the current semester but won't be able to finish degree requirements by then will need to request a Program Extension to OIS. The I-20 will need to be extended for the additional time needed to complete all your academic requirements.

    If you need to extend your I-20/DS-2019, please do so as soon as possible.