« INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

Employment

Off-Campus Employment
(Restriction)

Employment is broadly defined by the U.S. Department of State as “any service provided in exchange for financial or material compensation.” Therefore, you must not accept any form of off-campus employment! The only instances when off-campus employment is permitted is if you receive prior authorization for formal practical training from both your international adviser and U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, which will be indicated on page 3 of your most recent I-20. Any unauthorized form of off-campus employment is strictly prohibited, including working for and being paid by your church.

F-2 dependents may not accept employment or engage in business under any circumstances.

On-Campus Employment

F-1 students may apply for authorized on-campus employment. On-campus employment is limited to a total of 20 hours per week while school is in session, though you may work full time while school is not in session (e.g. January and during the summer months provided you are not also enrolled in classes). Incoming students are eligible to work on-campus 30 days prior to the first day of classes.

Once you have received an offer of on-campus employment from a department, you must receive a Social Security Number and Card. To begin this process, you need to first meet with your adviser in Student Life Services to receive a verification letter required by the Social Security Office. You will also need an on-campus employment offer from your supervisor stating the following:

  • Description of the employment opportunity, including the department name
  • Supervisor?s name, phone number, and e-mail address
  • Number of hours per week you will be expected to work

Take this letter, along with all other required documents, to the Social Security Administration office in Salem, MA to apply for a Social Security Number. The Salem, MA Social Security Administration Office is located at the following address:

10 Federal Street, Suite 406
Salem, MA

Please note that students who have completed their degree program and/or students with an expired I-20 cannot continue to work on-campus. This restriction even applies to students in their 60-day grace period following the completion of their degree or thereafter.

The only two instances when you could continue to work on-campus after completing your degree would be if:

  1. You are pursuing a second or subsequent degree at Gordon-Conwell and plan to enroll in the next academic term.
  2. You are transferring to another SEVP approved institution and Gordon-Conwell is still maintaining your SEVIS record/I-20.

F-2 visa holders are not permitted to work on or off-campus under any circumstances. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary permission to work in the United States in order to gain additional knowledge about your field of study. OPT is work authorization available to international students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters at Gordon-Conwell and who plan to seek employment in the U.S. in their field of study.  Eligible students may apply for “pre-completion OPT” (before completion of program) and/or “post-completion OPT” (after completion of program).

Important Information about OPT and the OPT Forms:

  1. OPT Request Form
  2. OPT Application Process and Checklist
  3. While You Are On Post-Completion OPT
  4. OPT Travel Information
  5. OPT Information and FAQs
  6. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Starting the OPT Application Process

OPT is recommended by Gordon-Conwell, but final approval is granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).  Applications for OPT first require the recommendation of your International Student Advisor (DSO) at Gordon-Conwell, an updated I-20, payment of a $410 fee (payable to Department of Homeland Security), completed Form I-765, copies of all related documents, two passport photos, and any other items your adviser and/or USCIS request. If you already have secured a job, you should also include your employment offer letter.  Please see “B – OPT Application Process and Checklist” for more information.

Eligibility and Duration

F-1 students are eligible for a total of twelve months of OPT per educational level. This means at the masters degree level (MDiv, ThM), you have twelve months of OPT.  Please see “E – OPT Information and FAQs” for more information.

When and How to Apply

The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before the program completion date indicated on your I-20. The latest date USCIS will accept your application is 60 days after your completion date. In addition, OPT applications must be submitted to USCIS within 30 days of receiving an updated I-20 from Gordon-Conwell with your OPT information included on page 3. OPT applications should be submitted to USCIS at the following address.  Please note that once your application is submitted, it is difficult to change and/or cancel the application.  Please see “A – OPT Request Form” and “B – OPT Application Process and Checklist” for more information.

After you Apply

Once your packet is mailed, USCIS will send you a Form I-797 Notice of Action. This form will indicate that USCIS has received your application and that your case will be decided on within 90 days. DO NOT LOSE THIS FORM! This form will probably come to you in approximately two or three weeks after you submit your application, though you may hear back before that time. It will also have a tracking number for your application, which will look something like ?EAC-11-222-3333.? Click here to check the status of your application online at with this tracking number. Enter the EAC# in the appropriate field.

Approval

USCIS reviews your application and if approved, sends you an authorization card called an Employment Authorization Document Card (EAD) to the address provided on your I-765. Bring this card to your adviser so that copies can be made and included in your file. If USCIS has a question regarding your application before approval, they will send you a “Request for Evidence.” Contact your adviser before taking any further action so that you may be advised on how best to respond to USCIS?s request.


Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Students may pursue an authorized employment option called Curricular Practical Training (CPT) only if they are pursuing a degree program that requires Mentored Ministry (Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Educational Ministries). CPT is a way to pursue employment while also enrolled in courses in order to gain valuable work experience required as an integral component of your program of study. To be approved for CPT, you must be currently enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one academic year (as required for maintaining the F-1 visa) and can only pursue CPT as part of your Mentored Ministry requirements. However, please remember that F-1 students completing Mentored Ministry are not required to pursue CPT. CPT is only an option if desired, particularly if you expect to be paid for your work while completing your Mentored Ministry requirements (F-1 students cannot pursue unauthorized employment and be paid for any work off-campus, including working at a church).

If you are interested in pursuing CPT, first contact the Mentored Ministry office to verify that your position can be pursued for Mentored Ministry credit. If it is determined that your position can be pursued for Mentored Ministry credit, the Mentored Ministry Office will compose a letter on your behalf and send it to your adviser in Student Life Services. At that point, you will then need to meet with your adviser for more information and to complete the application process for CPT. This process will include submitting an application for authorized employment to United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Social Security Numbers

Any person earning money in the U.S. is required to have a Social Security Number. This means any F-1 student who will be paid for any form of authorized employment (on-campus employment or Optional Practical Training) will need to complete the process for obtaining a Social Security Number and Card.

A Social Security Card does not grant employment authorization. It simply provides a unique identification number to allow employers to pay wages and deduct appropriate taxes on behalf of the U.S. Government. Please note also that Social Security Numbers are only available to those F1 students who have secured authorized employment. Students pursuing unauthorized employment are not eligible to apply for or receive a Social Security Number and are in serious violation of their F-1 visa status.

The required documents you should take with you include:

  • Passport and F-1 student visa, I-94, and most recent I-20 signed by your adviser in Student Life Services
  • Letter from Student Life Services verifying that you are a full-time F-1 student at Gordon-Conwell
  • Letter from Human Resources verifying employment, including supervisor name and job description
  • Application form for Social Security Card. Click here to view and print this form. We recommend you complete this form prior to going to the Social Security Office. Otherwise, you will need to complete the form once you arrive.

You must apply for a Social Security Number in person. The Salem, MA Social Security Administration Office is located at the following address:

10 Federal Street, Suite 406
Salem, MA

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary permission to work in the United States in order to gain additional knowledge about your field of study. OPT is work authorization available to international students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters at Gordon-Conwell and who plan to seek employment in the U.S. in their field of study. Eligible students may apply for “pre-completion OPT” (before completion of program) and/or “post-completion OPT” (after completion of program).

Granting approval to request Optional Practical Training (OPT) is at the discretion of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary — Charlotte and its officials, and is not guaranteed to each student who requests it. Please contact the Charlotte Campus PDSO/DSO to discuss your proposal for pursuing OPT.

Pending PDS/DSO approval of initial proposal, to qualify for OPT, international students must meet the following criteria:

  • No outstanding financial balance on student account
  • One full academic year of full-time study completed
  • Valid F-1 status
  • Good academic standing
  • Employment in your major field of study
  • Have not regained legal status through reentry during the previous academic year

Students who meet the above criteria should keep in mind the following:

How long can I pursue OPT?

  • F-1 students are eligible for a total of twelve months of OPT per educational level. This means at the masters degree level (MDiv, ThM) you have twelve months of OPT.

When should I apply for OPT?

  • The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before the program completion date indicated on your I-20.
  • The latest date the USCIS will accept your application is 60 days after your completion date.
  • In addition, OPT applications must be submitted to USCIS within 30 days of receiving an OPT I-20 from Gordon-Conwell.
  • Once the OPT application is submitted to USCIS, it is very difficult to change or cancel the application.

How do I apply for OPT?

Note: OPT is recommended by Gordon-Conwell and the International Student Advisor, but final approval is granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). International students should do the following to begin their OPT application process:

What do I do after I apply for OPT?

  • Once your packet is mailed, USCIS will send you a Form I-797 Notice of Action indicating that they have received your application and that your case will be decided on within 90 days. DO NOT LOSE THIS FORM!
  • This form will probably come to you in approximately two or three weeks after you submit your application, though you may hear back before that time. It will also have a tracking number for your application, which will look something like “EAC-11-222-3333.”
  • You may check the status of your application online at www.USCIS.gov with this tracking number. Look for the case status online link and enter the EAC# in the appropriate field.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

F-1 students may use Curricular Practical Training to obtain off-campus work authorization for internships or other work required for their degree program. Students are eligible for CPT if:

  • They are in current active F-1 status
  • They have been enrolled in their academic program for a full academic year by the start of the internship

The following degree programs at Gordon-Conwell—Charlotte have required internships or Mentored Ministry rotations that are eligible for CPT:

  • Master of Divinity
  • M.A. in Christian Counseling-CMH
  • M.A. in Christian Leadership
  • M.A. in Christian MInistries

The student’s degree program must require this off-campus employment, OR the student must be able to register for a credit-bearing course in your program that requires the employment to complete the course. In order to apply, students must first have a job offer, and then follow the instructions below.

  1. Submit the CPT Request Form to the International Student Office.
  2. Download the CPT FAQ Sheet.
  3. Meet with your advisor or course professor to review the Confirmation of Academic Necessity requirement. Your advisor must fill this out to complete your request.
  4. Apply for CPT authorization at least two weeks before you plan on beginning your job. Schedule an International Student Advising Appointment as soon as possible. The International Student Advisor will create a new I-20 for you at this meeting.

Questions?

Contact the International Student Office at [email protected] or call 704-527-9909.

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