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The eligibility of international students to accept employment at Tufts depends on a variety of circumstances, including immigration status or visa type, academic status, time of year, the nature of the Tufts position, and other factors.

Because each individual student case is different, the individual student has the primary responsibility for understanding and complying with any restrictions governing their eligibility to work at Tufts, including hourly limitations. The information provided below is intended to help department managers to understand these restrictions and to assist international students in meeting their compliance obligations. Students who fail to comply with appropriate employment regulations, even inadvertently and unintentionally, may be deemed to have engaged in unauthorized employment and may subsequently lose valid immigration status. For this reason, departments should refer any student with questions about employment eligibility to the International Center for guidance. For information about Tufts hiring and payroll procedures, please contact TSS.

Common Types of International Student Employment Situations

The sections below provide information regarding the following situations:

  • On-campus student employment for currently-enrolled international students attending and sponsored by Tufts University
  • On-campus student employment for currently-enrolled international students attending, but not sponsored by Tufts University
  • On-campus student employment for international students attending and sponsored by other institutions (including other local area universities and colleges)
  • Post-completion employment options for international students (including graduates of Tufts or other US universities and colleges)

On-Campus Student Employment

Most international students at Tufts are directly sponsored by Tufts for either an "F-1" or "J-1" student visa. These students are eligible to work on-campus for any Tufts office, department, or center. Employment authorization is contingent on the following conditions:

  • Students are permitted to accept employment as long as they are in good academic standing and making full-time progress toward their degree or educational objective
  • Students may work a maximum of 20 hours per week while taking classes (fall and spring semesters); full-time employment exceeding twenty hours per week is permitted during official school breaks and the summer vacation period
  • Students must cease on-campus employment immediately in the event that they withdraw from studies (temporarily or permanently) or upon completion of degree requirements (regardless of actual graduation date)
  • Students are responsible for maintaining valid and unexpired immigration documents - including an unexpired passport and Form I-20 or DS-2019 from the International Center - during their employment
  • Students are not required to have a Social Security Number (SSN) to apply for or start on-campus employment, but students who do not have a SSN should follow SSN application procedures as soon as possible once an offer of on-campus employment has been extended in order to facilitate proper payroll procedures

Important Restrictions and Guidelines

  • Part-time Students: In certain cases, an international student may have been authorized by the International Center to take a reduced course load (part-time study). Students granted a reduced course load generally retain on-campus employment eligibility, although students who receive a reduced course load for medical reasons are expected to prioritize medical treatment and recovery. Students who have not been authorized by the International Center to engage in part-time study may be in violation of immigration status and are ineligible to work.
  • Hourly Limitations: International students may hold multiple on-campus jobs but are not permitted to exceed a total of 20 hours per week of employment while school is in session. While each individual student is responsible for knowing and remaining within the 20-hour / week maximum, departments should be aware of this limitation and workload limitations should be addressed when offering employment and commencing job duties.
  • Payment and Compensation: Any services performed by an international student for a department or other unit should be compensated following appropriate university procedures and guidelines for student compensation. Any other forms of compensation or remuneration may be considered unauthorized, leading to the termination of the student's immigration status.
  • Terminated Students / Completed Students: Students who are no longer pursuing studies at Tufts, or who have completed their degree requirements, should terminate from on-campus employment no later than the date of withdrawal or completion of degree requirements. Continuing any on-campus employment beyond termination of studies or completion of degree requirements constitutes unauthorized employment and may cause the student to lose valid immigration status. Students who complete studies may need to secure employment authorization through F-1 Optional Practical Training or J-1 Academic Training as appropriate in order to continue employment related to the major field of study.
    • Note: an international student may not continue to be employed on-campus after completing degree requirements, even if the student has not yet formally been awarded the degree

A small number of international students who are enrolled at Tufts may have immigration status that is not directly sponsored by Tufts. An example might be the dependent family member of a person in the US on a work visa, or a student on a visa sponsored by an external entity (such as a Fulbright scholarship granting agency) to pursue a degree at Tufts. While such students are on non-immigrant visas, their immigration status is independent of Tufts's sponsorship and eligibility for student or other types of employment will depend on the restrictions accompanying their specific immigration status.

Such students are responsible for obtaining their own employment authorization, and presenting evidence of this authorization to Tufts Support Services (TSS) upon commencement of student employment, through the I-9 Employment Verification process. Any restrictions will depend on their status and any relevant University restrictions and policies governing their specific employment positions. Students who lack employment authorization may be directed to the International Center to learn more about immigration options.

Tufts departments may wish to offer temporary on-campus employment to international students who are attending and who are under the immigration sponsorship of other institutions. An example is an international student attending another local college or university, who is offered a temporary student teaching or research appointment with a Tufts department.

In these situations, the individual student offered employment is responsible for working with the international office at their home institution to secure employment authorization prior to commencing work at Tufts. The Tufts hiring department is not required to initiate any procedure with the International Center. However, in certain situations, the department may be asked by the student to provide a detailed offer letter describing the proposed employment opportunity (job location, dates, duties, hours per week, salary or compensation, and supervisor / contact person) so that the student's home institution can advise on and/or authorize appropriate employment options.

If the student is unable to secure valid employment authorization by the time the opportunity commences, Tufts will be unable to hire the student. In any case, the student must complete a Form I-9 Employment Verification with TSS no later than the first day of employment.

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training

F-1 students who successfully complete their degree or educational objectives may be eligible to apply for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). This is a benefit that allows students to remain in the US for up to one year after completing studies to get practical training in their major field of study. Only employment that is related to the student's major(s) is permitted during OPT.

F-1 students (whether from Tufts or another institution) who have been authorized for post-completion OPT should be able to show a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card on the first day of employment. Departments do not need to take any action to secure OPT authorization for a student (see, however, the next section on the STEM Extension of OPT). It is up to each individual student to take the appropriate steps to obtain OPT authorization and to comply with OPT restrictions, including limiting employment to activities related to their major field of study:

  • OPT requires the student to submit an application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • USCIS processing can be quite lengthy (90 - 120 days on average); students are encouraged to apply for the benefit well in advance of completing their studies
  • Once USCIS approves the application, the student will receive a Form I-766 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card permitting employment for a specific period of time
  • The student may not begin employment until receiving an EAD card and until the start date on the EAD card has been reached
  • It is up to the student to ensure that any employment is related to the major field of study for which they received their degree or educational objective

Note: Tufts students in F-1 student status cannot continue to utilize standard on-campus employment once they have completed their studies. Students who wish to remain employed at Tufts after completion of studies must be authorized for OPT. The new employment position must also be directly related to the student's major field of study.

Some F-1 students who have qualifying US degrees in certain STEM majors may be eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT benefit. The purpose of the STEM Extension of OPT is to provide the student with supervised training and practical learning experiences in the student's STEM degree.

Student Obligations

The individual student is wholly responsible for determining their eligibility for the STEM benefit and managing the application process within mandated deadlines. A successful application will lead to issuance of a Form I-766 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card for two years, and this card must be presented upon commencement of employment to complete the I-9 Employment Verification process. (For graduates of Tufts programs, the student should contact the International Center to determine eligibility for the STEM extension benefit.)

In addition, the student is required to pursue the STEM training opportunity as described in a completed and signed Form I-983 Training Plan (see below, under "Employer Obligations") as well as confirm and update their employment and US address information with their schools on a periodic basis. Finally, the student is required to complete a self-evaluation both at the midpoint of the two-year employment period and upon completion of the STEM training period or upon departure from the employer, whichever comes first.

Employer Obligations

In order to apply for the STEM Extension benefit the student obtain the following from their employer, who must agree to several compliance obligations, as listed below and as described by the Department of Homeland Security on the Form I-983 information page for employers. Tufts departments considering hiring an international student seeking the STEM Extension benefit will therefore be asked to assist with the following:

  • The department must provide an offer for full-time training (20 hours or more per week) in the student's STEM major
  • The department must provide the student with Tufts's E-Verify number, reflecting the University's enrollment in the USCIS's E-Verify program
  • The student's supervisor must assist the student with completing sections 3 -6 of the Form I-983 Training Plan, and secure appropriate signatures* confirming the department's understanding and agreement to provide a guided and supervised STEM training opportunity and to comply with other employer obligations.

Employer Signatories: Form I-983 is typically signed by the student's faculty supervisor and/or department manager. In any case, the signatories should be the persons most closely responsible for supervising and evaluating the student's performance, ensuring that there are adequate resources and personnel to provide training in the student's STEM field, and fulfilling any notification requirements as described below.

The Form I-983 Training Plan is required for every student seeking to request the STEM employment benefit, and must be completed at any time the student adds or changes STEM employers. The form requires a detailed description of the student's work site, hours, methods of compensation, supervisory methods, and standards and practices for evaluating the student's performance and outcomes. In addition, the plan requires a description of the training goals, phases, and objectives. NOTE: by signing Form I-983, the student's department:

  • confirms that it has sufficient resources and personnel to provide full-time training (20+ hours per week) in the student's STEM degree
  • agrees to notify the student's international student advisor (Designated School Official), as listed on page 1 of Form I-983, within five days if the student voluntarily departs or is terminated from the position
  • agrees to notify the student's international student advisor (Designated School Official), as listed on page 1 of Form I-983, within five days if there are other material changes to the student's employment, such as a significant change in hours of employment and/or training duties
  • agrees to sign the student's required midpoint (at the 1-year mark) and final self-evaluation (at the two year mark, or upon departure from the position), as reflected on page 5 of Form I-983
  • agrees, in principle, to the possibility of a Department of Homeland Security workplace site visit*, the purpose of which is to confirm that the student is engaged in the training as described on the Form I-983 Training Plan and that the department has sufficient resources and personnel to continue offering the training opportunity as described in the plan

*In the event the hiring department, or the student, is contacted about the possibility of a Department of Homeland Security / Immigration and Customs Enforcement site visit pursuant to the STEM Extension regulations, contact the Office of University Counsel at (617) 627-2147.