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Working & Volunteering in the US

There are multiple types of work authorizations available to Denison international students. Each type of work authorization has different rules, processes, and timelines. Some are authorized by Denison University's International Student Support and others must be approved by the the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Please read the information below to learn more about each type of employment.

Please review this guide to help you prepare to apply for employment: What Employers Should Know about Hiring International Students
While you are enrolled as a student at Denison, remote work could fall into one of three categories:
  • Remote work for any employer (US-based or non-US), completed while you are physically outside the United States
  • Remote work for a US-based company, completed while you are physically in the United States
  • Remote work for a non-US company, completed while you are physically in the United States
In the first case, there are no immigration concerns, as you are not considered to be in F1 status while you are outside the US. You do not require work authorization from ISS/USCIS to engage in this employment.
In the other two cases, you must have work authorization before you can engage in that employment. Whether or not your employer is located in the US (and whether or not you are paid into an American bank account, you must have work authorization to engage in employment while you are within the borders of the United States.
On-campus employment by F-1 students is permitted as long as the student works no more than 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students may be employed full-time during vacations and recess periods as long as they intend to register for the next term.

On-campus employment means employment performed on the premises of the school or at an affiliated location. On-campus employment may be of a type normally performed by students, such as work in the school library, cafeterias, computer center, or in the student store. For current student job postings, please log into Handshake.

Students should be hired directly by Denison/via Handshake for on-campus employment. Working directly for a Denison employee or affiliate, on a personal project or grant-funded opportunity, is not likely to be considered on-campus employment.
Cooperative education and internship programs allow students to obtain practical work experience in their field of study. In order for F-1 students to participate in off-campus work experiences, immigration regulations require students to receive academic credits for the work experience, unless it is a required component of their degree program. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services refers to this kind of off-campus work experience as Curricular Practical Training. 

Eligibility Requirements
  • Undergraduate students must have completed one academic year (nine months) in F-1 visa status
  • Students must be in legal F-1 visa status, in good academic standing, and making normal, satisfactory progress toward completion of their degree
  • The type of employment must be directly related to a student's major
To register for the INTD 150 Internship Course taught by Josh Gory during the Spring 2024 semester, please request a signed Add Course Form via email. Enrollment in this course is mandatory if you are engaged in a paid internship during the Spring semester and the experience is not a required part of your major.

To apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), please login and click on the Student Request tab and select the CPT Request. If you have already started a request, do not start a new one. Please go to your Request tab and locate your CPT Request under Pending Requests. If you wish to extend an internship you began in the fall, you will need to submit a new CPT request to cover the additional time period.

The U.S. Department of Labor has guidelines for those seeking an unpaid internship.
The following six criteria must be met for an internship to be considered a legitimate unpaid internship (and not employment below minimum wage, in violation of Department of Labor laws):
  • The internship, even though it includes actual operation on the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  • The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  • The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  • The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship
A common misconception is anything unpaid counts as "volunteering". According to U.S. labor laws, there is more to distinguish between employees and volunteers than whether an individual receives a regular paycheck. Work that is unpaid may still be considered employment for F-1 or J-1 status holders.

What is an employee? The definition of an employee used in the context of immigration regulations is as follows: "An individual who provides services or labor for an employer for wages or other remuneration";. Please note that the term "remuneration" is very broad and includes a variety of non-monetary benefits, such as free housing, food, gifts, etc.

What is a volunteer? According to the Department of Labor, a volunteer is: an "individual who performs hours of service... for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered." To be considered a volunteer, the work performed by the individual must meet the following criteria:
  • No expectation of compensation
  • The volunteer cannot displace a genuine employee,
  • The services provided by the volunteer should not be the same services for which he or she was previously paid and/or expects to be hired and paid for in the future
  • Services are performed for a non-profit organization for public service, religious or humanitarian objective.
  • Work at a for-profit entity is considered employment and must be for pay. The only exception is made for training programs where the trainee functions, to some degree, like an employee, but is under close supervision and provides no significant measurable work for the employer. The trainee must not take the place of a paid employee. For example, students who are considered student interns may engage in unpaid internships at for-profit organizations.
U.S. Department of Labor Rules for Volunteering
U.S. Department of Labor is concerned both with the protection of jobs for United States citizens, and with the prevention of exploitation of workers. They have created laws to ensure that employment that should be paid is not done for free.
To determine whether an individual is a true volunteer engaged in “ordinary volunteerism,” the Department of Labor considers a number of factors. No single factor is determinative. The factors include:
  • Is the entity that will benefit/receive services from the volunteer a nonprofit organization?
  • Is the activity less than a full-time occupation?
  • Are the services offered freely and without pressure or coercion?
  • Are the services of the kind typically associated with volunteer work?
  • Have regular employees been displaced to accommodate the volunteer?
  • Does the worker receive (or expect) any benefit from the entity to which it is providing services?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a work benefit for international students in F-1 immigration status who are enrolled in or completing a degree program in the U.S. OPT is not a “work visa” and does not require you to remain at one company for the entire OPT period. Authorization for OPT is granted by the USCIS and can take as long as three months to obtain

Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (prior to graduation)

Pre-completion OPT is permitted for F-1 students as long as the work is for no more than 20 hours a week while school is in session.

Full-time employment under this category is allowed during vacations and recess periods as long as the student intends to register for the next term. Time spent in pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the 12 months of full-time employment available for post-completion OPT. For example, if the student works 20 hours a week for four months, he/she would have two months deducted from the 12 months of post-completion OPT.

Applications are submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for final decision.

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (after graduation)

F-1 students are entitled to up to one year post-completion OPT for each successive and higher degree. Time spent in pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12-month total practical training period.

You may apply for post-completion OPT up to 90 days before your completion date, and up to 60 days beyond the end date of your I-20. USCIS must receive your application no later than 30 days after ISS creates the OPT I-20. Applications are submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for final decision.

To apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), please login and click on the Student Request tab and select the OPT Request. If you have already started a request, do not start a new one. Please go to your Request tab and locate your OPT Request under Pending Requests.
Students who have completed a STEM degree in the U.S., may be eligible to apply for an additional 24 months of STEM OPT up to 90 days prior to the expiration of their OPT. For more information about STEM OPT, please review the information on Study in the States

Eligibility Requirements
  • The employment extension is based on/must be related to the STEM degree. Qualifying Denison University majors are: Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Data Analytics, Economics, Environmental Studies, Financial Economics, Geosciences, Physics, Mathematics and Psychology.
  • The student must have maintained valid F-1 status.
  • The student must be currently on post-completion OPT.
  • The employment must be full-time. For immigration purposes, full-time is defined as more than 20 hours per week.
  • The student must be offered a job by an employer currently registered with the E-Verify program. Learn more about the E-Verify Program.
  • The student must not be self-employed.
  • The student must not have been granted more than one STEM extension in the past. The STEM extension is only available twice per lifetime, regardless of the number of STEM degrees earned.
  • The STEM application must be received by the USCIS prior to the end of the initial period of post-completion OPT, and within 60 days of ISS creating the STEM OPT I-20.
  • The student and employer must complete form I-983 and agree to adhere to it and comply with reporting requirements.
To apply for 24-Month STEM OPT Extension, please login and click on the Student Request tab and select the STEM OPT Extension Request. If you have already started a request, do not start a new one. Please go to your Request tab and locate your STEM OPT Extension Request under Pending Requests.