Employment and Internships

The F-1 student visa is designed to allow students to engage in a full course of study. Therefore, employment opportunities while in F-1 status are limited. Please see below for information on the different types of employment and internship opportunities available, and please contact your international student advisor to request more information.

On-campus employment

On-campus employment is work that you have been hired for by Seattle Pacific University or by a third party that provides services on-campus (e.g. dining services). F-1 students may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours per week during vacation periods. Students may work multiple jobs, but the total cannot exceed 20 hours per week while school is in session. It is the student’s responsibility to work with their supervisor to ensure they do not exceed 20 hours per week.

On-campus jobs can be found by inquiring in the department in which you’d like to work, and also on Handshake – SPU’s job posting site.

Curricular practical training

Curricular practical training (CPT) is employment authorization for employment that is an integral part of your program of study. CPT is authorized for required internships, required training, and credited internships. It is not work permission for regular, long-term employment. The internship/practicum must have an academic objective.

To be eligible for CPT, you must have maintained F-1 status for at least one academic year (an exception exists for graduate students whose programs require an internship in the first year). The training must either be required to complete your degree or must receive credit. CPT must be authorized by ISS before you begin working. CPT requests can be made online using the Request Form. CPT requests can take up to ten days to process, so it is important to plan ahead. Requests made at the last minute could result in a delay of your internship start date. Please contact your ISS advisor for additional information about CPT.

Optional practical training

Optional practical training (OPT) is employment authorization for employment opportunities that are directly related to your field of study. You do not need to receive academic credit. OPT can be used during your academic program, but the time used is deducted from the total amount of OPT available to you after graduation, which is twelve months. Students in approved STEM fields can apply for an additional two-year STEM extension after the initial OPT period. STEM extensions are based on the CIP code listed on your I-20 under program information. See the eligible codes here.

Applications for OPT must be submitted first to ISS and then to the USCIS for approval. Therefore, it is imperative to apply early (up to 90 days prior to graduation), as students cannot begin work until their application is approved, and they have received their work authorization card.

To learn more about OPT and apply, contact your international student advisor.

Social Security Number

A Social Security Number (SSN) is an identification number that is used primarily for the reporting of wages (income) for people who are authorized to work and for determining eligibility for social security benefits. If you are working on campus, then you will need to apply for a SSN.

To apply for a SSN, you must follow these steps:

1. Request an employment verification letter from your employer. This letter must 
*Show your start date 
*State how many hours per week you will work 
*Give the name of the hiring department 
Be signed by the person who hired you 
Email this letter to your international student advisor. Your advisor will then write a required letter of support for your SSN application. 
2. Go to the Social Security Administration Office to apply for the SSN. You will need: 
*Employer letter 
*ISS letter 
*I-94 (printable from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/recent-search) 

There are two offices in Seattle you can go to. No appointment is needed. 
Downtown Branch  
915 2ND AVE, SUITE 901 SEATTLE, WA 98174 
Open Monday-Friday 9:00-4:00pm 
Located on the 9th Floor of the Jackson Federal Building, on 2nd Avenue between Madison and Marion Avenues. 
Aurora Branch 
13510 Aurora Ave N Suite B Seattle, Washington 98133 
Open Monday-Friday 9:00-4:00pm 
(We have had some problems with electronic signatures at this branch. We recommend using the downtown branch or getting an original letter from ISS.) 

3. After you apply for your SSN, they will give you a receipt. You can take the receipt to Student Payroll and then begin work. In a few weeks, SSN Administration will mail you your Social Security card. 

Other work scenarios

There are other, more specialized, types of work authorization available to certain F-1 students. These include severe economic hardship and internship with an international organization. Check with your international student advisor for more information.

Volunteering is allowed as an F-1 student, so long as the volunteer opportunity is truly voluntary. This means that anyone who accepts the position is considered a volunteer, and there is absolutely no compensation (no stipend or remuneration of any kind). Do not “volunteer” for a position that is typically paid. Not only will you violate your F-1 status, your employer will violate labor laws by not compensating you for a job that is traditionally paid.

Yasuko Hino Grate

Meet Yasuko Hino Grate ’90

Newly arrived from Japan, this international student faced a formidable language barrier that could have held her back from pursuing her goals… until an SPU professor noticed.