Employment

All F-1 students at Mercer University are eligible to apply for employment on campus.

•  Students can work up to 20 hours per week during academic semesters.
•  Students can work up to 40 hours per week during academic breaks and vacation periods.

You can find a listing of all available positions on campus at the Student Employment website. We also strongly encourage you to present yourself professionally and have a resume prepared when meeting with hiring managers.

*Please note that international students on F-1 visas are not eligible to apply for positions funded and classified as Work-Study.

Students must first apply, be offered a position and then meet with their international student advisor for assistance with applying for a U.S. Social Security Number. When you are offered an on-campus position, ask your hiring manager/supervisor for the following information to be included in a letter on official Mercer University letterhead:

a.  Your full name
b.  The position you have been offered
c.  The department you will be working for
d.  Supervisor’s name
e.  The estimated amount of hours you will work per week
f.  The anticipated start date of employment

Bring this letter with you to your meeting with your international student advisor to being the process. Further details about applying for a Social Security Number can be found below under the Social Security tab.

 

International students are NOT ELIGIBLE for OFF-CAMPUS employment WITHOUT PRIOR and PROPER legal authorization.

F-1 students have the opportunity to work off-campus while they are studying towards their degree completion with Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and the use of pre-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).

F-1 students also have the opportunity for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). Post-completion OPT is utilized after the student graduates from their degree program. Post-completion OPT can be authorized for 12-months (if no pre-completion OPT time has been used).

 

Curricular Practical Training

CPT is authorization for off-campus employment which is directly related to and a documented requirement of a students' course of study.

Undergraduate F-1 students must have been enrolled at Mercer University for one full academic year and meet eligibility requirements to receive approval.

Graduate programs that REQUIRE a student to participate in a work experience in their first year can provide proof of this requirement from the published program requirements.

CPT Fact Sheet & Application <hyperlink to PDF document>

*You may not begin working off-campus until you have official approval and documentation of the employment authorization on an updated I-20 issued by your international student advisor. You are not legally allowed to work in the US without this authorization current on your I-20. While employers might not catch this and might hire you or allow you to continue working after the CPT expires, these kinds of discrepancies could cause you very significant problems in later immigration applications, such as H-1b or Permanent Resident applications. Please take responsibility for your immigration status and make sure you are aware of the end of your CPT authorization, and plan accordingly!

Applying for CPT

•  Contact your international student advisor to determine if you meet eligibility requirements for CPT.
•  If all eligibility requirements are met;
o  Complete and submit your Mercer University CPT Application to your international student advisor. Please note, this form must be signed by your academic adviser, chair of your department or the dean.
o  Provide proof that you are registered for the appropriate internship class for the length of CPT authorization you are requesting.
o  Obtain a signed employment letter on official letterhead from your future employer stating the following:
  * Student’s name
  * Student’s job title
  * Brief description of work
  * Company name and address
  * Start and end dates of employment
  * Estimated hours of work per week
o  Submit all documents to your international student advisor for review
o  A new form I-20 will be issued, documenting the employer and the dates authorized for CPT
o  You can present this new I-20, along with your passport and I-94 record, as proof of employment authorization to your employer  
•  Apply for a Social Security Number if you do not have one already

Part-time vs. Full-time CPT

CPT can be granted on a part-time or full-time basis.  

During the academic year, CPT is limited to part-time (no more than 20 hours per week) and you must continue to be enrolled as a full-time student.  

Full-time CPT (more than 20 hours per week) is generally available to students only during the summer break.  

With proper documentation and enrollment, you are eligible to apply for CPT during multiple semesters/summers.

If you use 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

CPT Part-time/Full-time Options

CPT can be approved as part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week).

Part-time CPT is not limited, and can be used as many semesters or sessions as you like as long as it’s approved for each new semester or session.

Full-time CPT is limited to a maximum of 12 months total throughout your degree program. There are no consequences for full-time CPT use up to 12 months, but after 12 months of full-time CPT use, the student loses the option to apply for OPT. Full-time CPT can be used beyond 12 months, but it’s important to understand the consequences to a student’s OPT. Full-time CPT can only be used only in the following instances:

1. During a summer or winter session when course enrollment is not required
2. For students with 4 credits or less remaining in their last semester before graduation
3. For Graduate students who have completed their coursework and are only enrolled in research credits.

CPT and Academic Enrollment Requirements

CPT does not change the requirement for F-1 enrollment – students are still required to be enrolled full-time in the fall and spring semesters.


Optional Practical Training

F-1 students who plan to work in the U.S. can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), a temporary employment authorization that provides an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off-campus.

Most students are eligible to apply for a total of 12 months of OPT at each higher degree level (e.g. OPT after a Bachelor's degree and then OPT after a Master's degree or PhD).

Students who earn specific degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math – as indicated on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, are eligible for the traditional OPT authorization and a 24-month STEM OPT Extension, AFTER their 12 month post-completion OPT usage.


Standard OPT Eligibility:

The student must be enrolled full-time in F-1 status for at least one full academic year, be physically present in the United States, be maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of application, and intend to work or volunteer in a professional development opportunity directly related to the major field of study. 

OPT requires an application be prepared and sent to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) for review. The application can take up to 3 months to process, so students should plan ahead as much as possible and apply early! The Office of International Programs works with students individually to prepare the OPT application, which requires a new I-20 specifically for OPT.

When to Apply

It can take up to 90 days for USCIS to process an OPT application. The work authorization card (EAD) is required to start work and to travel, so plan accordingly by applying early.

Pre-Completion OPT is for off-campus work before graduation. Applicants can apply no earlier than 90 days before their requested employment start date.

Post-Completion OPT is for graduating students to work once they graduate. Applicants can file their OPT application with USCIS no earlier than 90 days prior to the program end date. They must file no later than 60 days after the program end date.

Post-Completion OPT Timeline

•  The OPT application can be submitted as early as 90-days before your I-20 end date. Your I-20 end date should match your approximate graduation date from Mercer University, and will need to be changed if it is not accurate.
•  The latest date the OPT application can be submitted and received by USCIS is 60-days after your I-20 end date. Please do NOT plan to wait this long to apply!
•  The OPT application process and notification of results takes up to 90-days. Keeping this in mind, you should apply at least 3-months before the start date you plan to request for your OPT authorization. You will indicate your desired employment authorization start date on the Mercer University OPT Application.

How to Apply

Meet with your international student advisor to learn about the opportunity, application process, requirements and to determine the best date to apply and the date to request for your authorization to begin.

Complete the Mercer University OPT Application Form and seek the signature of your academic dean, chair or advisor.

Collect all required application materials:

•  Completed Mercer University OPT Application Form
•  Original completed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
o  (c)(3)(A) : Pre-completion OPT
o  (c)(3)(B) : Post-completion OPT
o  (c)(3)(C) : STEM Extension OPT  
o  Two passport sized photos with your I-94 number and full name printed lightly in pencil on the back
o  Personal check or money order made payable to the Department of Homeland Security in the amount of $410
o  Photocopies of all passport biographical pages (if you have an expired and valid passport)
o  Photocopies of all F-1 visas
o  Print out of your I-94 record. To print your electronic record visit: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov
o  Photocopies of all full-time CPT I-20s only (do not need part-time CPT I-20's)
o  Photocopy of previous EAD cards (if applicable)
o  Photocopy of I-797A Notice of Action for Change of Status if you changed your status to F-1 (if applicable)
o  Job offer letter (not required, optional)
•  Meet with your international student advisor to review your materials and issue a new Form I-20 recommending OPT.
•  Mail your completed application packet to USCIS, including a copy of the new I-20.

USCIS Dallas Lockbox
P.O.Box 660867
Dallas, TX, 75266

•  USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of the recommendation for OPT on the new Form I-20. It is highly recommended that you send your application packet the same day your Form I-20 is created.
•  OPT application processing with USCIS can take up to 90 days. Once you receive your OPT card (EAD) and have reached your start date as noted on the EAD, you are eligible to begin working.

Replacing a lost EAD card

If your EAD (employment authorization document – the physical card you receive when your OPT is approved) is lost, stolen, or otherwise no longer in your possession, you must apply for a replacement EAD. Please note this will require a new complete OPT application, including the $410 fee. Please contact the Office of International Programs if you would like assistance preparing the application for the replacement EAD card.
 

 

 

 

Students who earn specific degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math – as indicated on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, are eligible for the 12-month Post-Completion OPT authorization and a 24-month STEM OPT Extension. The STEM Extension can only be used AFTER 12 month Post-Completion OPT usage.

STEM Extension OPT Eligibility
The following requirements must be satisfied in order to apply for the STEM Extension:
•  Student must have completed their degree with a STEM major on their I-20 that is eligible for the STEM Extension. Please check the STEM Designated Degree Program List to see if the major qualifies.
•  The STEM Extension can only be used immediately following the 12-month Post-Completion OPT period.
•  Your STEM Extension application must be submitted to USCIS before your current 12-month OPT authorization ends.
•  You can apply as early as 90 days before the Post-Completion OPT end date. Calculate this application period based upon the end date printed on your current EAD card.  
•  You must have a job secured or continue your employment with your current employer.
•  Your employer for the STEM Extension must be an E-Verified employer (check to see if your employer is E-verified here, or ask your employer directly).
•  Your STEM Extension employer must be willing to work with you to complete the I-983 Training Plan and follow-up with mandatory reporting.
•  *As of May 10 2016, students that have PREVIOUSLY completed a STEM-eligible degree in the US can also apply for STEM OPT, even if the most recently completed degree in not STEM-eligible.
•  *Please note, the STEM Extension is available twice in your time in the US – you can apply for one STEM Extension after a Post-Completion OPT authorization, up to two times. Please note you cannot use both STEM Extensions after one Post-Completion OPT authorization.

When to Apply
You should apply 90 days before your Post-Completion OPT end date. Calculate this application period based upon the end date printed on your current EAD card.

How to Apply

Meet with your international student advisor or email them to learn about the opportunity, application process, requirements and to determine the best date to apply.

The application process is extremely similar to the Post-Completion OPT process. However, the STEM Extension application process does include more upfront work, completion of an additional form and communication with your employer. Use this checklist to prepare your complete STEM OPT application:

•  Original completed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

I’m applying for: Renewal of my permission to accept employment

Question 11:
* Have you ever applied for employment authorization from USCIS [Yes]
* Which USCIS Office? [Look at your receipt number, as printed on your EAD Card and use the key below]
EAC – Vermont Service Center
WAC – California Service Center
LIN – Nebraska Service Center
SRC – Texas Service Center
* Dates: [Print the date range as indicated on your EAD Card]
* Results: [Granted]

Question 16: (c)(3)(C)

Question 17:
Degree: [Write the degree level and then use the STEM Designated Degree Program List to identify your CIP code]
Employer’s name as listed in E-Verify: [Speak to your employer]
Employer’s E-Verify Company Identification Number: [Speak to your employer]

•  Completed Form G-1145, to receive email and/or text message updates on your application
•  Two passport sized photos with your I-94 number and full name printed lightly in pencil on the back
•  Personal check or money order made payable to the Department of Homeland Security in the amount of $380
•  Photocopies of all passport biographical pages (if you have an expired and valid passport)
•  Photocopies of all F-1 visas
•  Print out of your I-94 record. To print your electronic record visit: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov
•  Photocopies of all I-20s since entry into the U.S. as an F-1 student
•  Photocopy of I-797A Notice of Action for Change of Status if you changed your status to F-1 (if applicable)
•  Photocopy of previous EAD cards (front and back)
•  Official transcript or copy of diploma showing acquired STEM degree
•  Job offer letter (not required, optional)
•  New I-20 with the 24-month STEM Extension recommendation

All elements of your application must be mailed in a single envelope to USCIS. Work with your international student advisor to make sure that your application is complete. Do not forget to send in a COPY of your new I-20 which recommends the 24-month extension.

•  Mail your completed application packet to USCIS, including a copy of the new I-20.
USCIS Dallas Lockbox
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX, 75266

•  USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of the recommendation for OPT on the new Form I-20. It is highly recommended that you send your application packet the same day your Form I-20 is created/you receive your Form I-20 in the mail.
•  Application processing with USCIS can take up to 90 days.  

 

Completing the application process remotely

The Office of International Programs will need to create a new I-20 for your STEM Extension application. Before providing the updated I-20 recommending the 24-month extension, your international student advisor will need to receive and review the following documents. This process can be done remotely as many students are not in Georgia when applying for the STEM Extension. Please forward these documents to your international student advisor when you are ready to apply:

•  I-983 Training Plan completed and signed by your supervisor – please be sure to review the instructions on completing the form from this link.
o  The first page of the I-983 can be completed with information from the first page of your I-20.
o  Page 6 is an evaluation that is due after one year of STEM OPT, and page 7 is an evaluation due after 2 years of STEM OPT. These should not be completed when you submit your I-983 to apply for STEM OPT.
•  Your completed I-765
  * See above for details on completing this application.

After reviewing these documents, your international student advisor will prepare a new I-20 for you and send it to you via USPS (standard mail delivery).

STEM Extension Rules and Regulations

Please note these few additional rules concerning the STEM Extension in addition to the Post-Completion OPT regulations:

•  Students are required to submit the self-evaluation from the I-983 training plan no later than the end of the first year, and end of the second year, of STEM OPT. This is the student’s responsibility, and currently there is no infrastructure in place to allow us to send reminders, so please plan carefully for this requirement! Please use Pages 6-7 of the I-983 for the self-evaluation form.
•  Students on the STEM Extension can ONLY work for E-Verified employers, throughout their OPT STEM Extension.
•  Update the Office of International Programs with any change in your employer information within 10 days of the change.
•  The STEM Extension carries over any unused unemployment days from your first year of OPT, and also provides you with 60 additional unemployment days.
•  The Office of International Programs is required by law to check in with you every 6 months during the STEM Extension to verify your employer information and address in your immigration record – please be sure to respond to these emails.
•  After the 12-months of Post-Completion OPT expires, a student with a pending STEM Extension application can continue working in the US while waiting for the extension to be approved, up to 180 days.
•  Students on the STEM Extension can travel abroad during the Extension following the same rules as when authorized with Post-Completion OPT. Please avoid travelling internationally if you have an H-1b application submitted for you until it is approved AND active. Please note it is strongly discouraged to travel internationally with a pending STEM Extension application!

Changing employers during the STEM Extension

You are welcome to change employers during your STEM Extension. The new employer MUST be E-Verified, and must be willing to complete the I-983 Training Plan with you.

When you are ready to change your employer, please send the completed and signed I-983 Training Plan to your international student advisor. We will update your immigration record and I-20. An updated I-20 will be sent to the address you provide.

Replacing a lost EAD card

If your EAD (employment authorization document – the physical card you receive when your OPT is approved) is lost, stolen, or otherwise no longer in your possession, you must apply for a replacement EAD. Please note this will require a new complete STEM OPT application, including the $380 fee. Please contact the Office of International Programs if you would like assistance preparing the application for the replacement EAD card.

Additional Resources

Study In The States (US Department of Homeland Security)
USCIS STEM OPT Website
NAFSA Association of International Educators STEM OPT Website

 

Prior to working on-campus all students must apply for a U.S. Social Security Number.

Prior to beginning employment, students must apply and receive their U.S. Social Security Number and provide all documentation requested to the Office of Student Employment.

Student Employment – Macon

Location

Student Employment is located within the Office of Student Financial Planning on the first floor of Ryals Hall on the Main Campus.

Contact Information
Email: studentemployment@merceraid.com

Student Employment – Atlanta
Location

Student Employment is located within the Office of Student Financial Planning in Davis Hall on the Atlanta Campus.

Contact Information

Email: studentemployment@merceraid.com

Students with On-Campus Employment
1.  Receive a job offer from an on-campus department
2.  Request an official letter on Mercer University letterhead from your future supervisor with the following information included:
   a.  Your full name
   b.  The position you have been offered
   c.  The department you will be working for
   d.  Supervisor’s name
   e.  The estimated amount of hours you will work per week
   f.  The anticipated start date of employment
3.  Provide this letter to your international student advisor
4.  Your international student advisor will create a letter confirming your on-campus employment offer and state that you are eligible for on-campus work within the United States.
5.  Prepare to go to the Social Security Administration Office with the following documents:
   a.  Job offer letter
   b.  International student advisor letter
   c.  Passport
   d.  I-20
   e.  I-94 record
   f.  Visa
   g.  Complete Social Security application
        i.  Print all information in bold letters
        ii.  Provide a complete mailing address within the U.S. in which you know mail can be delivered to. This is the address in which your approved Social Security Number/Card will be mailed to.
6.  Visit the local Social Security Administration office and apply for your number
   a.  Macon office: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/ic001.do
   b.  Atlanta office: https://www.ssa.gov/atlanta/southeast/ga/georgia.htm
7.  If approved, you will receive an approval notice during your visit. This approval notice will not include your Social Security Number.
8.  Your Social Security Number on an official card will arrive in the mail to the address in which you print on your Social Security application.
9.  Bring your Social Security Card to the Office of Student Employment to complete your on-campus employment authorization.

Q&A

What is a Social Security Number?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is a permanent nine-digit identification number administered by the Social Security Administration, an agency of the U.S. federal government. SSNs are required for anyone employed in the U.S. This number tracks income for employers and the IRS, but is not required for anything else.

Who is eligible to receive a Social Security Number?

•  F-1 students who are employed with authorization are eligible for a Social Security Number. F-2s are not eligible for a Social Security Number.

Who is required to have a Social Security Number?
All individuals working in the U.S. are required to have a Social Security Number.

Why is everyone asking for my Social Security Number?
International visitors are not required to have a Social Security Number to enter the U.S., open a bank account, sign a lease, or get a Georgia driver's license. However, it is likely that you will be asked for an SSN when trying to do these things. This is because SSNs are used to check your financial credit history (i.e. do you pay bills on time?).

If you are asked for an SSN by a cell phone carrier, bank, landlord, etc. you should explain that at this time you are not eligible for one because of your student visa status.

Protecting your Social Security Number
If you get a Social Security Number, you should protect it in order to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. While you likely will be asked for your SSN when leasing an apartment, setting up a bill or service (cell phone, utilities), or opening a bank account, you should protect your Social Security Number and do not give it out freely. You should not carry your Social Security card around with you. You should keep your card (and your number) in a safe place and do not give it out to anyone who does not have a legitimate reason to ask for it.

If someone is able to get your Social Security Number, they can open bank accounts or buy things under your name! You can quickly become a victim of identity theft if someone gets your number and they can cause problems far into the future. Do not give your number over the phone or via email, particularly if you did not initiate contact.