Department Guide

The purpose of this page is to guide departments and academic advisors on how to fill out common ISS forms. The intent is to provide clarity and transparancy in our process. We hope that this page will provide that clarity. We will continuously work towards updating and refining this departmental guide based on your continued feedback. 

Planned guides Welcome to our guide!for the future:
  • Extension Requests
  • Reduced Course Load Requests
    • Academic
    • Medical
    • Final Term
What if I have a Suggestion for the guide?
We are always open to feedback. To submit a suggestion please email with the subject line Department Guide Suggestions. 

Students who wish to apply for a Social Security Number for employment purposes will need to submit a letter to International Student Services for review. While reviewing this letter, International Student Services are ensuring that the letter presented to the student fulfills the requirements for the Social Security Administration. More information about the process by which students apply for a Social Security Number can be found at

In order to assist a student in getting their letter generated to fulfill the requirements of the Social Security Administration, the letter must contain the following information:
  • Employment offer letter issued by the hiring department, on the hiring department’s letterhead 
  • Student name (as it is listed on the student’s passport)
  • Department
  • Position/Title
  • Start Date (No more than 30 days in the future at the time of application)
  • Number of Hours per week
  • Rate of pay
  • Contact information for employer and supervisor
  • Employment identification number (EIN) (if possible) (This number can be requested from the payroll office of the hiring department.)
A sample letter has been created for use by departments on their letterhead. This letter can be downloaded here.  

Can an F-1 student being their employment while pending issuance of their Social Security number?

Working While Awaiting a Social Security Number (SSN), an F-1 student may work while the SSN application is being processed.  Employers may wish to reference Social Security Administration’s (SSA) fact sheet, Employer Responsibilities When Hiring Foreign Workers.  This fact sheet contains information on how to report wages for an employee who has not yet received an SSN and is available online at
See IRS guidance “Delays in Issuing SSNs to Aliens by the Social Security Administration” at,,id=129227,00.html
Also, please refer to the U.S. Dept of Labor, or your state Dept of Labor, for laws regarding timely payment for work performed.  See and
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined as  “…alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(10)(i)

The regulations also state that the training must be “an integral part of an established curriculum.” We confirm this using the department’s approval and by checking that the course is on the student’s degree plan.  
What ISS Does What the Student Does
  • ISS directly authorizes CPT for an eligible student based on a specific employer, location, and period of time.
    • If any of this information changes, ISS must provide new authorization. Otherwise, it could be viewed as a status violation
  • ISS must also confirm that the CPT work is an academic necessity and is directly related to the student’s field of study
  • Enroll in course specified on CPT Department Form
    • Course must be on degree plan
  • Apply to ISS for CPT authorization
  • Report any changes to CPT employment to ISS
  • Maintain full-time status requirements as needed

When to Recommend

If the student needs to do additional work outside of normal classroom activities that is:
  • A mandatory requirement for all degree candidates in your program that cannot be waived OR
  • Required as an integral part of the established curriculum (the course is on the approved degree plan) OR
  • Required as part of the research for thesis or dissertation (graduate students only)
This may include “on-campus” internships/employment as well. The student must get CPT authorization:
  • If the student will work over 20 hours per week during a major semester OR
  • If the work location is physically on Texas A&M's campus but is not considered on-campus employement by immigration standards
    • ISS maintains an internal list of verified on and off campus employers. For privacy reasons we are not allowed to publish this list. If you have an questions whether an internship or employment opportunity requires CPT, please contat ISS directly. 
Please note: ISS advisors often check student’s transcripts while fulfilling other requests. If we see an “internship” course on a student’s transcript, but we don’t have any notes in our internal Terra Dotta system and it’s not on the student’s SEVIS record, we will contact the student and/or department for more information. As Designated School Officials (DSOs), we are verifying that the student has the appropriate employment or has documentation that the internship course did not require work authorization.  The student should have this documentation if they apply for other immigration benefits or visas. 

The following form guide will instruct departments on how what our expectations are for the CPT department form.

Questions 1-4. Fill out the student’s basic background info. The name of the employer and student's job position should match across all CPT forms (Student, Department, and Employer Forms)

Question 5. CPT dates: ISS typically authorizes CPT for one semester at a time according to the Registrar’s academic calendar. If the student wants CPT for multiple semesters, they will have to apply again to get the additional semester authorization.

Exception: It's possible to obtain CPT authorization for Summer and Fall semesters at the same time since registration is open for both semesters at the same time. To do so, the student must be registered for the CPT course for both semesters and the course must be on the degree plan for both semesters.

  • Start date - the earliest start date a student can have is the day after the first day of graduation for the previous semester. For the following example, we will be using Fall 2020 to illustrate these dates. 
    • For Fall 2020, the earliest start date is August 8, 2020.
    • End date - there are two normal cutoffs for the latest end date a student can have:
      1. If CPT is during the final semester, they can only work up to the last day of exams for that semester (For Fall 2020 CPT, that’s Dec. 9, 2020)
      2. If CPT is not during the final semester, they can work up to the day before the first class day of the next semester (For Fall 2020 CPT, that’s Jan. 18, 2021) 
Question 6: Mark if the student is in good academic standing. If they are not, it is unlikely they will qualify for CPT.

Question 7: Choose the appropriate option to explain how the intrneship is an academic requirement. A snapshot of the form is available below:

Please Note: If the third option "Required as part of the research for thesis or disseration" is checked, the department will need to provide additional information on the 2nd page, question 13. 

Question 8: Confirm if the student will defend during the CPT semester. If “Yes” the student can only work up to the last day of exams.

Exception: If the student is defending and the CPT is for 691 research hours, the student must finish their training prior to the last day of exams for a given term.

Question 9 & 10: Confirm the expected graduation date and that the student has met with you to discuss the training. If the student has not spoken with the department, then we can’t authorize the CPT.

Question 11: Fill in the course the student will use to receive credit for CPT as determined by the department (there are various courses that departments use in addition to 684). This course must be on the student's degree plan. If  the course is not on the degree plan, we cannot authorize CPT until it has been added to the degree plan. Please be advised that internship courses MUST show as required on the degree plan for ISS to process an authorization.

Question 12 & 13:  There must be an agreement between the department and employer in order for CPT to be authorized. Question 13 only needs to be completed if the CPT is for a thesis or dissertation as indicated in question 7. Please be as explicit as possible for the reasoning why a student cannot complete the necessary research on campus in this section. If question 13 does not apply, leave it blank.

Question 14: Sign off on the statement of understanding.


Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study” 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(A)
It can be done before or after a student finishes their program:
  • Pre-Completion: OPT that takes place during a student's course of study. Please tell them to consult with an ISS advisor before applying for this option.
  • Post-Completion: OPT that takes place near the end or after a student’s course of study. There are 3 types:
    1. Based on Graduation: OPT begins within 60 days after the student graduates
    2. Based on Completion of Coursework: OPT will begin before graduation, but after all core coursework has been completed
    3. Based on Letter of Completion: OPT begins within 60 days after the date OGAPS issues the Letter of Completion
What ISS Does What the Student Does
  • ISS only provides the recommendation for OPT via a new I-20
  • OPT authorization is given by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • Apply to ISS to get I-20 with OPT recommendation
  • Send new I-20 with rest of application to USCIS for official authorization
  • The student does not work until they receive the Employment Authorization Document and the start date on the EAD has begun

When to Recommend

Pre-Completion OPT: If a student needs to do work that is not an academic requirement for them to finish their program but is still related to their major and degree level. Please consult with ISS before applying.
Post-Completion OPT:
  • Based on Graduation: Available for any F-1 student in legal status who has completed at least one full academic year. The student must apply for graduation to be eligible.
    • I-20 will be shortened to first graduation date of the graduating semester (NOTE: The Doctoral Hooding Ceremony is not considered graduation from an immigration standpoint)
  • Based on Completion of Coursework: Available for Master's Thesis and Doctoral students. They must have completed all major coursework, have enough credits to graduate, and they must have a set defense date.
    • I-20 will be shortened to the day before the student’s requested OPT start date
  • Based on Letter of Completion: Should only be used as a last resort as it is normally not the best option for the student. Please consult with ISS before applying.

Student Information Section:  Enter the student's basic background information.

Graduation Delay Confirmation: Confirm employment will not delay graduation. This is a commonly missed question; please don’t forget to answer it!

Academic Standing Confirmation: Confirm the student is in good academic standing and meeting expectations. If the answer to this question is no, they may not be eligible for OPT. Advise them to go talk to ISS:

Confirmation of Course Requirements: Confirm the student has met all degree requirements other than a thesis or equivalent. We still need to know the remaining degree requirements regardless if the answer is yes or no. An F-1 student must always have an academic reason to be enrolled (completion of a minor does not count):

Confirm the semester and year OPT will occur. Note: Completion of Coursework OPT IS NOT Pre-completion OPT!
For OPT based on Graduation: The student will not work before graduation, so the answer is NO. It’s not necessary to put anything in the second box for number of credit hours.

For OPT based on Completion of Coursework: The student will work before graduation, so the answer is YES. Fill in the credit hours as needed.

Note: From an immigration standpoint, the student may not need to enroll depending on when they will start OPT. The academic standpoint on enrollment may differ. Tell the student to consult ISS if they are concerned.

For OPT based on Letter of Completion: It depends on when OGAPS issues the letter of completion and the start date the student chooses. Please consult with an ISS advisor.
Letters of Completion are often not the best option for the student from an immigration standpoint. Please advise the student to speak with ISS before taking this route. If the student is doing this option, please try to provide as specific a date as possible. This will affect their I-20 program end date.

Confirm the student’s defense date. Must have month, day, and year.
  • For OPT based on Graduation: The date must follow OGAPS defense deadlines for that semester.
  • For OPT based on Completion of Coursework: The date does not have to follow OGAPS defense deadlines. However, the student must already have a set defense date to apply for this option.

Signatures - Graduate Students:

Graduate students require two signatures. Since positions vary by department, it is okay if the same person signs both lines. It is also okay if you use “same as above” or “same as below” if there is one actual signature and contact provided.

Signatures - Undergraduate Students:

Undergraduate students only need one signature from the academic advisor.


Full-time enrollment is defined as 9 hours for graduate students and 12 hours for undergraduate students at Texas A&M. Unless university full-time exception is applied, international students must be enrolled full-time to maintain legal status.

A reduced corse load (RCL) authorization allows an exemption to such full-time enrollment requirements. There are three specific situations allowed by immigration regulations for a SEVIS processed authorization:
  • Academic: Only two reasons are valid for academic RCL requests: (1) Initial Difficulties with the English language, reading requirements, or unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods and (2) Improper Course Level Placement.
    • With the authorization of an academic RCL, students are still required to enroll in a minimum of 6 credit hours. 
  • Medical: Occurs when a specific illness or medical condition compelled the student to reduce or to interrupt his/her full course of study.
    • A written letter by a licensed medical professional is needed for a medical RCL request.
    • No minimum enrollment requirement is imposed following the authorization of a medical RCL
    • An medical RCL can last up to an aggregate of 12 months per degree level.
  • Final term: Occurs during the final semester of the student's academic degree program
What ISS Does What the Student Does
  • ISS directly authorizes RCL for an eligible student based on the specfic circumstances
  • ISS must also confirm with the RCL recommender (i.e. academic departments) that the student's circumstances comply with RCL regulations.
  • Apply to ISS for RCL authorization before dropping below full-time enrollment. Apply by 1st day of class if requesting a final term RCL.
  • Comply with other enrollment requirements, if any
  • Report any changes to ISS 

Students who are unable to graduate by the expiration date of their I-20 will need to submit paperwork for an extension of stay.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Texas A&M University EOS Rules

  • Federal regulations require that F-1 students have a valid Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) at all times.
  • F-1 students are eligible for an EOS if he/she is in good academic standing, in legal status with DHS, and if the delay in completing degree requirements by the I-20 program end date has been caused by compelling academic or documented medical reasons. A student's overall academic progress, performance, and seriousness of purpose can also help to determine eligibility. Delays caused by any periods of academic probation, suspension or employment are not acceptable reasons for an EOS.
  • The length of time the Form I-20 will be extended is based on the Academic Department’s recommendation.
  • An EOS can be granted for a maximum of 12 months at one time.
  • If a student will be out of the country during the weeks prior to the program end date on the I-20, they should discuss how they can still apply for an EOS with an ISS Advisor before leaving the U.S.
  • Students who do not meet the eligibility criteria for an EOS or who have already exceeded the program end date on the current I-20 must meet with an ISS Advisor as soon as possible to discuss the need for Reinstatement or New Entry.
  • Students who are granted an EOS will receive a new Form I-20 and must complete a new Form I-9 with their employing department payroll office.
  • F-2 dependent extensions are included in the F-1 student's EOS.
  • Students who fail to extend their I-20 prior to the expiration date must stop working immediately and schedule an appointment with an ISS advisor.