For F-1 Off-Campus Employment, all positions be directly related to my MIT degree “major field of study” – is there any guidance on how to determine “directly related”?

For F-1 Off-Campus Employment, all positions be directly related to my MIT degree “major field of study” – is there any guidance on how to determine “directly related”?

F-1 student visa regulations for F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), and STEM Optional Practical Training Extension (STEM OPT) have always required any off-campus employment be directly related to a student’s degree program “major field of study” at MIT. We have already seen more cases of students receiving “Requests for Evidence” from USCIS for pending OPT, STEM OPT, and H-1B petitions asking for documentation proving that the experience/training/job duties are directly related to the degree earned. 

On September 30, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued new Policy Guidance (PDF) to schools indicating that additional scrutiny is being placed on determination of the “direct relationship between employment and a student’s major area of study” for any employment pursued under F-1 Optional Practical Training and STEM Optional Practical Training extension. You may read a copy of the Policy Guidance here.

The ISO highlights on its website and during F-1 Employment Information Sessions, that students need to show extra care to be sure that the work/training being pursued is a direct application of the degree earned at MIT.  Questions that can help determine this are:

  • How do your job/internship duties require your MIT academic degree background?
  • How are you putting into practice your degree in your CPT/OPT/STEM OPT Training?
  • Did the employer require individuals with education in your specific degree field for the position hired? (Not one subject taken during the program, or general field area, but your specific degree field. For example, for a student with a degree in Mechanical Engineering: Why is your degree in Mechanical Engineering needed to do this training/work; and not just requiring general engineering or mathematical background?)

Any student interested in applying for F-1 CPT or F-1 OPT are required to attend an ISO F-1 Employment Information Session offered by the ISO.  Students can sign up to attend an F-1 Employment information Session on iMIT (after logining in to iMIT, on the student’s “iMIT Services Home Page” see the “Events” listing and click on the session to sign up.

If students have any questions, please feel free to contact your ISO Advisor.