You have the opportunity to work part-time but remember that you are restricted by the terms of your visa. Let’s look at all the requirements and restrictions concerning your visa!
US Employment Rules for F1 Students
Most international students in the United States hold an F-1 visa, which is the U.S. non-immigrant student visa. F-1 students are allowed to work in the United States, but only under certain conditions and in accordance with complex guidelines and restrictions issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Generally, all employment is contingent on remaining within the terms and restrictions of your F-1 visa. There are several categories of employment during the term of your stay as an F-1 student in the United States. On-campus employment is the most freely available, and then there are four categories of off-campus employment:
On-campus employment is the category most freely permitted by the USCIS regulations, and it does not require USCIS approval. However, although F-1 status includes an on-campus employment privilege, on-campus employment opportunities at most schools are limited. Even if you can obtain a job on campus, you may not rely on it to prove financial resources for the year, and often these jobs are not related to your studies. Many schools do require that you obtain permission from the International Student Office prior to accepting any on-campus employment, and may not permit such employment in a student’s first semester or year. Before accepting any job, you want to be sure to chat with your coach about the ability to work during season.
For on-campus work, an F-1 student is subject to the following rules:
- You must maintain valid F-1 status
- You can work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session
- You can work full-time on campus during holidays and vacation periods if you intend to register for the next academic semester
- The employment may not displace (take a job away from) a U.S. resident
The definition of on-campus employment includes:
- Work performed on the school’s premises directly for your school (including work affiliated with a grant or assistantship).
- Work performed for on-location commercial firms which provide services for students on campus, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria (Employment with on-site commercial firms which do not provide direct student services, such as a construction company building a school building, is not deemed on-campus employment for the purposes of the rule).
- Work performed at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school. The educational affiliation must be associated with the school’s established curriculum or related to contractually funded research projects at the post-graduate level. In any event, the employment must be an integral part of the student’s educational program.
Since your status is always contingent on your school’s support, you must seek guidance and clearance from your International Student Office prior to applying for or accepting any employment and you should request their particular interpretation of any ambiguous situation. You will also need your school’s guidance to ensure that you file all appropriate forms with USCIS and receive any necessary USCIS approval.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
International students in the U.S. in valid F-1 immigration status are permitted to work off-campus in optional practical training (OPT) status both during and after completion of their degree. Rules established by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) govern the implementation of OPT, and all OPT employment requires prior authorization from USCIS and from your school’s International Student Office.
You can apply for OPT after being enrolled for at least 9 months, but you cannot begin employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and you have been enrolled for at least a year. You do not need to have a job offer to apply for your OPT EAD, and your OPT employment can occur anywhere in the US. Start early—USCIS takes up to 90 days to process your application—and make sure you work closely with your school’s International Student Office. As with everything you will do while in the U.S., permission is based on maintaining lawful F-1 status and your International Student Office is there to help you maintain that status throughout your stay.
General OPT Requirements:
- Employment must be “directly related” to the student’s major
- Student must maintain lawful F-1 status
- Student must apply for OPT before completion of all work towards a degree
- Students who have engaged in 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are not eligible for OPT
- OPT is permitted for up to 12 months full-time in total – part-time OPT (while still in school) reduces available full-time OPT by half of the amount of part-time work (for instance, if you work part time for 6 months, you can work full-time for up to 9 months)
OPT before completing a degree:
- Students must be enrolled in school full-time
- Students may only work 20 hours per week while school is in session
- Students may work full-time during summer and other breaks (as long as the student will return to school after the break)
- Student may work full-time after completion of all coursework, if a thesis or dissertation is still required and student is making normal progress towards the degree
OPT after completing a degree:
- After completion of your degree, OPT work must be full time (40 hours/week)
- All OPT must be completed within 14 months after completion of your degree
- Applications for post-completion OPT must be received by USCIS before the completion of the degree