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Employment While Studying

by Hamid R. Kashani, Attorney at Law
Nov 07, 2018

Foreign Academic Students, i.e., those holding F visas (F-1 or F-3), have several opportunities to work in the United States:

  • On-campus Employment. F-1 students may work anywhere on campus, including for outside firms that provide services to students on campus. Under this provision, they may also work off-campus for an employer that is educationally-affiliated with the school. The important test here is that the employment, even though based on campus, must provide direct services to students. For this kind of work, the students do not need the approval of the DSO or USCIS. Students' on-campus work, while school is in session, is limited to 20 hours per week. Topic image for Employment While Studying
  • Off-campus Employment. F-1 students may not work off-campus during their first academic year. After the first academic year, F-1 students may only work off-campus, if authorized and recommended by DSO and subsequently approved by the USCIS.  Such approval will be granted in case of extreme or severe economic hardship resulting from unforeseen circumstances, such as an unexpected tuition increase, unexpected expenses, loss of support source from home country, inability to receive funds from home country due to unrest, or substantial devaluation of home country's currency. Off-campus work must be limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full time while it is not. Do not engage in off-campus employment until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD or employment card) from the USCIS.  Unauthorized employment will violate the terms of your status and will subject you to possible removal (deportation) and adverse consequences for future immigration benefits. Remember, you are allowed to work full time, only when the school is not in session-- not when your finals are over.
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • STEM Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT)

F-3 visa holders may participate in CPT and Post-Completion OPT. However, they may not work on-campus, off-campus, or in Pre-Completion OPT program.

Vocational and technical students, who hold M visa, are not allowed to work in the United States while attending school. M students may only accept practical training employment after completing their studies. Their period of practical training is limited to six (6) months.  Before engaging in practical training employment, these students must apply for and obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD or employment card) from the USCIS.

Exchange scholars (J-1 visa holders) are admitted under various programs, some of which require them to work while other programs do not. J-1 visa holders may work in the United States, only if such employment is authorized under the terms of their program.


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