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International Student
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Working in the US as an International Student

Nov 12, 2014, 7:00:00 PM by Bryanna Davis

Studying in the US can not only help your bank account but contribute to your resume! See what options you have when it comes to working in the US as an international student on an F1 visa.


Working in the US as an International Student


Working in the US as an International Student hangout

Thank you for attending our kickin’ it old school classroom series. I’m Bryanna Davis with and today we’re going to discuss working in the US as an international student on an F1 visa. Working in the US is possible, but you must follow the rules very carefully. Also- the amount of work that you will be permitted to do is restricted and will not cover all of your educational fees. So you should not rely on working in the US to pay for your fees- you will only be able to work part time in most cases and that will not be much.

Before we get started, keep in mind that an immigration attorney and your school will be able to speak best to your specific situation, but we’re going to give you some key, general information on working in the US to get you started. But feel free to send in any questions you might have through the chat feature and we will answer those at the end.

Today we are going to discuss 5 different categories, or situations in which you can work in the US while on an F1 visa. This will allow you to know when, depending on your situation, you will be able to work in the US.

First we have on-campus employment, this is the most flexible option as it doesn’t require approval from the USCIS. However, keep in mind that every other international student on campus will in the same boat- they won’t need approval from USCIS to work on-campus so they will be trying to find an on-campus job. This means that you might face some difficulty finding a job with all of the international student competition.

Here are a few items that you must keep in mind. First, you must maintain your valid F1 status. Second, you can work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session while school is on holiday or summer break you are able to work more hours as long as you’re registered for the next semester. But while school is in session- 20 hours per week is max. As you can imagine, this won’t be enough to fund your entire education, but it will be a good source of income to help you with minor expenses. Third, you must not displace a U.S. Resident What this means is by you having your on-campus job, it can’t take a job away from a US resident.

As a side note: you don’t need USCIS clearance, but you will need clearance from your International Student Office- work with them when it comes to your on-campus employment, they can also typically give you great advice on this in general as well. Although on-campus jobs typically don’t provide career training like the options to follow, it is a good option to contribute toward expenses.

Your second option that we will go over is Optional Practical Training, OPT. Many of you are more than likely familiar with what OPT is, but for those who are not- it’s employment that offers you training for your degree. OPT can happen during your studies or after the completion of your degree and it can be off- campus. However, you must meet the following stipulations:

First, you must have a valid F1 visa – of course you must maintain your valid F1 visa status. Second, you need to have a job that is “directly related” – Your OPT employment must be through a position that is directly related to your degree, it must have some relevance to what your degree is in. Not only is this a requirement, but you should want this to be the case anyways as it’s training to better equip you for the workforce.

Third, you need to apply before degree completion. Although you can do your OPT after your degree has been obtained, you must apply for OPT before your degree is complete. Also- keep in mind that it can take 90 days for your OPT to be reviewed and approved by the USCIS, so you don’t want to push your limits.

Fourth, consider Your CPT If you participated in 12 months or more of full time CPT then you’re not eligible for OPT.

Fifth, you will have 12 months max that you can participate in up to 12 months of full-time OPT. If you participate in part-time OPT, (perhaps while still getting your degree), for every month of part time, it will count as half a month of full-time toward your total 12 months of OPT. So for example, say you work 6 months in part-time OPT, you will have 9 months of full time OPT left.

Sixth, you can work 20-40 hours If you are participating in OPT before completing your degree you can only have a maximum of 20 hours, after degree completion you must be full time- so 40 hour per week.

A few other items to keep in mind- you have 12 months of OPT for each degree you receive. Also- make sure you work close with your international student office. You will need authorization from them and the USCIS.

Third on the list is Curricular Practical Training, known as CPT. CPT, like OPT is a great chance for you to get practical training in an area directly related to your degree of pursuit. CPT is sometimes an important part of the degree you’re seeking, and maybe even required depending on your program. CPT will take place while you’re obtaining your degree and can be off-campus. To be eligible you must adhere to the following:

Like the other options, you must maintain a valid F1. Second, you must be enrolled full-time for one year You must have one year under your belt before participating in CPT unless you’re a graduate student in a program that require immediate CPT. Third, you need to be “Directly related” and part of your program Your CPT must not just be related to your field of pursuit, but it must be an actual part of your program- meaning you need to fulfill having CPT before you can graduate. Fourth, you must have a job offer, you can only work with the employer that you’ve been approved through when you apply for CPT. Fifth, when it comes to the amount of time you can work, you can work 20-40 hours per week- If you’re still in school, you can only work part-time, meaning 20 hours per week or less. If you’re not in school you can work full time, so 40 hours or more- your CPT authorization will state if you can participate full time or part time. Like OPT, CPT must be approved through the USCIS and your international student department.

The Fourth option of employment is Severe Economic Hardship. If you’ve maintained a valid F1 status, you can work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and full time during breaks if you’re able to state that you’re experiencing a severe economic hardship, in other words, a severe financial dilemma. Perhaps you’ve lost your primary source of funding or there’s been a huge fluctuation in the value of currency or exchange rate- something out of your control that is putting your ability to continue your education at risk. You must be able to prove the following: That you have a valid F1 status for at least one year and good academic standing. You need to provide evidence of hardship. Lastly, you need to show that on-campus employment is not available or sufficient.

Once again, you need to get approval through the USCIS and your international student office- it can take up to 12 weeks for approval, so if you’re really strapped for cash- don’t waste time.

The last option is Employment with an International Organization

If you are employed by a recognized international organization- meaning it’s on the state department list, then you are able to work for them. You can find a list of eligible international organizations on or on the State Department’s website. To work for an international organization you must ensure the following: First that the employment must be within the scope of the organization’s sponsorship, and within the student’s field of study. Second, that the position is “Directly Related” to your career pursuit. Lastly, that you of course have a valid F1 visa and past your past your first academic year with good standing.

You will need to get approval through the USCIS- this can also take up to 12 weeks for approval, so don’t delay with your application after your first year.

Hopefully out of these 5 areas of employment that are available for international students on an F1 visa- one will appeal and be available for you. Now let’s take a look at what questions you’ve sent in.

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