It’s not a secret that US university fees are expensive. Fees and living costs at top US universities could add up to around US$60,000 per year. Given this fact, many international students find themselves in the situation where they need to work part-time in order to finance their education and living expenses. Of course, working part-time shouldn’t be solely a need-based decision. It can be great for any student, as it will help you build a solid résumé and gain experience in your field of study.
But you must bear in mind that the US government takes working illegally very seriously and breaking the rules will lead to problems that could jeopardize your student status and even lead to deportation. All of this doesn’t mean that you can’t work during your study years, and we will help you learn the basics of the work authorization process.
What opportunities do you have with an F1 student visa?
If you have been accepted for enrollment in a US university and completed all the necessary steps, you will be able to study in the US after your F1 student visa is approved. The F1 visa category is reserved for academic students enrolled in US universities, colleges, high schools, language training programs, and other academic institutions.
When it comes to international students working in the US, there are some restrictions. Students with F1 visas are generally allowed to work on the campus of their university for up to 20 hours a week.
Always talk to your designated school official (DSO)
If you decide that you want to work part-time during your study years, the first thing you need to do is talk with your designated school official (DSO).
As long as you have a valid US student visa and are in good academic standing, the process should go smoothly. Just contact your DSO and s/he will present you jobs that are available and could fit you.
There are two main types of jobs a student can take: on-campus and off-campus. The second one doesn’t usually work for international students coming to study in the US, but we will discuss the requirements and restrictions for each type.
On-campus employment with a US student visa
Your US student visa allows you to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week when school is in session and full-time during school break periods (up to 40 hours per week). On-campus employment is defined as work that takes place on campus, or at an off-campus location that is affiliated with the school. That could mean working in a university bookstore, cafeteria or other facilities where students can help.
In order to get this type of job, you will be required to apply for it up to 30 days before the start of classes. In order to apply, talk to your DSO. If you are approved, your DSO will provide you with a letter of approval, which you will need in order to get a Social Security Number (SSN).
Off-campus employment with a US student visa
Things can get a little more complicated if you wish to work off-campus, but there are some training programs that F1 students can get permission to work under.
As you would expect, off-campus employment is work that that takes place outside of the school campus. It is not impossible to obtain, but it’s only available to F1 students who have completed at least one full academic year of their program of study, and who have an economic hardship that qualifies for the Department of Homeland Security’s emergent circumstances.
There are two programs especially created for students who wish to gain experience in their field of study: Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT). To check if you are eligible, discuss these with your DSO.
As you can see, there are work opportunities for international students in the US, but you need to make sure you follow all the rules and always check things out with your DSO.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
CPT gives international students authorization to gain employment training and to work in paid internships positions. Students have a chance to work full-time which is more than 20 hours per week or part-time less than 20 hours per week earning money in US dollars and gain work experience in their area of interest. CPT Work Study programs provide students with the support to acquire a paid position on campus or off campus. Not only that, but many of them have been designed to allow students to begin working as early as the first year. CPT must be work training that is necessary to complete a degree program.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT is an official work permit which allows students to work full time legally post the course completion. All F-1 students are allowed to work under OPT, whereas the duration varies for STEM and Non STEM programs. STEM graduates get the opportunity to work for 36 months and Non STEM graduates get it for an year only. It allows students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study.
There also exists a post-completion Optional Practical Training option for students on M-1 visas, but it is significantly more restrictive than that for F-1 students. Unless otherwise specified, Optional Practical Training is understood to refer to Optional Practical Training for F-1 students.