Getting the opportunity to study in the United States is a dream come true for many. Landing the F1 student visa is a crucial step in that direction. Next comes the ways to finance your education in the US. Cost of education in the USA is prohibitively high and while the initial student loans cover a lot of the tuition expenses, most international students are looking for ways to support themselves with additional pocket-money. The question is can international students work in the US?
The short answer is: No, the US Department of Homeland Security prohibits international students from working on an F1 visa. However, there are certain circumstances under which these students can legally work. Below we break down four ways international students may explore work options in the US when on an F1 student visa:On-Campus Employment: On-campus jobs are jobs available within the college campus. These may include tutoring, working as a research assistant, or in the bookstore, cafeteria, or library. These jobs are restricted to on-campus locations only. However, it is important to note: Once you get your F1 visa and arrive in the USA you can begin working for a maximum of 30 days before the commencement of your classes.
The following rules apply for On-Campus jobs –
- DSO should first certify and approve the chosen job
- Work should be restricted to 20 hours per week during school session
- Full time work is permitted during holidays and vacation months
- Students should maintain valid F1 visa status at all times and be enrolled in a school semester for the future to be eligible
- The students will be required to pay tax on earnings from on-campus jobs. (Students may be exempted if the student is filing returns and paying tax in their home country and their home country has a tax agreement with the U.S. to avoid double taxation.)
Under some circumstances, international students may be permitted to work off-campus. F1 visa holders should have completed at least 1 full academic year to be eligible. The DHS evaluates this on a case-by-case basis and grants permission based on severe economic hardship, natural disasters, wars and military conflicts, national or international financial crises and course related training, on-field experience gathering as required, etc.
This must be authorized by the DSO and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Types Of Off-Campus Jobs
There are 3 types of off-campus jobs for F-1 students:
1. Curricular Practical Training (CPT): this acts as an internship and is meant to give you real-world experience in your field of study.
2. Optional Practical Training (OPT): This is temporary employment relating to your field of study Eligible students can receive up to 12 months of OPT employment.
3. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) OPT Extension: This is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to your program of study. The employer has to be enrolled in the E-Verify program and if you have a degree in one of the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields.
How To Look For Jobs As An International Student In The US
There aren’t any specific hiring fairs on campus that cater to jobs for international students. The first thing to do is to get in touch with the Designated School Official (DSO) who will break down the process and eligibility criteria to get a job as a student.
Contacting individual departments, societies and clubs will get you information on student jobs.
Given the expensive education system in the US, international students are looking for job opportunities to make some extra money. The most important thing to remember is that to be an F1 student visa holder, you cannot rely on employment to fund your education in the US. Lastly, if eligible, you have to follow all approvals, rules and directions from your DSO to be able to work as an international student in the US.