An Overview of Student Visa:
F-1 visa is the most common visa issued to international students. International students are issued with a document called I-20 from university. Visa is good for entry in USA and it usually is 5 years in duration with multiple entries (In some special case it can be single entry). I-20 is issued by university and its validity makes your stay legal as a student in United States. If you visa expires but your I-20 is still valid you can study as long as your I-20 is valid but you might not be able to enter in USA without a visa once you exit. So you will need to get visa before entering in USA again. Embassy checks the validity of I-20 and stamp visa.
Can a student work in USA:
Your working status depends upon your visa. F-1 visa has certain restrictions and regulations with respect to work. Full-time international students are allowed to work for part time, on-campus employment (fewer than 20 hours per week.) Jobs available on campus typically do not pay much, certainly not enough to finance a university education. Do not count on this kind of a job for anything more than a supplement to other funds.
There are several categories of employment during the term of your stay as an F-1 student in the United States. Most common one is the on-campus employment and then there are four categories of off-campus employment: optional practical training (OPT), curricular practical training (CPT), severe economic hardship, and approved international organizations.
1. On-campus employment
4. Economic Hardship
5. International Institutions
On-campus employment is the most freely permitted type of employment permitted by the USCIS and it does not require USCIS approval. F-1 status includes an on-campus employment privilege and on-campus employment opportunities at most schools are limited. Even if you are able to obtain an on-campus job, you may not rely on it for overall financial resources.
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 vacations if you intend to register for the next academic semester.
- The employment may not displace (take a job away from) a U.S. resident
On-campus employment includes:
- Work performed on the school’s premises directly for your school (including work affiliated with a grant or assistantship).
- Work offered by commercial firms which provides on campus services for students i.e. school bookstore or cafeteria etc.
- Off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school is also included in on-campus jobs where the institution must be associated with the school’s established curriculum or related to contractually funded research projects at the post-graduate level.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
International students with valid F-1 visa / immigration status can work off-campus in optional practical training (OPT) both during and after completion of their degree. All OPT employment requires prior authorization from USCIS and from school’s International Student Office.
You can apply for OPT after being enrolled for at least 9 months. You do not need to have a prior job offer to apply for your OPT and OPT employment can occur anywhere in the US.
OPT Requirements and information
- Employment must be “directly related” to the student’s major
- Student must have a valid 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
- OPT before completing a degree has same requirement as on-campus job except that it can be outside the university.
- In OPT after completing a degree; student can work full time (40 hours/week). OPT must be completed within 14 months after completion of your degree.
- Special extension up-to 29 weeks for OPT is available for student in below mentioned subjects.
- Actuarial Science
- Computer Science Applications
- Engineering Technologies
- Life Sciences
- Military Technologies
- Physical Sciences
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
CPT – Curricular Practical Training is an off-campus employment option for F-1 students when the practical training is an integral part for the academic program. CPT employment is an alternative work/study, internship etc. that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. For CP prior authorization by your school’s international student office and notification to USCIS is required.
CPT employment requirement:
- You can apply for CPT after completion of one year in school as a full-time student
- The CPT employment must be an integral part of your degree program or required for an academic credit
- You must have a job offer before submitting for CPT authorization request
- Your job offer must be in your field of study
With CPT you can work anywhere in the U.S however t work hour can be part time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week). There is no limit for how long you can work, however, if you work full-time on CPT for 12 months or more, you can not apply for OPT.
Severe Economic Hardship
Any F-1 student suffering “severe economic hardship” as defined by USCIS is eligible to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and full-time during breaks.
To be eligible, a student must:
- be in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (9 months)
- be in good academic standing
- provide evidence of economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control
- show that on-campus employment is neither available nor sufficient
- make a good faith effort to locate employment on campus before applying
The rule gives examples of the types of things that could be considered “severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control.” These circumstances may include:
• loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student
• substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate
• inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs
• unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support
• medical bills or other substantial and unexpected expenses.
You must apply for an “employment authorization document” (EAD) with the help and guidance of your International Student Office — you do not need a job offer before you apply for the EAD. But several forms and documents are required, together with fees and photos, etc., and processing can take up to 12 weeks or longer — and you cannot start work until you receive the EAD. Once you receive the EAD, you may work for an employer at any job, anywhere in the United States. Employment authorization is automatically terminated when a student fails to maintain valid F-1 status.
Employment with an International Organization
The final category of employment for international students in the U.S. on F-1 visas is employment with a “recognized international organization.” To qualify, an organization must be on the official State Department list, and listed organizations include the Red Cross, African and Asian Development Banks, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and many other similar but less well-known organizations. Because it does not have the universal application of OPT or CPT, this category of employment is often overlooked. Only students with a job offer and sponsorship from one of the listed organizations are eligible. However, for those lucky students who do have such sponsorship, there are clear benefits of this employment category.
Requirements to work for an international organization:
- The student must have an internship/employment with a “recognized international organization.” Click here to see a recent listing of all “recognized international organizations”
- The employment must be within the scope of the organization’s sponsorship, and within the student’s field of study.
- The student must have been in valid F-1 status for at least one full academic year.
- The student must be in good academic standing.
If you meet these requirements, you can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). You can start to work only after you receive your EAD, which can take up to 3 months.
There are certain advantages of this type of employment when compared to CPT or OPT.
• Employment does not have to be for-credit nor required for your degree program.
• Regardless of how much or how long you work, this type of employment will not take away from your 12-month post-completion OPT.