Working in the U.S. as an International Student

What You Need to Know About Working in the US as an International Student

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You can work part-time as an international student in the U.S. but keep in mind that your visa conditions limit your options. You MUST be aware of all the conditions and limitations of your visa!

If you are an international student in the USA and are willing to take a part-time job, you need to know about working in the U.S. as an international student. This post will explain everything you need to know.


Working in the U.S. as an International Student

What You Need to Know About Working in the U.S. as an International Student

Rules for F1 Student Employment in the U.S.

Most international students in the U.S. have an F1 visa and a non-immigrant student visa. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has complicated rules and regulations that must be followed for F1 students to work in the country (USCIS).
In general, keeping to the conditions and limitations of your F1 visa is a requirement for all employment. You may work in several categories throughout your F1 student visa stay in the United States. The four types of off-campus employment are the most freely available, with on-campus employment being the most readily accessible.

  • Student Employment

The USCIS regulations are most lax regarding on-campus employment, which is permitted without prior USCIS approval. Although F1 status allows for on-campus employment, there are typically few opportunities available at most institutions. Even if you can find work on campus, you shouldn’t rely on it to show that you have the money you need for the year because, most of the time, these jobs have nothing to do with your studies. Before accepting any on-campus employment, many schools require approval from the international student office. Some schools might also forbid such employment during a student’s first semester or year.

An F1 student must adhere to the following guidelines for on-campus work:

1. You have to keep your F1 status active.
2. While school is in session, you can work up to 20 hours a week.
3. If you plan to enroll in classes for the next semester, you are permitted to work full-time on campus during breaks and vacations.
4. The employment cannot displace (take a job away from) a citizen of the United States (OPT)
International students in the U.S. with a valid F1 immigration status are allowed to work off campus throughout and after completing their degree in the form of optional practical training (OPT). The OPT program is implemented per the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) rules. All OPT employment requires prior authorization from USCIS and the office for international students at your school.

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Once enrolled for at least nine months, you are eligible to apply for OPT, but you cannot start working until you have obtained your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and have been enrolled for at least a year. To apply for an OPT EAD, you do not need to have a work offer, and your OPT employment can take place anywhere in the U.S. Begin as soon as possible—USCIS might take up to 90 days to process your application—and make sure you collaborate closely with the office for international students at your school. Permission is predicated on maintaining legal F1 status, as it is with everything you will do. At the same time, in the U.S., Your International Student Office is available to assist you throughout your stay.

  • OPT Prerequisites:

1. A student’s job must be “directly related” to their major
2. The student must keep their legal F1 status.
3. The student must apply for OPT before finishing all requirements for a degree.
4. Students who have participated in full-time curricular practical training (CPT) for 12 months or more are not eligible for OPT.
5. Part-time OPT is allowed for a maximum of 12 months, full-time (while still in school) half as much part-time work is available for full-time OPT (for instance, if you work part-time for 6 months, you can work full-time for up to 9 months)

  • OPT before degree completion:

Students may only work 20 hours per week while classes are in session. Students may work full-time during the summer and other breaks (as long as they plan to return to school after the break). Students may work full-time after completing all coursework if a thesis or dissertation is still needed, as long as they make regular progress toward the degree.

Applications for post-completion OPT must be submitted within 14 months of your degree’s completion, and all OPT work must be full-time (40 hours per week). OPT must be submitted to USCIS before the degree is completed.

  • Curriculum-based Practice (CPT)

When practical training is a crucial component of the defined curriculum or academic program, CPT is a choice for F1 students looking for off-campus work. “Alternative work/study,” “cooperative education,” or “any other sort of mandatory internship or practicum” that is provided by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school” are all examples of CPT employment.

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For the job experience to qualify, it must be necessary for your degree, or academic credit must be granted. And sure, working as a CPT is payable. It is necessary to have prior approval from your school’s office for international students and USCIS notification.

To qualify for CPT employment:

1. You must have had a valid F1 visa for one year and be currently enrolled full-time in school (except for graduate students where the program requires immediate CPT)
2. The CPT employment must be a requirement for a course for which you get academic credit or an essential component of your degree program.
3. Before submitting your CPT authorization request, you must accept an acceptable job offer.
4. The job you are offered must be in your central or study area.
You must receive CPT authorization from your international student office. Once you get CPT authorization, you may only work for the designated employer during the designated dates (unlike with OPT or severe economic hardship off-campus employment, where you can work anywhere in the U.S.). Your CPT permission will also state whether you are permitted to work for CPT either part-time (less than 20 hours per week) or full-time (greater than 20 hours per week). You can only be permitted part-time CPT while in school.

There is no time restriction on CPT, whether you are authorized to work full- or part-time. However, you are ineligible for OPT if you have worked full-time on CPT for 12 months or more. You are still qualified for all your permitted OPT even if you work part- or full-time on CPT for less than a year. So be sure to pay special attention to the dates and times – don’t risk your OPT!

You should collaborate closely with your international student office, as you do with any job. The broad guidelines can serve as a general guide for undergraduates, graduate students, and Ph.D. candidates. The office can assist you in determining your CPT eligibility, verifying that your employment offer is acceptable, and ensuring that you complete all required USCIS application stages. You have to cooperate with them because they must also approve your CPT. However, they are experts, particularly in USCIS laws, so take advantage of them; they are there to assist you.

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Severe economic difficulty

Any F1 student experiencing “extreme economic hardship,” as determined by USCIS, may work off-campus up to 20 hours per week while classes are in session and full-time during breaks.

A student must meet the following criteria to qualify for “extreme economic hardship

1. Have a valid F1 visa for at least one academic year (9 months)
2. Maintain a strong academic record
3. Show proof of financial difficulties brought on by unforeseeable events beyond the student’s control.
4. Demonstrate that on-campus work is not sufficient or available.
5. Before applying, make a good-faith effort to find a job on campus.

Be aware of the travel guidelines that apply to F1 students on OPT. You might not be readmitted if you leave the country after acquiring your degree but before getting your EAD and finding employment. You can leave the country if you have your EAD and a job after receiving your degree. However, make sure you pack everything you’ll need to return (including a valid passport, valid EAD card, valid F1 visa, all your I-20s with page 3 endorsed for travel by your international student advisor within the past 6 months, and a letter of employment, including dates of employment and salary).


You must seek advice and approval from your international student office before applying for or accepting employment because your status always depends on your school’s support. It would be best if you also asked for their specific interpretation of any ambiguous situation since your status always depends on your school’s support. Additionally, you will require the assistance of your school to make sure that you submit all required paperwork to USCIS and obtain any required USCIS permission.

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