International students who are on F-1 visas have some very specific rules related to any sort of employment they might thing about pursuing. The flow chart attempts to demonstrate the process by which an international student advisor would use to determine whether or not a specific employment opportunity is something that a student on an F-1 visa can legally do.
To begin, we will define the concept of employment. Per federal guidelines as it pertains to visas, employment is any work that is done in exchange for compensation. That compensation can be monetary, but it could also be things such as housing, transportation, food, benefits, or any other thing that you might be given in return for work you do.
Off-campus employment of any kind is prohibited for F-1 students unless they have obtained prior authorization. This means that things that domestic students might generally do to obtain quick cash, such as babysitting, housesitting or yard work are not options for international students. Online jobs, such as being a compensated brand ambassador or running an online store, are also not allowed. When in doubt about any sort of off-campus employment, always consult with an international student advisor since working without authorization can result in serious consequences for your visa status.
There are three main types of employment for students who are in the U.S. on F-1 visas.
- On-Campus Employment: This is work that is done on the campus where you attend school that is paid by the school or provides services directly to the campus and its students, such as the dining hall. No special work authorization is required for on-campus employment, but this type of employment is limited to no more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session. Students may work full time in on-campus jobs over longer breaks, however.
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT): This is a type of work authorization that can be obtained in order to pursue off-campus employment while you are still taking classes. CPT work authorization must be approved by an international student advisor and must be directly related to a student’s major and students must be able to either fulfill a major requirement or obtain credit for the opportunity to be able to get approval. The hours for CPT are also limited to no more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session, but full time CPT can be approved for longer breaks. Students must have a job offer and obtain approval for CPT before they begin working. Click here for more information.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT): This is a type of work authorization that can be obtained in order to pursue off-campus employment, either pre-completion (before you finish your program) or post-completion (after you finish your program). F-1 students are entitled to 12 months of OPT for each educational level. OPT applications must be approved by USCIS, which requires mailing in an application packet compiled with the assistance of your international student advisor along with an application fee (currently $410). The application takes 3-5 months to process. Once approved, students are able to work in any jobs related to their major. Pre-completion OPT still has restrictions on the amount of hours that can be worked while school is in session, but post-completion OPT has no limits on the hours. Post-completion OPT is the most common since it allows a student to stay in the U.S. and work after graduation from their program. STEM majors can apply for an additional 2 year extension of their OPT after the first year. Click here for more information.