- Students with the M1 visa may work only after completing their course of study
- Students with F1 visas may only be employed at on-campus jobs for the first year
- Dependents of the student are not permitted to work in the USA
Most of the international students in the USA has to work. Here are a few tips that will help you work while studying in the USA.
Enrolling oneself in a graduate or postgraduate course in the USA has a hefty tuition fee associated with it. Tuition fees grow each year and unfortunately are not the only cost associated with studying abroad. International students also have to cater for their accommodation, food, and local transportation, stationary and books.
Not all students can get scholarships to offset these costs and hence look at working part-time to help manage costs.
Can You Work As An International Student In The USA?
Students can enter the USA on one of two visas- the F1 and M1 visa. The F1 student visa is for academic students enrolled in full-time courses at accredited schools, universities and colleges or a language training program.
The program must give the student a certificate, diploma or degree at the end of the course. The M1 student visa is awarded to international students enrolled in non-academic or vocational courses.
Students with the F1 visa cannot take up any jobs off-campus for the first year. They may, however, take on on-campus jobs that are related to their field of study. After the first year, F1 visa holders can take on off-campus placement in the form of:
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)
International students with the M1 visa may take on practical training only after their course is complete.
Dependents such as the spouse or child of an international student on the F1 or M1 visa are not permitted to work in the USA. Exchange students may also not take on any form of paid employment while in the USA.
Working While Studying In The USA – A Few Tips
All forms of student employment must be authorized by the USCIS and the Designated School Official (DSO). Thus, the first thing to do is to contact the DSO. The DSO will help you apply for a Social security number and guide you towards finding an appropriate part-time job.
For the first year of their course, all international students with an F1 visa may only be employed in on-campus jobs. On-campus placement refers to jobs on the campus or at a location that is educationally affiliated to the school.
In case of the latter, the location must be either related to the school’s curriculum or related to a contractually funded research project at post-graduate level. It is important to note that many universities have buildings that are scattered around the city.
Some of the common places where international students can work include the library, bookstore, cafeteria, dorm or research labs affiliated with the school. Students can work for a maximum of 20 hours per week while the school is in session.
During holidays, international students may work full-time at these jobs. Students can take on more than one on-campus job but must ensure that the combined number of hours worked each week does not exceed 20. Students who exceed the number of working hours are at risk of deportation.
International students may begin applying for these jobs as easy as 1 month before classes start.
Off-campus placements are usually an option only for international students on the F1 visa who have completed one year of the course. However, exceptions may be made for first-year students who are facing extreme financial hardship. Examples of financial hardship include:
- Loss of on-campus employment due to no fault of the student
- Loss of financial aid
- A drastic increase in the cost of living or tuition
- Substantial fall in the value of the currency the student depends on to pay tuition and other expenses
- Unexpected medical expenses that are not covered by insurance
Regulations may also be relaxed in some cases if the student is from a part of the world that is experiencing severe economic hardship, natural disasters, war or other kinds of international financial crisis. This is referred to as Special Student Relief.
To apply for an off-campus job, the student must first consult the Designated School Official (DSO). The reason for working off-campus must be approved and the DSO must then recommend off-campus employment.
Students may start working only after their application has been processed by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Once the necessary approval has been issued, students may work for a maximum of 20 hours per week.
Working in hotels, gas stations, restaurants, liquor stores etc. is illegal and can put the student at risk of deportation. It can also be problematic when the student applies for other kinds of work authorization later.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
International students can opt for CPT if it is part of their scheduled curriculum. To qualify for the same, the student must have completed at least 1 year of the course. An exception may be made for graduate students who are enrolled in programs that require immediate CPT.
CPT should be ideally designed to give the student a real-world experience in his/her field of study. This is akin to an internship with an employer partnered with the school.
Unlike on-campus and off-campus placements, CPT may be undertaken full-time without any weekly limit. Students may also be authorized to work at more than one CPT at a time.
It is important to note that international students who participate in a year of CPT are ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT refers to temporary employment at a position that is related to the field of study. OPT can last for a maximum of 12 months. OPT can be categorized as:
This type of OPT can be availed by students who have completed 1 year of the course. As with on-campus placements, the student can work for a maximum of 20 hours per week while the school is in session and full-time while school is not in session.
This refers to OPT placement after the student has completed his/her course of study. Post-completion OPT may be part-time or full-time.
Students can participate in both types of OPT. However, it is important to remember that the 12-month maximum work period is inclusive of both types of OPT.
Students can initiate their OPT application by requesting the DSO for an OPT recommendation. The student must then file the For, I-765. This can be filed up to 60 days after the course ends or 90 days before the course ends as long as it is filed within 30 days of when the DSO recommends the OPT.
If approved, the student will be issued an EAD and may then start working on the OPT.
STEM OPT Extension
International students who have a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) and employed by an employer enrolled with the school’s E-Verify program may qualify for the STEM OPT extension. This refers to 24-months of temporary training.
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