• Working while studying is a great opportunity for any International Student. US being one the expensive country-getting a part time job will be a great help. This will not cover the entire expenditure but will at least help to offset the cost.
  • There are few restrictions for International Students. Working is permissible if an International Student has an F-1 and M-1 Visa , then they are allowed to work On-campus and in any specified study program.
  • The F-1 visa is for full-time academic studies and the most popular international student visa in the U.S. F-1 visa holders are eligible for part-time on-campus employment or Curricular Practical Training (CPT) which typically is 20 hours or less per week. In addition, F-1 students can work on optional practical training (OPT) for up to one year after completion of their academic program.
  • The J-1 visa is issued to students who are required to obtain practical training that is not available in their home country to complete their academic program. The J-1 student visa allows similar employment options as the F-1 visa as long as requirements set by the exchange visitor program are met.
  • An M-1 visa is for non-academic or vocational studies. It is issued to a student who will attend a non-academic or vocational school in the U.S. M-1 visa holders are not permitted to work in the US during the course of their studies. Students with this visa category must also have evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of intended stay.
  • Working in the US on F-1 visa
  • F-1 students who have completed at least one academic year of college or university are eligible to gain work experience or what is termed as ‘Practical Training’. There can be two types of Practical Training – Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Practical Training is usually on-campus employment. Any work occurring within the school campus or outside the school campus but affiliated to the school can be termed as on-campus employment. Also, the work conducted must be related to the school’s or program curriculum. So, on-campus employment does not necessarily indicate work within the school premises only.  F-1 students can work 20 hours a week while school is in full session and full time during vacations, term breaks and times when school is not in session.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

  • CPT is offered by sponsoring employers, undertaken by students typically for credit and to gain industry experience in their area of study. To be considered eligible for CPT you must have completed atleast 1 academic year, declared your major subject and must have a job offer by the employer. There could be a limited number of employers participating in CPT. CPT also requires that you apply for authorization at the time of job offer. This authorization is done by the Designated School Official (DSO) at the institution to check if the job meets CPT requirements. Since CPT requirements are different for undergraduate and postgraduate students, you must do your research and check these with the International Student Office of your university. CPT is considered part-time, it allows you to work 20 hours or less per week. You can also work full time but only when school is not in session. Remember, there is no limit to the number of CPT that can be used. However, if you are completing one year or more of full-time CPT you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training. Keep track of the hours!

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • All F-1 students are entitled to gain OPT of 1-year duration provided they complete 1 academic year of their program. OPT is designed to complement the academic program and therefore the work is directly related to the specialization or major subject. If you are a student of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) designated degree program you may be eligible for a 24-month extension of the OPT that is a total of 36 months. While CPT must be completed before graduation, OPT can be completed before and after graduation. In the case of OPT employment, you must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the local DHS Service Center.
  • Working hours and circumstances for F-1 OPT can vary, remember the following for OPT:
  • 1. OPT can be undertaken while school is in session, not exceeding 20 hours per week
  • 2. OPT is applicable during study breaks, annual vacations and at times when school is not in session. In this case, you are required to register for the next term or session and also meet eligibility criteria set by the employer and the school.
  • 3. You can work full-time OPT if you have completed all course requirements.
  • 4. You can work full-time OPT after completion of the entire program.
  • You must also keep in mind that OPT is related to your area of study directly if you are a student of economics you are not eligible to work as a graphic designer or vice versa.
  • In addition to the on-campus practical training stated above, F-1 holders can work off-campus, which may or may not be related to the area of study. Students who face financial hardship (unexpected loss of scholarship, robbery, currency devaluation among others) or have a job offer from an international organization may be eligible for off-campus employment based on certain criteria. It is the DSO’s role to further determine the legitimacy for off-campus employment requests by students.
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