International students can face many unexpected financial challenges while studying in the United States. The costs of tuition and fees, travel, and living expenses can quickly add up and exceed prior expectations. While working as an international student on an F-1 visa has its challenges, it can be done. Here is a guide to help you through the process!
For many international students, obtaining an on-campus job is the most feasible option for part-time work. It is also the only option for F-1 visa students during their first academic year in the US.
There are hourly restrictions for on-campus work to ensure that you do not violate your student visa status. While school is in session, work is limited to a maximum of 20 hours a week. During breaks, however, students can work 40 hours a week.
After your first academic year there are two types of off-campus employment that become available to you:
- Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Optional Practical Training
OPT allows a student to participate in an off-campus job or internship that is within the student’s field of study.
Types of OPT
- Pre-Completion – for students who have not yet graduated from their degree program. There are still limits on working hours. While school is in session, this limit is 20 hours a week, when school is not in session, students can work up to 40 hours a week.
- Post-Completion – allows students to work in the US for up to 12 months without the need of another visa or employment permit.
OPT Extensions for STEM Majors
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors can opt to extend their OPT for an additional 24 months.
Applying for OPT
You apply for an OPT by asking your school to make a recommendation for the OPT in your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System record. The school does this by endorsing your Form I-20 (Certification of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) and updating your SEVIS record.
After the recommendation is made, you must then file a Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorisation) and provide documentation about your identity and program enrollment. Once the form is processed, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document and can begin working!
Curricular Practical Training
CPT is a type of off-campus work permission for F-1 students who are currently pursuing study programs in the United States and want to gain experience in their fields of study. CPT differs from OPT in that it is not available after a student completes a degree program. It is important to note that if a student uses twelve months or more of full-time CPT during their program, then they become ineligible to use OPT after they have completed their study program. There is no such limit, however, on part-time CPT usage.
To be eligible, a student must:
- Have F-1 status for at least two semesters.
- Have completed at least one academic year as a full-time student in their study program.
- Secure an internship/job offer directly related to their field of study.
- Obtain CPT authorization before beginning employment; the authorization cannot be backdated.
Contact us to learn more about working on a student visa.