Connect with us

Work while Studying in the US

It's not that easy to work while studying in the United States as the government has placed restrictions on work done by international students.

United States of AmericaStudent Resource
Share this article
Work while Studying in the US
Written by Jennifer Aranda.
Updated February 15, 2017 | United States of America

Working part-time in the U.S as an international student can get complicated really fast. You must therefore learn the legal requirements and be prepared to follow the conditions of your visa.  In the main, as an international student you must maintain full-time status at all times.  In addition:

  • You cannot work off campus during your first academic year of study;
  • After one academic year, you can work off campus in a position related to your field of study through the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) options.

On-Campus Employment

To be considered on-campus employment, the work you intend to do must meet the following criteria:

  • Your work should not  displace a U.S. Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident as they are given preference for jobs.
  • The number of hours of work is limited during the semester. That is, you should be working only 20 hours per week. You may work full-tim when school is not in session or during regular vacation breaks.
  • You should report your work to the Designated School Official (or DSO) who in turn, will present a letter to the Social Security Administration so you will receive a Social Security Number.
  • It must take place either at your college or university or at an educationally affiliated location.

Off-Campus Employment

Exceptions may be made by the Department of Homeland Security (or DHS) in certain cases but if you have to work off-campus, you will have to apply for work authorization from USCIS.  Approval is on a case-by-case basis.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

If you don't qualify to apply for Off-campus work authorization, just check your curriculum to see if practical training is has been incorporated into your program.  You must consider though that not all work done under CPT is paid.

Optional Practical Training (CPT)

OPT employment may provide you with an opportunity to gain one year of paid work experience in the U.S. in the field of your study. Many students choose to apply for OPT after they graduate with a certificate or Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's or Doctorate degree.

STEM OPT Extension

You may qualify for the additional 24 months of training/employment in the OPT STEM Extension if your program is listed in the STEM Designated Degree Program List. This means a total of 36 months paid work after graduation provided you meet the criteria.

H-1B Working Visa, Cap-gap Extension

Basically, the cap-gap extension bridges the gap between the end of your F-1 status and the start of your H-1B status. This allows you to remain and work in the U.S. during the "gap."

We recommend reading the entire article, Options to Work While Studying in the U.S. as well as the US Student Visas: Overview and Important Information to gain a better understanding of studying in the U.S. as an international student.

About the Author

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer S. Aranda is the COO of IVC Immigrant Visa Center, Inc.

Got a question? Let us know - we're here to help.

Send us your migration concern

Other countries

Email and phone
Phone only
Social Media - please specify website (ex: Facebook, Google Plus, etc.) and account name

We need to make sure that you're human. What is 7 plus 3?

ICEF logoPIER logoANZCHAM logoBritish Council logo