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Are International Students Eligible to Work in the United States?

American Universities and Colleges offer a world class education and tremendous cultural experience to foreign students. However, studying in U.S colleges can be expensive and many students desire to find paid work in order to pay for part of their educational expenses. Whether you are looking to generate additional income to help pay for a study program or are in search of paid work experience, international students who hold an F-1 student visa have several options. KAZMI & SAKATA Immigration Law Firm in San Diego provides F-1 international students with a few options and guidelines to help address eligibility concerns and questions in regards to F-1 students working in the United States.Any international student has the ability to work on-campus part-time, for up to 20 hours per week. Some universities have additional guidelines, so it is important for students to check with their university’s international policy regarding any additional requirements that must be met.On campus work is not always practical or available. In those situations, there are other alternatives which still adhere to the terms of the F-1 student visa. One option is Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT is work authorization allowing F-1 international students to participate in paid, off-campus academic internships during their degree program. This training is designed to help enhance the educational experience provided by the university, as well as fulfill a work or internship component that is required for their degree. This process is coordinated through the school’s international student office and must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows students to work in their degree field after their first 9 months of study without credit. OPT provides an opportunity for student’s to gain employment experience in their particular field of study. Students must first apply for and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. Work must then be concluded within 14 months of completing their degree program. At most universities, students who participated in their CPT program are still eligible for OPT following their graduation.Students experiencing severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances can apply for off-campus work permission. This extends only to part-time employment for students who have tried and were unsuccessful in finding employment on campus. Each application is reviewed by the immigration service on a case by case basis. If authorization is granted, students will receive an EAD card valid for a one year. The work permit also allows for work that is unrelated to the student’s specific study program.

The final option is employment with a recognized international organization such as the Red Cross, the World Trade Organization or the World Bank. Depending on the university, students may be eligible anytime during their F-1 status. Again, the USCIS will approve your work authorization and it will be reflected in terms of an EAD card. Jobs must be within a student’s degree field and they can still eligible for OPT at a later date.

As mentioned previously, all universities have different guidelines. Students are highly advised to confirm eligibility with their university’s international student office. By speaking with a counselor, F-1 international students can attain information about the available options that are most beneficial to education and work experience in the United States. For more information about F-1 student visas and work eligibility, visit our website at

April 2024