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The International Student Blog

Working in the USA as a Student

Posted on December 17th, 2010 by Jennifer Frankel

One of the most frequent questions we receive here at, is regarding how students can support themselves and pay for their studies as they go. Unfortunately working in the USA as a student, with the way the visa system is setup, is not that easy and not really a viable option to pay for school. The F1 visa (which is the most common visa category for students coming into the USA to study) does not allow you to work whilst you are studying to pay for your education – you will need to show proof that you can pay your way through school before you visa will even be issued.

It is very important that you make sure you are aware of your visa requirements when it comes to work, failure to adhere properly to these guidelines could see your visa status being revoked and you could be asked to leave the country. So there is a lot riding on that fact that you know what to do and how things work.

REMEMBER – if you have any questions about your working status, or need further clarification, get it from your school or from an immigration lawyer who will be best placed to help you get the right information. You can find more information about this on our “Visa and Immigration Center”

The F1 visa does allow you to work under the following categories:

  1. On Campus Employment
  2. OPT and CPT
  3. Economic Hardship
  4. International Institutions

On of the most common forms of employment is through on campus jobs, where F1 students are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week on your schools campus, directly for your school. You do have to be in school to take advantage of this, and during holidays you can work full time (as long as you plan to come back to school in the next semester). It can offer international students a great way to earn some extra money, but in our experience on campus jobs are often very hard to find, especially if your school has a large contingent of international students all looking to do the same thing.

OPT and CPT are great ways to get training in the working environment while you are still in school, and be paid for it. For OPT (which is the more common version) students can work both during school and up to 29 months after school for an employer where the job is related to your degree. OPT is not that easy to organize, you need to wait 9 months from the start of your degree before you can begin working, and you have to file a work authorization with the USCIS for them to approve the job. When still in school, OPT only allows you to work 20 hours per week, while after completion of your program you can work full time.

If you do suffer economic hardship, you can also file with the USCIS to work off campus for up to 20 hours a week to make ends meet. This should only really be used as a last resort and in the cases where something has happened which has resulted in the loss of income you were traditionally receiving.

The final way students can work, is through the often overlooked International Institutions category. Where students can apply for employment at one of the listed international institutions that are listed with the US State Department. This list includes organizations such as the red cross, world health organization and the world trade organization. One of the major benefits of this type of employment is that it does not need to be related to your degree – so you can apply for any post, regardless of its relevance.

There is much more detailed information about these types of employment for students who are studying in the USA on our “Working in the USA” section of our Study in the USA Center.

Let us also know about your experiences as an international student and what you did to make ends meet? Were you able to work on campus? Did OPT work out for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

15 Responses to “Working in the USA as a Student”

  1. Micheal segun Azeez Says:

    I want a scholaship

  2. M’barek Says:

    dear sir ,

    I am in the process of applying to study at an American University.I am a Moroccan student , aged 41 . I wonder if I will find some organization that would sponsor granting me some financial aid to pursue my studies or not. I really can t afford paying all the huge amounts of money requiered to fulfill my studies .
    thank you for enlightening me about this issue ! and I am looking forward to hearing from you

  3. edith Says:

    I wonder if international student can have scholarship or grant

  4. philoeth Says:

    where can i find a scholarship???

  5. Azegba Henry Says:

    I want a scholarship in any American University. I don’t know how possible, considering the fact that i would like to work per time while a student.

    Any help on this please?

  6. Gwendolyn Says:

    I want to do my masters degree in the US but would like to receive a scholarship. I am from the Caribbean.

  7. Kayode Says:

    I worked 20 hours a week on campus. I was lucky to school in the midwest where there were less competition. I just got my OPT 2 weeks ago. However, it is difficult to find a job in my career.

  8. Sonia Says:

    HiDear, I am from India and Counselors in india have not told me anything about OPT or CPT. your site is very informative, the information i had was that all the students can do a part time job of the campuss.
    I would request you to authenticate whether it is true that on an F 1 visa i can do part time job from first day or i have to wait for 9 months to apply for off campuss job.
    The counselor has told me that from first day you can start working of the campuss, but your site has diferent answer,s.
    Please expedite your response.


  9. marocup Says:

    merci bouceaup

  10. ughe Endurance Says:

    How can i get scholaship to study in us

  11. garande innocent Says:

    hie i need a scholarship for study in u.s.a how can i get it

  12. Jack Says:

    It is always Important to know that what exactly the requirements of particular visa you applying. Once your visa application will get revoked it will not be easy to get your application on track again. So study the visa guidelines by yourself or take expert advice!

  13. dookudu trailer Says:

    dookudu trailer…

    Working in the USA as a Student « The International Student Blog…

  14. Ian Says:

    Hi I’m Ian from Philippines, 24 years of age. Since I haven’t experience what college life is,due to some financial inadequacy, I really really want to apply for a scholarship.
    I, as a dreamer and want to secure my future soon, I am longing for someone to help
    Yes, I can work under pressure.
    I am hardworking.
    My greatest desire to finish my college push me to write here.
    Love to here from you soon.

  15. Bryanna Davis Says:

    Hi Ian,

    If you’re searching for scholarships to apply for you will want to visit our scholarship database. You can filter the scholarships to find ones that you’re eligible for then apply directly through the institution hosting the award.

    Good luck!

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