International students are often on a tight budget when coming to the US and for good reason- expenses can quickly add up. Because of this, many international students explore the option of working in the United States, both during their studies and after. One of my recent Hangouts On Air answered the question of if international students can legally work while inside the United States and to what extent. If you missed this Hangout you can continue reading for a recap or watch the Hangout here.
There are five main categories when it comes to international students working while inside the US. If you’re interested in working during your time as an international student see which of the five work categories is most appropriate for you:
On-Campus Employment- This is one of the most well-known categories of employment since you don’t need USCIS approval and it’s the easiest to obtain. On-campus employment allows international students to work up to 20 hours per week on-campus while school is in session. However, many schools do require international students to first get permission from the international student office. If you want to participate in on-campus employment research further information on working on-campus and contact your international student office.
CPT- If you must obtain practical training for your degree then Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a work option you will want to explore. The work you participate in for CPT must be related to the industry you’re pursuing and be an integral part of your degree program. While CPT is a good option for international students exploring work options inside the US, you will also want to make sure you’re familiar with the requirements you need to meet to qualify for CPT.
Also, keep in mind that where there is not a limit to how long you can work while on CPT if approved, if you work for 12 months or longer then you will not be eligible to participate in OPT after your studies.
Severe Economic Hardship- If you’re able to show proof of a severe economic hardship then you might be eligible to work off-campus up to 20 hours per week when school is in session. Before you’re given approval to work under this category you must ensure you meet certain requirements including make a good faith effort to locate employment on campus.
Examples of severe economic hardship include:
- Loss of assistanceship
- Drastic change in exchange rate or home currency value
- Medical bills
International Organization Employment- If you’re not familiar with this employment option you’re not alone, many international students overlook this opportunity for employment or are not even aware that it exists. Working in the category of International Organization Employment has a number of benefits including it will not count towards the time you have for OPT and your employment does not have to be for credit or required for your degree program. If you’re interested in participating in international organization employment make sure you check out each of the requirements.
OPT- Optional Practical Training, more commonly known as OPT, is when students in valid F1 status are permitted to work off-campus. Employment must be related to your studies and is only permitted for up to 12 months. You are allowed to work 20 hours per week during your studies or 40 hours per week after completion of your degree. There are many regulations around OPT including having to receive approval from USCIS.
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