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Working and studying in USA

Updated on January 25, 2012

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How to study in USA

Working and studying in USA

Every foreign student in USA will be holding the F-1 student visa. Only under certain conditions are foreign students with F-1 visa allowed to work in USA. They will have to follow the rules and restrictions imposed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). It would be very important for some foreign students to work while they study in USA, mainly to meet the expenses they will have to meet.

There are some classes of employment that are allowed for foreign students during the term of their stay in the United States. The most common form of employment that foreign students of US Universities can engage in is On Campus jobs. Off campus jobs are allowed only for selected students.

On-Campus Employment is freely allowed for F-1 student visa holders according to the USCIS regulations. You don’t need approval of any sort for this type of employment. However, the prospects of being employed on campus are extremely limited. Even if you find a job, you might not get paid enough for meeting your expenses. Most importantly, these jobs could be nothing related to your course of study. Even for on campus work, there are certain rules to be followed by F-1 student visa holders.

The four varieties of off-campus employment for foreign students in USA are Optional Practical Training (OPT), Curricular Practical Training (CPT), due to severe economic hardship, and employment with approved international organizations.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is the first kind of off campus placement option. Such kind of work is required in the course of study that the student has chosen. It could be internship, practicum, teaching or research. There are certain points to be checked to see if you are eligible to go for CPT employment. However, take note that your International Student Office must authorize you to attend CPT. After you have been authorized, you can work only for the particular employer and also only on the dates, which you have been, authorized to work.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is another form of off campus employment for foreign students in US. After you have reached your limit for CPT, you can then apply for OPT. This work is also an experience to the students in their course of study. F-1 visa holders can have a year of OPT for every course they do in US. However, you need to get permission from USCIS before starting on your OPT employment. Make sure you apply early as getting permission could take up to three months.

Severe Economic Hardship is another reason you are allowed to work in US while holding an F-1 Student Visa. Students who are in dire need of economic help to complete their course of study can apply to the USCIS for getting permission to work off-campus. Such students are allowed to work in off-campus jobs for up to 20 hours a week when their classes are in session and they can go for full time employment on their vacation breaks.

Some of the severe economic hardships that will be considered as beyond the student’s control are as follows.

  1. Loss of on-campus employment with no fault from the student
  2. A substantial dip in the value of their country’s currency.
  3. Unwarranted rise in tuition fees and other living costs.
  4. Medical bills or other unforeseen expenses.

Another nice option is to get employed in an International Organization like Red Cross, African and Asian Development Banks, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and several other less popular organizations. There are list of such universally accepted organizations and if a student has been accepted to work with one of them, it is often ignored.


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