Can F-1 Visa International Students Work While in College?

Can F-1 Visa International Students Work While in School?

Many international students on F-1 visas have jobs while they receive an education in the United States. Everyone has a different reason for having a job, but students who work while at college is completely normal. However, international students cannot simply go to a place that is hiring, apply, and then start working.

  • They need to fill out the required paperwork and receive permission from the United States government in order to work legally in any capacity.
  • There are different ways that international students can work while studying abroad. Please note that this blog relates particularly to international students studying on F-1 visas.
  • Work opportunities for students on J-1 visas are also out there, and we will explore that in a future blog soon.
  • The most common ways for F1 visas are outlined below.

Optional Practical Training

One way that international students can work while studying abroad is through the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program.

  • In order to do this, they must be an F-1 student, and the work must be directly related to the area of study for that particular student.
  • If an international student is eligible for OPT, they can be authorized for employment for up to twelve months before they complete their education and/or after.
  • It is important to note however that if OPT work is done after the education is received, any amount of OPT performed before the completion of education is deducted from that twelve months.
  • For example, if an international student worked for eight months before they completed their studies through OPT, then that student could only be authorized for four months of OPT work after completing their studies.

An international student can apply for pre-completion OPT work only after being enrolled for exactly one full school year.  If authorized, that student then must work part-time while school is in session. Once the school session ends, they can work full time if they choose. Post-completion OPT can only be applied for once that student’s education is complete. If authorized, that student can then work either part-time or full time, but for a minimum of twenty hours per week. If an international student has earned their degree in a STEM field, they can get their post-completion OPT extended for a period of twenty-four months if:

  • They received a degree in a STEM designated field,
  • Their employer is enrolled in E-Verify,
  • Their initial authorization of post-completion OPT work was based on their STEM degree.

On Campus Employment

Perhaps the easiest way for an international student to gain employment while studying abroad is to work on campus.

  • On campus work is defined as work that is on the institution’s campus or on the property of an institution that is educationally affiliated with the primary institution.
  • An example of on campus work would include an on campus commercial business (such as the campus bookstore).
  • The work MUST be affiliated with the institution and provide service to the students of the institution.
  • Work for an educationally affiliated institution not on the property would be allowed, such as working in a research lab.

What are the Requirements?

There are three requirements for on-campus work:

  • The job must not displace a United States Citizen,
  • An international student can work a maximum of twenty hours per week while school is in session, but may work full time while school is not in session or on a vacation/break.
  • An international student must report their work to a designated school official and have a certification letter to show to the Social Security Administration in order to have a Social Security Number.

An international student wishing to work on-campus can start working up to thirty days before the start of the program that they are enrolled in. However, the designated school official must be notified prior to performing any work. On-campus work can be done as long as the student is enrolled in a program, or even still if they have a pending application for reinstatement or a change of status.

Severe Economic Hardship

 Most students who work while in school, both international and domestic, work because they need the money. If you are an international student and need financial assistance, along with working there are also many options for international student loans. There are five requirements to be eligible to work under Severe Economic Hardship:

  • Have valid F-1 status for a minimum of one full academic year,
  • Be in good academic standing,
  • Provide evidence of said economic hardship based on a situation or circumstances that are out of the student’s control.
  • Prove that employment on-campus is either unavailable or insufficient,
  • Show that the student made a good faith effort to secure on-campus employment before applying.

An example of severe economic hardship would include unforeseen medical bills or some other vast, unforeseen expense that the student has incurred.

  • If an international student meets the criteria for this category, they then must apply for an employment authorization document.
  • The application can then take up to twelve weeks, maybe even longer. Work cannot be started without this document.
  • Once the international student’s F-1 status has expired, the authorization to work terminates.

Along with part time work, there are other options for funding international student education in the United States. There are several lenders that may provide international student loans, and Nomad Credit can connect international students to them. For more information, visit We will happily help you find the best option for education loans or study loans. If you have any questions, send an email to and we will happily help!

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