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Can Student Visa Holders Work In The U.S.?

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Studying abroad can provide you with opportunities to experience different perspectives, cultures, and styles of education. However, being an international student can be expensive, and you may need to look for work.

When searching for employment, your first step should be to inform your Designated School Official (DSO). They can lead you to relevant job openings and help sort out your Social Security Number (SSN), a requirement for any position. If you currently do not have a Social Security Number, your university may assign you another number for identification purposes. Along with an SSN, students will also be obligated to meet these requirements:

  • Valid F1 visa status

  • Good academic standing

  • Approval to work from your DSO

Employment options for F1 Student Visa holders


There are four ways international students with an F1 student visa can legally work in the U.S.:

On-campus employment


These On-campus positions, such as the university tour guide or library associate, can be a wonderful way to make money while meeting new people. In your first academic year, on-campus employment may be your only option. While the USCIS freely permits these jobs, it can be hard to find a job opening as this is a highly sought-after opportunity.

Off-campus employment


If you cannot find work on campus, you can look for one off campus. However, only students who qualify for economic hardship can apply. You will be asked to provide proof of your financial situation and evidence that no on-campus work is available. In case of emergency circumstances, such as natural disasters and war, regulatory requirements may be suspended to help the student.

  1. Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Your degree may require an internship with one of the school’s sponsoring employers. To get approval for your CPT, it should be a requirement for your program or will award academic credit.

2. Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT refers to temporary work related to your degree but not required by your curriculum. It can be an opportunity for students to gain real-world experience while enrolled or after completing their studies.

To qualify for OPT, CPT, and off-campus enrollment, you must have completed at least one full academic year and received authorization from the USCIS. Working as a student can allow you to make connections and earn valuable work skills. Once you are ready to transition to a work visa, an immigration lawyer can help you sort things out.

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