If you are in the United States on a F1 or J1 student visa, it is possible to work under certain limited circumstances.

On Campus Employment

Any international student possessing a F1 or J1 visa may work up to 20 hours per week on the campus of their school while it is in session, or 40 hours per week if the school is on a break.  Although the employment may not displace American workers, proof of non-displacement is not normally required. However, if a job is traditionally held by U.S. workers as opposed to students at the school, proof may be required, but such situations are rare.  

The only requirements to secure on-campus employment are: 

  • That you are in good academic standing with the school, and
  • That you are a full-time student.

Off Campus Employment

Since 1994, off-campus work is generally prohibited for F1/J1 visa holders.  There are 3 major exceptions to this rule:

  • Hardship:  An F1 or J1 visa holder may apply for off-campus work based on a sudden economic hardship, as long as he has:
    • maintained his full-time status,
    • remained in the US for at least 9 months, and
    • been a victim to an unforeseen financial situation that has created a hardship. 

Examples of such emergencies include the sudden devaluation of his home currency, medical expenses, or the sudden financial loss of his sponsor.

  • Curricular Practical Training:   This includes training programs or paid internships that are directly related to the student's academic studies.  To qualify for curricular practical training programs:
    • they must be part of the regular course of your study,
    • you must receive academic credit, and 
    • you must have been in the U.S. for 9 months, unless you are a graduate student. 
       
  • Post-Grad Practical Training:  This is work that is intended to provide practical experience that complements the academic course of study.  As long as your job is related to your studies, and you have finished your academic course, you can work anywhere in the U.S. for up to 12 months, or 18 months if you are a J1 visa holder. However, any work done during curricular practical training will count against this 12/18 month period such that your remaining time to work after the completion of your course is discounted by the time of your previous work.  Students must have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before employment may legally begin.

How Can an Attorney Help?

Trying to work under a student visa is a complicated and dangerous process.  Innocently accepting a part-time job offer at a place you think is "on-campus" but is actually off-campus can result in your immediate deportation.  A skilled immigration attorney will be very familiar with all the various types of student visas, whether you can apply for a work permit, and how to best find the loopholes in the regulations that can allow you to support yourself while studying in the United States.