What you need to know about Working in the US as an International Student

For international students, one of the biggest fear they face while contemplating studying in the U.S. is the issue of working and earning. Whether or not an international student can work while undergoing their program in the U.S. is answered in the affirmative. However, they are certain limitations that we will be considering in this article. In the U.S., rules, and regulations are strictly adhered to.

For a migrant or international student to be able to work in the U.S., they must possess an F-1 or J-1 visa. The types of non-immigrant student visas available in the U.S. are; F-1, J-1, and M-1, respectively.

What you need to know about Working in the US as an International Student

From the preceding, we discover that anyone with an M-1 visa cannot gain employment in the U.S. Let’s take a quick look at these three student work visas and the requirement for each.

1. The F-1 Visa

This particular type of student visa is given to international students with a full-time academic program. This visa type is also the most popular international student visa in the U.S. These students are eligible to carry out part-time on-campus employment activities or Curricular Practical Training (CPT). The work hours are for 20 hours or less each week. Additionally, students with this visa can also work on optional practical training (OPT) for at least 1 year after completing their academic programs.

2. The J-1 Visa

This category of study permit visa is issued to students who need to obtain certain levels of practical training they cannot access in their home country.

Under the J-1 visa, students are allowed to undertake similar employment options available to holders of the aforementioned F-1 visa; however, they could be requirements set by the exchange visitor program, which must be fully adhered to.

3. The M-1 Visa

The next study visa type to be considered is the M-1 visa. The M-1 visa is issued to students enrolled in any non-academic or vocational studies. Any holder of this type of study visa is an attendee of a non-academic or vocational school in the U.S. Such visa holders are not permitted to take any form of employment during their course of study or program. These students also must have proof of sufficient funds which will enable them to pay all tuition and living costs throughout their program and stay in the Us.

How a student can work in the U.S. on an F-1 visa

An international student with an F-1 visa who has completed at least one academic year of either college or university is eligible to gain what is often called ‘Practical Training.’ This invariably means such students can go ahead to gain work experience.

This training must, however, be on-campus employment. And this is defined as any work occurring within the campus or outside but affiliated with the school/institution. Also noteworthy is that any such work must be related to the school’s program.

An F-1 student can work for 20 hours when school is in session and then full-time when on vacation and term breaks.

The practical training under which an international student with an F-1 visa can gain the required work experience can be divided into the following;

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT); employers offer this program to students. This program allows them to gain credits and industry experience in their study area. To be eligible, such a student must have completed their first academic year, declared what their major subject would be, and have an offer for employment from such employer. This program also requires the student to apply for authorization from their institution’s Designated School Official (DSO). This application is made when a job is offered to you, and the intent is to let the DSO check if the job meets CPT requirements.

CPT is considered part-time, allowing the participant to work for 20 hours per week. However, completing a full year or more of full-time CPT disqualifies you for Optional Practical training; you must keep track of your hours.

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT); this program is available to all F-1 students who have completed 1 academic year of their program. This program is designed to directly complement the student’s academic program and is usually related to their specialization or major. To be employed under this program, you must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the local DHS Service Center. The student can complete the OPT before or after graduation, and the CPT must be completed by the student before graduation.

In addition, please note that F-1 students who face financial hardship or unexpected loss can take up employment off-campus. The DSO would, however, need to determine the legitimacy of your claims before granting the request.

The H -1B Visa for F1 students

The H-1B is perhaps the most common working visa in the USA and is usually granted to F-1 visa students who desire to stay back in the U.S. and work after their programs. The H-1B visa is recognized as a non-immigrant visa. It is sponsored by U.S. companies to hire international professionals in certain occupations. Such occupations may include; law, education, business, medicine, engineering, etc.

In most cases, F-1 students transfer their status to H-1B; this enables a student to find a job with an employer in the U.S. who can petition for an H1-B. The same company where a student took their OPT program may decide to retain such a student. Then the employer can submit the necessary applications to the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requesting the grant of an H1-B visa to the worker.

Each year in the U.S., at least 65,000 H-1B visas are granted; this is referred to as the H-1B Cap.

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