Navigating Employment Opportunities with a US Student Visa


So, you’re heading to the US on a student visa and wondering if you can work while you study? Great question! Understanding the ins and outs of working on a student visa can be a bit tricky, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into the specifics of what you need to know to balance both work and study in the US.

Understanding the F-1 Visa

What is an F-1 Visa?

The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant student visa that allows foreigners to pursue education in the United States. It’s the most common type of student visa and is specifically for those enrolled in academic programs at US institutions.

Purpose of the F-1 Visa

The primary goal of the F-1 visa is to facilitate education. However, it also provides limited work opportunities to help students gain practical experience and support themselves financially.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for an F-1 visa, you must be enrolled full-time in an academic program and prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay.

Working On-Campus

On-Campus Employment Opportunities

One of the perks of holding an F-1 visa is the ability to work on-campus. This is usually the most straightforward work option available.

Definition of On-Campus Employment

On-campus employment includes working directly for your school or for an on-location commercial firm that provides services to students, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria.

Types of On-Campus Jobs Available

There are a variety of on-campus jobs available, including library assistants, teaching assistants, and positions in administrative offices.

Hours You Can Work

Students on F-1 visas can work up to 20 hours per week during the school term and full-time during school breaks.

Off-Campus Employment

Off-Campus Employment Options

Working off-campus is a bit more complicated and requires specific authorization. Here are the main off-campus employment options:

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

What is CPT?

CPT allows F-1 students to engage in off-campus employment that is an integral part of their curriculum. This could be an internship, practicum, or other work-study program.

How to Apply for CPT

To apply for CPT, you need to get authorization from your school’s Designated School Official (DSO) and ensure the employment is directly related to your field of study.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is OPT?

OPT is another work authorization for F-1 students. It allows you to work off-campus in a job related to your field of study for up to 12 months.

How to Apply for OPT

To apply for OPT, you need to submit an application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

STEM OPT Extension

If you’re studying in a STEM field, you might be eligible for a 24-month extension of your OPT, giving you a total of 36 months of work authorization.

Work Authorization Process

Applying for Work Authorization

Before you can start working, you need to get the proper authorization.

Documents Required

You will need various documents, including your I-20 form, passport, visa, and proof of enrollment.

Steps to Apply

  1. Consult with your DSO: They will guide you through the process.
  2. Complete the required forms: Such as the I-765 for OPT.
  3. Submit your application to USCIS: And wait for your EAD.

Restrictions and Limitations

Limitations on Working Hours

There are strict limitations on the number of hours you can work while studying.

During Academic Terms

You can only work up to 20 hours per week during the academic terms.

During School Breaks

You can work full-time during official school breaks and holidays.


Balancing work and study on an F-1 visa requires careful planning and adherence to the rules. While there are opportunities to work both on-campus and off-campus, it’s crucial to follow the proper procedures and get the necessary authorizations. Working while studying can provide valuable experience and financial support, making your time in the US even more enriching.