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Studying in the US and wondering if you can work on a student visa? Here you will find all the information about what you can and cannot do for work as an international student
Now that you have your US student visa ready and you are about to begin your studies in the US, it’s time to see if you are able to work part-time to help fund your studies.
Once you have your F1 visa organised, you are allowed to work in the US under certain conditions. The full terms and conditions are listed with your visa, and you will see them when you receive the document, but in this guide, we’ve broken down the terms based on where you would like to work. The first is working on campus.
The US government does not need to provide approval for jobs on campus, so you can take any role that is available at your university. However, on-campus positions go quickly, so it’s best to contact your university as soon as you can to see what vacancies are available.
Students will require a letter of permission from the international student office or department to confirm that their visa is valid and that they have the right to work on campus. The letter will often spell out the restrictions such as working hours, so that the employer on campus is fully aware of what you can and cannot do if you get the role. Some roles are restricted to second-year students and older, so these may not be available when you first join the university.
To work on campus, you need to:
There are many jobs available on university campuses, including working in the library, in the cafeteria, the campus store, assisting your academic department and even working as a tutor. It is best to speak to your international student office to find out what roles are available to international students and to help you with any questions you might have about on-campus work.
There are two types of work that international students can complete off campus: optional practical training and curricular practical training.
International students with an F1 visa are allowed to work off campus in optional practical training (OPT) during their studies and after the degree is complete. To undertake OPT, you must organise permissions from both the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and your university’s international student office.
Once you have been enrolled with your university for nine months, you can apply for OPT. However, you cannot begin working until you have received the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and have completed a year at university. You can apply for the EAD at any time once you decide to start the process, and it can take up to 90 days for the application to be processed, so apply early.
The complete OPT:
*Part-time OPTs will affect the time frame for which you can then work full-time. Any time spent working OPT part-time is halved and that is then subtracted from the full 12 months. For example, if you work four months part-time, two months will then be taken from the 12-month allowance, and you are only then allowed to work for 10 months full-time.
Once you have finished your degree, OPT work becomes full-time, which is 40 hours per week. All OPT must then be completed within 14 months of finishing your degree. If you want to apply for post-completion OPT, you must submit the request to USCIS before you finish your university programme.
The other form of training is curricular practical training (CPT), which you can apply to through your university as it will offer its own programmes for this type of work. Students can work full-time for more than 20 hours per week or part-time for less than 20 hours a week and earn while they gain experience. A lot of universities offer “work study” programmes. These are often funded directly by the university, so places can be limited, and details will vary depending on the school.
The difference between CPT and OPT is that CPT often allows students to begin working and gaining experience from their first year, rather than waiting for the first 12 months.
To complete CPT:
Your area of study and your personal situation may dictate which of these training programmes is right for you. Your international student office will be able to advise you on case-by-case queries.
Most students attending university in the US on an F1 visa will not be allowed to work off campus if they haven’t applied for an OPT programme. In some situations that involve economic struggles or special circumstances, F1 visa students can apply for a case review and may be given permission to work off campus with special circumstances.
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It is possible for students with valid visas to volunteer for up to 20 hours a week during the school semester under the following conditions:
International students can engage in practical training as mentioned above. CPT must be completed by the end of the degree. However, OPT programmes can be continued up to 12 months after a student graduates, although it still must be related to their studies. Any students with a degree in science, engineering, mathematics or technology can extend this OPT programme to 24 months.
If you do not wish to enter an OPT programme and want to work in the labour market after graduation, you will need to apply for a new full visa. We have some helpful information in our guide to post-study work visas in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Germany and New Zealand. Students in the US on an F1 visa will have only 60 days to apply for a new visa before they are sent home, so apply early before graduation if you are sure you want to stay.
It’s important to know that if you fulfil your tax requirements well and on time, this can have a good impact on securing a permanent visa after graduation if you want to stay in the US. All international students are taxed in the same way as non-residents for federal income tax. This means that you will be taxed only on income you have earned in the US.
Students working on an F1 visa will be asked to pay tax on:
The amount of federal tax that you must pay will depend on how much you have earned over the calendar year. State income taxes are charged as well as federal tax.
Tax rates vary from state to state, so these amounts will depend on where you attend university. Because each state has independent rules on state income tax, international students might be asked to complete a state income tax return even if you don’t need to file a federal return.
There are nine states that do not require you to file for state taxes:
You can read more about international student taxes on the IRS website.
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