Work opportunities while studying in US
Work Opportunities while studying in the US: US higher education is unique in that it is not limited to theoretical learning - it allows students to gain practical know-how during and after the course of study. The practical element is engrained within the system through projects, clubs, associated campus activities and practical training opportunities. These platforms allow students to work in real life situations and help them understand the actual work environment. International students, however, need to make sure they understand the rules and regulations and ensure they work only within the framework outlined by the US government, and maintain their legal status at all times.
There are three main avenues for working on an F-1 visa:
Off-campus work – including Co-op programs, that are part of the curriculum
CPT and OPT
There are various ways in which students can avail work opportunities while studying in the US. While on an F1 visa students can work on campus for 20 hours a week during their course. University campuses provide a huge range of on campus jobs. Students can work in the campus centers, cafeterias, labs and other campus establishments.
Students can work while they study using the Curriculum based training opportunity (CPT) or work after the completion of the course using the Optional practical training (OPT).
Some universities offer co-op programs (mainly in Engineering) where students could gain practical experience while they are studying. Cornell University, Drexel University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Northeastern University and Rochester Institute of Technology are a few examples of universities running co-op programs.
In order to gain off-campus work authorisation to avail the CPT or the OPT, a student needs to have completed at least one year of study. Students also need to ensure that they only apply to e- verified companies for such practical training opportunities. E-verify is an internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. Only e-Verified companies and organisations can employ F1 students. Students need to get an approval from their designated school official in order to start their CPT.
12 months of OPT can be availed by students after the completion of the course provided the course duration is of one year or more. In case of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) areas, students can avail an OPT extension of an additional 24 months.
Click here to find the list of STEM areas
Further, students need to be formally approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services of the United States Department of Homeland Security before they can start the OPT.
While planning to use work opportunities while studying in the US, students need to keep the following points in mind:
Not to work without authorization
Not to exceed the stipulated time
Seek advice from the International Student Office and Designated School Official at their university/college
Keep up with the latest policies and procedure
F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. After the first academic year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment:
For both F-1 and M-1 students, any off-campus employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS.
Note: For more information on the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, see the “Student & Exchange Visitor Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement” and the Study in the States “Training Opportunities in the United States”.
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