The primary distinction between student visas is between academic students (F) and vocational students (M). Each of these visas is further divided to distinguish among the principal student attending an educational institution on a full-time basis (F1 or M1); and his or her spouse and minor children (F2 and M2), or a national of Canada or Mexico who lives in his or her country of nationality and crosses the border to attend an educational institution on a full-time or part-time basis (F3 or M3).
Students with the F1 visa (F1 students) are allowed to work in the United States, but only under certain conditions and in accordance with complex guidelines and restrictions issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Generally, all employment for international students depend upon remaining within the terms and restrictions of the F1 visa. There are several categories of employment during the term of a student's stay as an F1 student in the US.
Student employments can either be on-campus or off-campus employments, with the latter including severe economic hardship, optional practical training (OPT), curricular practical training (CPT), and recognized international institution employment categories.
On-campus employment is the category most freely permitted by the USCIS regulations, and does not require USCIS approval. However, although F1 status includes an on-campus employment privilege, on-campus employment opportunities at most schools are limited.
Note however, that even if a student obtains an on-campus employment, he may not rely on it to provide financial resources for the year, and often these jobs are not related to their studies. Many schools require that students obtain permission from the International Student Office prior to accepting any on-campus employment, and may also not permit such employment in a student's first semester or year.
For on-campus work, an F1 student is subject to the following rules:
- You must maintain a valid F1 status
- You can work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session
- You can work full time on campus during holidays and vacation periods, if you intend to register for the next academic semester.
- The employment may not displace (i.e. take a job away from) a U.S. resident
- Work performed on the school's premises directly for the student's school (including work affiliated with a grant or assistantship).
- Work performed for on-location commercial firms which provide services for students on campus, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria (Note: Employment with on-campus commercial firms which do not provide direct student services, such as a construction company building a school building, is not deemed on-campus employment for the purposes of the rule)
- Work performed at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school. The educational affiliation must be associated with the school's established curriculum or related to contractually funded research projects at the post-graduate level. In any event, the employment must be an integral part of the student's educational program.
To ensure that all appropriate USCIS forms are filed and all necessary approvals met, students must seek their school's guidance.
For detailed information on the rules governing on-campus employment for international students, see the student sections of the "TEMPORARY MIGRATION TO THE UNITED STATES" document located at and accessible from this page on the official USCIS website or directly via this link.
TIP: Use the "Study and Scholarships search" above and below on this page to search for 'F1 visas for international students, etc'.