Working on an F-1 Visa
Keep in mind that dependents of an F-1 visa holder (those with an F-2 visa) are not eligible for employment.
It’s essential to remember that F-1 visas are intended for full-time students and are not designed as work visas. Working illegally while on an F-1 visa is a serious violation of the regulations, and could result in deportation. With this in mind, international students are typically able to work up to 20 hours a week on campus when school is in session and up to 40 hours a week while school is in recess (such as summer), but you may need to seek approval from the Department of Homeland Security and the International Office at your school first. You should always check with the International Office about what is considered an “on campus” job versus an “off campus” job.
In order to work off-campus, F-1 visa holders must apply for “work authorization” through their DSO and USCIS. There are three main types of work authorization for F-1 students: Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), and Severe Economic Hardship (SEH).
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is work authorization that is designed for students who need to complete an internship or other work experience as part of their educational program. The regulations for CPT are nuanced and the rules vary greatly from institution to institution. If you are interested in pursuing CPT, you should talk with your DSO to understand the process on your campus.
Severe Economic Hardship (SEH)is reserved for those students who meet very strict criteria for “economic hardship,” such as parents living in a war torn country or support system affected by a natural disaster. If authorized for SEH, the student is permitted to work a certain number of hours off-campus (in a job unrelated to their major) in order to offset the financial challenges and help cover their expenses while in the US.
The most popular and straightforward form of F-1 work authorization is Optional Practical Training. F-1 visa holders who have completed at least one academic year of school are eligible to apply for pre-completion or post-completion OPT. Pre-completion OPT is done before graduation, while post-completion OPT is done after graduation. Students are eligible for a full 12 months, typically, and can split these up between pre-completion and post-completion–though most students reserve all of their OPT time for post-completion. Keep in mind that full-time CPT may also impact your OPT time, so check with your DSO!
OPT allows F-1 students to train, and thus work, in a job that is directly related to their major field of study. For more information, be sure to contact an international student advisor at your school, since applying for OPT requires a new I-20 from your DSO