Working on a Student Visa
Restrictions on employment are complex and penalties for noncompliance can be harsh. The Office of International Students is happy to answer any questions you have regarding working while in the United States.
Note: The asterisks indicate that you will need to submit an application to USCIS for approval. The other types of employment require the approval of the Office of International Students. International students are not legally authorized to work without the approval of the office, and USCIS requires that any unlawful employment be reported immediately.
The following are your options:
On-Campus You are automatically authorized by the government to work on campus if you are in lawful status. For information on whether you are in lawful status, read the “Maintaining Your Status” section of this site. While school is in session you are legally permitted to work a total of 20 hours per week. During breaks the government allows you to work up to 40 hours per week.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) This type of work is defined as an integral part of your program and is approved by the Office of International Students. There are some legal limitations to this type of work. If you work for over 12 months full time, you become ineligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Full time is considered 21-40 hours per week. Part time is 20 hours per week or less.
Students interested in participating in CPT first find a place where they would like to work that is related to their training at BGSP. Once a student has obtained a job offer, the student completes the Application for Curricular Practical Training. After obtaining approval from the Dean of Graduate Studies, the form is submitted to the Office of International Students. If the proposed CPT is approved, the International Students Coordinator updates this information in SEVIS, and the student may begin working.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)* Students often participate in Optional Practical Training after graduation, but may also choose to do so after maintaining a lawful F-1 status for one full academic year. This type of work has many restrictions. The work is required to be in your field of study, and you are limited to one year of full time work. Full time work is considered 21-40 hours per week. Part time work counts as half of full time, whether you are working 20 hours a week or less. If you wish to participate in OPT before graduating, you are limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours per week during breaks. Students that have participated in the equivalent of 12 months of full time CPT are not eligible to apply for OPT.
Optional Practical Training is approved by USCIS and may take 3 months for processing. If you wish to participate in OPT after graduation, you are required apply before the program end date on your I-20. You do not need to know your employer before submitting the application. See the Application for Optional Practical Training for more information.
Internship with an International Organization* International students may work as an intern with an international organization provided that it is recognized within the meaning of the 59 Stat. 669. Speak with the International Students Coordinator if you have questions as to whether a particular organization meets this requirement. Approvals are to work for one year at a time and you may work either full time or part time. If you would like to apply for renewed work authorization, the government advises you to do so three months before your current authorization expires.
This internship is approved by USCIS. Before applying, you will need to have a written offer from the organization. Once you have the offer, the International Students Coordinator can advise you about what other materials you will need for your application.
Off-Campus* Generally international students are not permitted to hold off-campus jobs other than OPT, CPT and internships with an international organization. However, authorization to work off campus may be granted by USCIS in cases of severe economic hardship. It is considered to be a case-by-case exception for students subjected to new, unexpected economic conditions.
In order to be approved for a student visa, you will be required to show that you or someone willing to sponsor you has the ability to finance your expenses while in the United States for one full year. Therefore, in order to be approved for off campus employment, you will be required to prove that there has been a large change in your financial situation due to no fault of your own. These unexpected changes may include: loss of financial aid, loss of on campus employment, large increases in tuition or living costs, substantial fluctuation in the exchange rate, unexpected changes in the financial conditions of the sponsor, unexpectedly large medical bills or other substantial unexpected expenses. Additionally, to be considered for off-campus employment, you need to have been enrolled for at least one academic year and unable to get on-campus employment that will sufficiently cover these unexpected costs.
This type of employment is approved by USCIS. If you feel as though you qualify for off campus employment and there is no on campus employment available, the International Students Coordinator can help you prepare the application to submit to USCIS.
Limitations For on campus employment, off campus employment, and OPT employment: While school is in session you are limited to a total of 20 hours per week of employment. During breaks you may work 40 hours per week.
If you have been in lawful status for less than one year, you are only legally eligible for on-campus employment, an internship with an international organization and CPT employment.
If you are working and earn more than the standard deduction ($12,400 in 2020), the U.S. government requires you to file a tax return by April 15th. Brochures about taxes are available from the Office of International Students. Filing a tax return is complex and it is common for people to hire an accountant to help them with their taxes. Only income generated within the United States is taxable. Your employer should withhold 30% of your wages for taxes. You may not be required to pay the entire 30%, or you may have to pay more, depending on your situation. Some countries have tax treaties with the United States government that reduce the amount of taxes you will be required to pay.
Social Security Numbers
Social Security Numbers may be issued to F-1 students who are working for tax filing purposes. To get a social security number, you will be required to apply in person at the Social Security Card Center. Brochures containing information about what materials you will need for the application are available from the Office of International Students.