Can I Acquire Work Authorization While I am a Student with F1 Visa?

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When a foreign national is already a student through granted F1 visa status, he or she faces several restrictions that may remove the possibility of work authorization before the degree is complete. Even amidst these limitations, the student may acquire employment in the United States that may extend or change a visa to a work or permanent green card.

When a student holds an F1 visa, he or she may work within certain fields, but the restrictions may prohibit extended hours or various types of labor. The specific rules regarding these matters are held within the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS. Due to academic limitations and possible probationary terms, the first year of university or college courses restricts the student from any off-campus job. On-campus employment is possible when the conditions are satisfied. Outside of these jobs, the student may pursue certain work away from the college or university after his or her first year of education.

Employment on College Campus

When a foreign national is within the United States borders and is going to school, he or she may work within a myriad of jobs that are on the campus grounds. There is no need to obtain approval from the USCIS, but there are restrictions. The individual faces the lack of these jobs and that they are not often related to his or her study program. This makes on-campus jobs unreliable. Additionally, the school may require the student to contact the International Student Office for permission in employment. Another limitation is the lack of permission granted in the first semester of a studentís college course program.

On-Campus Employment

USCIS rules provide the greatest latitude and freedom for on-campus employment. Whatís more, it does not require USCIS approval. Unfortunately, on-campus employment opportunities are limited and often do not relate to your area of study. Additionally, you cannot rely on an on-campus job to prove your financial ability to attend school. Many schools do require that you obtain permission from the International Student Office prior to accepting any on-campus employment and may not permit such employment in a studentís first semester or year.

Rules for Work with F1 Status

For a student to retain his or her F1 visa status, he or she needs to ensure all rules and conditions are met. This includes maintaining the F1 status. Another condition is to ensure only 20 hours of work are possible while school is on. Any more than this, and the student may run the risk of losing his or her visa status as a student. When registering for the next school year, the individual may work a full-time shift during the week on the campus in holiday and vacation times. However, this work cannot take any job away from a United States resident.

Possible Off Campus Work

A foreign national has the option to seek optional practical training. This is available during and after the degree plan completes. It is necessary to contact the USCIS and the International Student Office to progress through this option. For other work permits, the individual needs to communicate with school officials. Any designated authority may need contact and often needs to provide approval for the immigrant before action is taken in these matters. For off campus work, the foreign national needs to ensure following of all steps. Any violations could lead to a revocation of the F1 status.

For an optional practical training or OPT, the student must finish nine months of enrolled classes and contact the International Student Office. This is similar to work authorization. If the student faces severe economic hardship, he or she may work off campus for up to 20 hours. And the other option is the Curricular Practical Training or CPT. This is directly related to the project program the student studies at the school. This often connects to work study or specific training. While the foreign national may become ineligible for OPT during CPT, he or she may engage in an internship as considered part of the CPT. The requirements are similar or the same as those for the OPT. This requires one year of school completed and certain forms filed.

Legal Help in Work Authorization for Students

While the foreign national does not receive the specific work authorization while holding an F1 status, he or she may acquire the equivalent. Through this process, it may become necessary to hire a lawyer to ensure his or her rights are protected.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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