Working while studying in the US

Learn about the different employment opportunities available for international students in the US.

In this article:

What is the part-time employment eligibility for different types of visas?

Your student visa type will decide if you are eligible to work part-time while you study in the US. Students holding an F1 visa or a J1 visa are eligible to work in certain pre-approved roles. Students holding an M1 student visa are not eligible to take up any part-time work while studying in the US.  

What are the employment opportunities for international students holding an F1 student visa?

On-campus employment

If you are an international student holding an F1 student visa, you will be permitted to work inside your university campus or at an educationally affiliated off-campus location. The off-campus location should be associated with your university's established curriculum and must be related to postgraduate level contractually funded research projects.

You can apply for on-campus jobs as early as 30 days before your classes start.

You can hold multiple on-campus jobs, but your total work hours for a week cannot exceed 20 hours when school is in session. You can work full time during vacations and holidays.

Off-campus employment

As an international student, you can work outside your campus only if you prove that you have a financial hardship due to new, unexpected situations after completing at least a year of your studies in the US. 

You can apply for off-campus employment through the Designated School Official at your university. If your request is approved by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, you can work for up to 20 hours per week.

Curriculum Practical Training

You will be eligible to work through Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) only if your course has it as part of the syllabus. You can only work in roles that are directly related to your field of study as the motive behind CPT is to give students real-world experience before they graduate. 

You need to finish at least a year of education in the US to apply for CPT. There is no cap on the number of hours you can work, so you can take up a full-time job.

Note that if you work for a year or more through CPT, you will be ineligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Optional Practical Training

After completing a year of your studies, you can apply for optional practical training. There are two types of OTPs,

  • Pre-completion OPT – You can apply and start working before completing your course. You can work for 20 hours per week when school is in session and full-time during holidays and vacations.
  • Post-completion OPT – If you want to stay back in the US and work after completing your course, you can apply for post-completion OPT. For more on this read, ‘How to work in the US after graduation?

Note that you can only work for 12 months through pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT. That is, if you work for six months through pre-completion OPT you can only work for six months through post-completion OPT.

What are the employment opportunities for international students holding a J1 visa?

On-campus and off-campus employment

You can take up on-campus and off-campus part-time jobs while holding a J1 visa. The employment regulations are similar to F1 visas.

What to do before starting your part-time job as an international student?

Reach out to your university’s DSO (Designated School Officer) and apply for a Social Security number. You can reach out to your university’s career coach for further guidance while looking for a job.