Updated on Oct 7, 2021
Most international students in the United States hold an F-1 visa, which is the U.S. non-immigrant student visa. F-1 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). In this article, we’ll tell you all about working part time in the US, the rules, options and how to find them.
There are several categories of employment during the term of your stay as an F-1 student in the United States. Part time jobs in USA can be broadly categorised as on-campus jobs and off-campus jobs. Let us understand both of these one by one:
On-campus employment is the category most freely permitted by the USCIS regulations, and it does not require USCIS approval. For on-campus work, an F-1 student is subject to the following rules:
You must maintain valid F-1 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 (take a job away from) a U.S. resident
Rules for off-campus jobs are relatively stricter for international students. An international student must adhere to the following conditions:
You must maintain valid F-1 status
You must obtain the necessary work authorisation in the form of OPT or CPT. These jobs can be either related to your field of study or as a part of curriculum.
You can also work off-campus if you provide evidence of severe economic hardship.
It is illegal to work off-campus for international students if they do not have the adequate authorization.
A student’s F-1 status includes an on-campus employment privilege. However, 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 student's first semester or year.
On-campus employment opportunities at most schools are limited. Even if you can obtain a job on campus, you may not rely on it to prove financial resources for the year, and often these jobs are not related to your studies.
The definition of on-campus employment includes:
Work performed on the school's premises directly for your 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. (Employment with on-site 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, employment must be an integral part of the student's educational program.
Since your status is always contingent on your school's support, you must seek guidance and clearance from your International Student Office prior to applying for or accepting any employment, and you should request their particular interpretation of any ambiguous situation.
Teaching Assistant: Assists the professor in their day-to-day teaching responsibilities including preparing lectures, preparing & checking assignments, helping students, etc.
Research Assistant: It is one of the best part time jobs for students in USA. You need to assist supervisors with various projects, data collection and analysis, maintaining the lab, etc.
Library assistant: You are expected to help with running the library smoothly. This could mean assisting with shelving library material, making recommendations of useful books, helping customers, etc.
Peer Tutor: You will be teaching a fellow student who might not be doing well with their studies. You need to help the tutee with course content, assignments, etc.
Department Assistant: It is one of the best part time jobs for students in USA. Your main responsibility revolves around providing administrative and secretarial support to the designated department.
Catering Assistant and Food Runner: You have to help in the kitchen and deliver the food to customers, maintain hygiene and such similar roles.
Campus ambassador: You will be in charge of promoting the university. This job is a great choice for students who like interacting with new people.
Campus Tech Support: If you are good with computers, you can apply at the campus of tech support. The opening may be available at libraries, classrooms, and laboratories, and departments.
All Jobs that are not directly related to the operation of the university are included under Off-Campus employment. These may include paid internships in USA for international students or other jobs with valid authorizations.
The off-campus part time jobs in USA can be broadly categorised into the following:
International students in the U.S. in valid F-1 immigration status are permitted to work off-campus in optional practical training (OPT) status both during and after completion of their degree.
You can apply for OPT after being enrolled for at least 9 months, but you cannot begin employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. OPT may include paid internships in USA for international students and other similar positions.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an off-campus employment option for F-1 students when the practical training is an integral part of the established curriculum or academic program.
To qualify for CPT, work experience must be required for your degree, or academic credit must be awarded for the same. Prior authorization by your school’s international student office and notification to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is required.
Any F-1 student suffering "severe economic hardship" as defined by USCIS is eligible to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and full-time during breaks.
To be eligible under "severe economic hardship", a student must:
Be in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (9 months)
Be in good academic standing
Provide evidence of economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control
Show that on-campus employment is neither available nor sufficient
Make a good faith effort to locate employment on campus before applying
The rule gives examples of the types of things that could be considered "severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control." These circumstances may include:
loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student
substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate
inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs
unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support
medical bills or other substantial and unexpected expenses.
You must apply for an "employment authorization document" (EAD) with the help and guidance of your International Student Office. Also, you do not need a job offer before you apply for the EAD.
Several forms and documents are required for the application, along with fees and photos, etc., and processing can take up to 12 weeks or longer. You cannot start work until you receive the EAD. Once you receive the EAD, you may work for an employer at any job, anywhere in the United States.
Only students with a job offer and sponsorship from one of the listed recognised organizations are eligible for this employment. To qualify, an organization must be on the official State Department list.
The listed organizations include the Red Cross, African and Asian Development Banks, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and many other similar but less well-known organizations. Because it does not have the universal application of OPT or CPT, this category of employment is often overlooked.
Requirements to work for an international organization:
The student must have an internship/employment with a “recognized international organization.”
The employment must be within the scope of the organization’s sponsorship, and within the student’s field of study.
The student must have been in valid F-1 status for at least one full academic year.
The student must be in good academic standing.
If you meet these requirements, you can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS. You can start to work only after you receive your EAD, which can take up to 3 months.
There are certain advantages of this type of employment when compared to CPT or OPT.
Employment does not have to be for-credit nor required for your degree program.
Regardless of how much or how long you work, this type of employment will not take away from your 12-month post-completion OPT.
Finding part time jobs in USA for Indian students and for other international students can pose a challenge. Therefore, you must know the resources from where you would get relevant and updated information regarding jobs.
Here are some resources that can help you with finding student jobs in USA:
Career Services Office: The career offices of your university can help you find opportunities for work.
Student Unions: They can help you by providing information regarding upcoming vacancies and how to apply for them.
University Departments: If your university has several departments, chances are that there will be multiple temporary jobs at these universities. It is best to go around and enquire about them.
Networking: Stay connected especially with seniors as they can help you look in the right direction. Sometimes graduating students are asked to find their replacement, so networking with them really helps..
Online Platforms: Stay updated with your university’s website or online community to know about any openings. Also join relevant Facebook groups to stay updated with any requirements.
It is important to remember that there are no fixed dates for announcing vacancies. Therefore, as a student, you must stay updated and keep a track of any announcements.
Remember that you are restricted by your visa in terms of being able to work in the USA. It is a MUST that you know all the requirements and restrictions concerning your visa! In case you have any doubts regarding your employment status, feel free to reach out to your university for clarification.
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