Working & Studying in the United States: Employment and the F-1 Student Visa

While students with F-1 student visa status are given certain opportunities to work while they study in the United States, options to work are limited and you must gain approval before accepting employment. Let's take a closer look.

During your first year of study, you are only allowed to work for 20 hours per week at an on-campus job (or 40 hours per week when school is not in session). After your first year of study, however, you have several other options for employment:


  • Optional Practical Training (OPT). With approval from your school's International Student Office and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), students may begin this type of employment after being enrolled in school for a year. The job, which you may have either during or after your study, must be directly related to your major. Students are allowed the OPT option for up to 12 months of full-time work (or 29 months for students in certain programs and disciplines). 
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Unlike OPT, CPT is work that is necessary to your training or academic program for academic credit, such as internships or cooperative education. While you still need approval from the USCIS and your International Student Office, there is no limit on how long you can hold your job. However, you are not allowed to work more than 20 hours per week while studying full-time.
  • Economic hardship. After being enrolled in school for a year, foreign students with F-1 status may petition for permission to work off-campus due to severe economic hardship. To qualify, the student must be doing well in school and prove that an unforeseen circumstance has made it impossible for them to pay for tuition and fees.
Vaughan de Kirby
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San Francisco California EB-5 Investment Immigration Attorney