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Can an F1 student work while studying in the U.S.?

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Can an international students from overseas studying in the United States on an F-1 student visa work, and if so, what are the conditions?


Hi. I'm Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer, practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.


International students comes to the United States, and obviously they have to be able to pay for their tuition and their living expense, and the law it does allow in 3 ways for international students to work in the United States. There are a lot of restrictions on it, and they have to be very careful not to violate the terms of their F-1 student status because keep in mind that the international students who come on F-1's are subjected to regulations regarding work, and they're expected that the reason that they're here and what they're doing with most of their time is going to school, but the law does allow for some work to be done.


One thing to keep in mind is that at its very basic level the F-1 student visa allows students to work on campus for up to 20 hours a week. That's considered part-time work, and it has to be at the university on campus or at a closely affiliated place. For instance, international students can work for the food service industry that manages the food at the university, or they work at the campus book store, or they can work at various locations throughout the campus, but they can't work for, let's say, McDonald's or off campus in the immediate vicinity. It has to be on campus and it has to be at the school.


That's for every international school. They can always work 20 hours a week part-time during the school year, and they are allowed after a year to work during the summer on a full-time basis. That reminds me to mention that as an F-1 student you can't work your first year, so it's only after your second year that you're able to work in the United States on an F-1 visa on that part-time 20-hour basis.


The second way that international students can work is through what's called Curricular Practical Training or CPT. CPT is work that is done, sort of an internships or externship or practicum that are part of the course of study. Let's say that someone is studying to be a speech therapist, and the university generally requires speech therapist to work outside the university for an extended period of time in order to qualify to graduate. In other words, it's part of the study.


Under CPT, the student can work off campus and they can work full-time. The law does allow for that. You have to apply for CPT with your international student office. You have to be issued a new I-20 by the international student office that reflects your request and your intention to do CPT. It has to be related to your field and it can't just be some random work. It has to be something that's toward your major.


One thing to keep in mind about CPT is that if you do a full 12 months of CPT, then that's going to prevent you from getting the benefit of the third type of work that we're going to discuss in just a minute, which is called OPT. Just keep in mind that if you're going to work full-time in CPT, which the law does allow, you need to make sure that you don't do it for more than a year, or at least if you are going to do it for more than a year, that you've thought the consequences of that.


The last way that students can work on their F-1 international student visa is by getting what's call the Optional Practical Training, OPT. OPT is a that students can work after graduation while remaining on their F-1 student visa. OPT allows students to work in their field of study for an employer to test drive them out, or like you say, to see if it's a good fit, to see if the employer may want to allow the student to come back on an H-1B work visa down the road.


OPT is good for 12 months, so after you gradate, you can work for up to 12 months on OPT. It's a complicated process. You have to deal with your international student office, and you have to fill out some paperwork to get an amended I-20. You're going to need demonstrate that the job is related to your field of study. You're going to have to explain that to your international student officer. Then, you get the OPT and you're able to work, and then you have to apply for an I-765 work card. You can't work until that work card comes and you're able to work for up to 12 months.


We have other videos that discuss the STEM Extension, so students that work in the STEM field, which are science, technology, engineering, and math, you can get an extension. Currently, it's 17 months but soon to be 24 months, that allows you to continue working on OPT for up to 3 full years if you're in one of those fields.


Check out our videos on that, but if you have any question about work incidental to your F-1 student visa, that 20 hour a week part-time gig on campus that we discussed or Curricular Practical Training, or about OPT feel free to give us a call at 314-961-8200, or you can always email us at [email protected]. If you like this video, please make sure to click on the Subscribe button. We try to update the YouTube channel often and regularly, and we hope you enjoyed the video. Thanks a lot.

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