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Can F1 Students Work in the United States?

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Employment by F1 students

Can F-1 students work while studying? F-1 students may not work off-campus during their first year of school in the U.S. They may have on-campus employment for a limited number of hours.  The F-1 student must be enrolled full-time and can only work 20 hours per week.

After the first year, F-1 students may work full-time off campus as long as the work is in their general field of study. Such employment opportunities must also be authorized by the designated school official of the school’s international student office prior to the commencement of work. International students should file Form I-765 to request particular employment authorizations and get an employee authorization document.

One work program for F-1 students is optional practical training (OPT). OPT allows a student immigrant to obtain training in their field of study. A student is allowed 12 months of OPT per academic program. The OPT involves obtaining approval both from the international student office at the student's school and from USCIS. An actual OPT work authorization card is issued upon approval. OPT can serve as a bridge between a student's F-1 visa and an employment visa.

Another program that allows an F-1 student to obtain experience in their field of study is CPT - Curricular Practical Training. CPT is off-campus employment or an internship for credit.  CPT may be part-time while school is in session and full-time during breaks.  CPT does not count against the OPT 12-month rule unless a student engages in CPT full-time.

Employment by F2 spouses and children

Work by spouses or children of F1 students is not permitted, under any circumstances.  An F2 family member may change status to F1 and would then be able to work as described above.

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