Securing a job while studying is a great way to earn some pocket money, gain experience or save up funds for tuition. It’s also a chance to learn practical life skills while making connections. However, strict immigration laws also mean that there are few employment options available for student visa holders.
Types of student visas
There are two visa categories for individuals who want to pursue education in the United States: F-1 and M-1. The F-1 visa is available for those planning to enroll as full-time students at an accredited academic institution or language training program. Alternatively, those interested in vocational or nonacademic programs can consider applying for an M-1 visa.
The requirements required to start applying for work vary depending on the type of student visa.
Employment opportunities for student visa holders
Both F-1 and M-1 visa users can work in the U.S. if they meet the requirements. Before looking for work, international students must inform the Designated School Official (DSO), apply for a Social Security Number and, in most cases, obtain permission from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Working on an F-1 visa
There are four types of work opportunities available to F-1 visa holders:
- On-campus employment: These are the only jobs available to students in their first academic year. They are found within the campus, such as the library, admin office or dorms, or at an educationally affiliated off-campus location.
- Off-campus employment: After one academic year, students who experience financial trouble after enrolling may apply for work that is off-campus and unrelated to their field of study.
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT): These include internships and practicums with partner organizations that students must complete to graduate.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT): Qualified students who want to gain practical experience in positions related to their degree can apply for an OPT.
Working on an M-1 visa
M-1 visa holders who wish to work are subject to stricter rules. They can only apply after completing their program and it must be for practical work training related to their studies.
Obtaining a job while on a student visa in the U.S. is possible, but immigration laws can limit options. Adhering to these rules is crucial as violations may lead to deportation. Consider consulting the DSO or an immigration attorney for help navigating these situations.