Part-Time Work in the US as a student

Indian students studying in the US can work part-time while they study, but they must strictly follow all the rules and restrictions placed on them by the visa authorities. Find out more about the opportunities for working while you study in the US.

Most Indian students who go to study abroad in the US are given an F-1 non-immigrant student visa. If you hold this visa, you are allowed to work in the US, but there are certain restrictions and conditions placed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you must follow. Many categories of on-campus and off-campus employment are available to you if you hold an F-1 visa.

On-Campus Employment

USCIS freely grants you the ability to take on on-campus jobs without requiring their approval. On-campus jobs include working on the premises for your school (such as work related to assistantship or grants), working at the cafeteria, library or other on-campus commercial services, working off-campus as part of the educational program etc.

But in most schools, on-campus work opportunities are limited, often unrelated to the program you are studying, and not enough to offer good financial support to your primary funding. Also, some schools may need international students to obtain permission to work on-campus from the International Student Office. In some cases, schools may not allow international students to work in their first year or semester.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT refers to off-campus employment when the practical training is an important part of the academic program. The term typically refers to internships, alternative work/study, cooperative education etcetera offered by sponsors in agreement with the school. In other words, the work should earn you academic credits or go towards the completion of your degree. The CPT employment may be paid or unpaid. You need approval from the International Student Office, and the USCIS will need to be notified.

Eligibility varies depending on your level of education. For example, graduate students may be pursuing programs that need a CPT in the first year, while other students may have to wait a full year after enrollment on an F-1 visa before they can apply. Maximum work hours will be specified by the CPT authorization. Students should work closely with the International Student Office during the duration of the CPT.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

If you have an F-1 visa you may also be able to work off-campus during your program and after your degree completion. The OPT needs authorization from the USCIS and the International Student Office at your school. Applications for OPT can be made only after 9 months on an F-1 visa, but work can only begin after a year of enrollment, and after the student receives an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) from USCIS.

Students who have already participated in 12 months or more of full-time CPT cannot apply for OPT. Also, OPT duration is restricted to a maximum of 12 months for each degree. There are different restrictions for doing your OPT during and after your degree.

Since March 11, 2016 some eligible STEM students (students completing science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees) under F-1 can also apply for an additional 24-month OPT extension of their post-completion OPT. Find out if you are eligible from the USCIS website in the Students and Exchange Visitors section.

Students with Severe Economic Hardship

If you are able to provide evidence of "severe economic hardship" due to unforeseen circumstances, the USCIS may allow you to work off-campus up to 20 hours a week while school is in session and full-time during holidays. You need to have a good academic record and show that on-campus jobs are not enough or not available, in order to be eligible. Examples of economic hardship can include unexpected medical expenses, loss of financial aid through no fault of yours, extreme increases in living costs or tuition etc. Again, you need to apply for an EAD with the help of your school's International Student Office before you can apply for a job.

Working for an International Organization

You may be able to work with Red Cross, WHO, Asian and African Development banks and other "recognized international organizations" while you study overseas in the US on an F-1 visa. There are many benefits to jobs though they are limited in number. In order to work for such an organization, you need to be sponsored by them, have a good academic record and have been a valid F-1 holder for at least a year. If you qualify, you can apply for an EAD and begin work after it is issued to you (usually in 3 months).

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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Author: Kailash Kumar01 Jun 2016 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3

There had been a significant change in OPT rules w.e.f. March 11, 2016. Earlier students on F-1 visa were permitted by USCIS to work for one year for getting getting practical training to complement their education.
However w.e.f. March 11, 2016, F-1 students pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics ) degrees are allowed to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT. Thus the STEM graduates can have a total of 36 months of OPT.
Prior to March 11, 2016 only 17 months of OPT extension was permissible in case of STEM students.

Author: Partha K.07 Jun 2016 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3

I find this article extremely useful for many students planning to go the USA.

In this connection, I would want to add that the OPT rule has been modified in March, 2016. Now the students of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) can have 36 months of OPT instead of the earlier limit of 17 months.

The provision mentioned for the students with severe economic hardship will be found extremely useful by students of many developing and underdeveloped countries including students of India.

Thanks to the author for covering a very necessary topic for students studying/planning to study in the US.

Author: Juana07 Jun 2016 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 0

Kailash and Partha, thank you for bringing this to my notice. This information was not available on the sites I referred. I have included the information in my article too.

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