Frequently Asked Questions About Working in the U.S. as an International Student

International students have strict rules when it comes to working in the United States. Whether you’re looking to gain industry experience or you want to earn cash for living expenses, this F.A.Q covers what you need to know — and problems to avoid — so you can begin collecting a paycheck while attending college in America!

Can international students legally work in the USA?

The short answer: yes, international students are allowed to work in the United States. However, there are restrictions on the type of job you can get, and additional conditions apply depending on what kind of visa you have.

What’s the difference between the two types of student visas?

There are two different kinds of visas for international students wanting to study in the United States: F-1 visas and M-1 visas. F-1 visas are for students enrolled in traditional academic programs, whereas M-1 visas are designated for students who enter a vocational program. Most international students studying in the U.S. have F-1 visas. For comparison: in 2020, there were about 121,000 F-1 student visas issued compared to 4,000 M-1 visas.

What kind of jobs can students with F-1 visas get while studying in the United States?

Students with F-1 visas tend to have fewer restrictions to work in the United States than students with M-1 visas. F-1 visa holders can work up to 20 hours per week during the school year and up to 40 hours per week during school breaks.

Generally speaking, international students can work on-campus or off-campus, as long as their off-campus job provides experience in their field of study. An international student, for example, may not become a barista or retail clerk if they pursue an off-campus job.

International students with F-1 visas may seek paid employment in four areas:

  • On-Campus Jobs: Students are eligible to work on campus as early as their first year in school. These jobs do not need to be in their area of study.
  • Off-Campus Jobs: International students may work off-campus in rare circumstances. If they’re experiencing economic hardship, international students may pursue an off-campus job as long as they maintain their F-1 status and have completed their first year of school.
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT): With CPT jobs, students will experience a paid internship-like work opportunity. Students must find a job related to the subject they’re studying.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT): international students can apply to work in the U.S. for up to 12 months post-graduation (STEM students may work up to 24 months after graduating). You must find a job in your field of study.

What kind of jobs can students with M-1 visas get while attending their U.S.-based vocational program?

M-1 students have stricter requirements than F-1 students. M-1 visa holders must complete their entire program — not just the first year — before becoming eligible for practical training, a term synonymous with “work experience” in such instances.

Where should international students start when seeking employment while studying in the United States?

Students who want to work while studying should approach their educational institution’s Designated School Official (DSO) for information about jobs and an international student work permit regardless of the visa type. The DSO is the person that maintains the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). That’s the system that houses international nonimmigrant students and exchanges visitor information.

Can international students get paid summer internships?

Work with your DSO to locate a summer internship related to your studies that qualifies you for off-campus work. Applying for internships as an international student can be tricky — make sure you brush up your resume and nail the interview!

Furnish your future with CORT!

No matter where you end up in your job search, CORT Furniture Rental is here to help. While living and working far from home, your apartment here in the U.S. should still feel like home! CORT can help furnish your apartment so you can focus on your job and your studies! Packages start at just $109 a month and include bedroom, dining room, and living room furniture.

One of the major benefits with CORT’s furniture subscription is the delivery and pickup services. Our team delivers and sets up your furniture so it’s move-in-ready from day one. Then, when you’re finished with the furniture subscription, we’ll pick up the furniture! This is ideal for students without a car or friends and family to help move bulky, heavy furniture into a new apartment. Explore our student furniture packages today.

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