The United States has very strict rules regarding the ability of foreign nationals to work in the United States. International students in valid F-1 or J-1 status may work on-campus at the school which they are authorized to attend for up to 20 hours per week during the academic year, and full-time during vacation and holiday breaks. Students in valid F-1 or J-1 status cannot be employed off-campus without meeting eligibility requirements and obtaining prior written authorization. Students in J-2 status, A status or G status as well as spouses in E-2 or L-2 status must have a work authorization card issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security before they can be employed on or off-campus. Students in other statuses are generally prohibited from any kind of employment, either on or off-campus.
Federal regulations that implemented the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) exact heavy penalties for those students in F and J status who work off-campus without authorization. The ISSS reminds all F and J students that all off-campus employment must be authorized before it can begin. This includes internships, practicum, and other types of off-campus experiences, whether or not you are receiving college credit for it. Working off-campus without the appropriate authorization is considered illegal employment according to federal immigration law and is a potentially deportable offense. SEVIS regulations require that all unauthorized employment be reported. So, now more than ever, it's essential for international students to understand the off-campus employment rules that pertain to them.
How is "Employee" Defined?
U.S. federal regulations offer the following definition:
"The term employee means an individual who provides services or labor for an employer for wages or other remuneration." 8 CFR 274a.1(f)
Compensation means something is given to you because you provided a service. It can be a paycheck, a bonus payment, a stipend, or it can be meal vouchers, room and board, or payment of your travel costs. Any of these would be considered to be compensation under INS regulations.
Simply put, if you receive anything for providing a service you are being compensated.
Volunteering is defined as engaging in an activity that anyone (US citizen or citizen of another country) would engage in without expectation of compensation, monetary or otherwise, for the service provided.
There are different kinds of employment options available to F-1 and J-1 students in lawful status, and those are described in detail in this section. Just click on "Employment" on the left side of this page to return to the index.Questions about employment eligibility should be directed to staff in the Office of International Student and Scholar Services.
Last Updated: 4/10/09