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Can I work while in the United States on an F1 Visa?

The F-1 visas are issued to international students primarily to enable them study in the U.S. Thus, there are strict restrictions on employment for students with F-1 visas. However, they are allowed to engage in certain types of compensated employments. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) defines a compensated employment as a type of work done in order to get some benefits, which include off-campus, on-campus, part-time and full-time work.

Students with F-1 status require employment authorization if they are paid or given any benefits such as hourly wage, salary, books, fees, transportation, supplies, and the likes in exchange for the work they do or if the persons usually holding their positions are paid. F-1 visa holders are also allowed by USCIS to work under the optional practical training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to enable them practice what they studied for sometime before returning to their country of origin or country of permanent residence.

Limitation on employment

There are some limitations on the employment of students with F-1 Visas which include the following:

  • Holders of F-1 visas are limited to 20 hours of work per week when their schools are in session. However, during vacation periods, they can work as long as they want. There are no limitations on work duration during these periods.
  • Students with F-1 visa working under OPT or CPT are not expected to work for more than 12 months. The 12 months work periods can be used for both OPT and CPT.
  • Students working under OPT are not allowed to accrue over 90 days of unemployment
  • Students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are permitted to take a 29 month employment under OPT. This is in compliance with the interim order passed on 8 April, 2008.

Taxation on benefits obtain for work done

If you are working as a foreign student with an F-1 visa, you are not expected to pay Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes for both Medicare and social security for the first five years of your stay in the U.S. with F-1 status. However, you are required to pay other local, state, and federal taxes.

Note that taking any employment without authorization from USCIS is considered illegal and a violation of the terms and condition of the F-1 visa. Such violation of terms and condition of F-1 visa status is taken seriously.

For detailed information on the options available to you and for expert help on your immigration process, you should contact our office and speak with our experienced and professional attorney.

Updated on January 15, 2020

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