Considerations for F1 Visa Employment

The F1 visa employment is a type of non-immigrant student visa that is issued by the government of the United States to foreigners who are allowed to pursue an education.   As part of the F visa classification, holders can take academic studies or language training programs in learning institutions within the United States.

The F1 visas are issued through the embassies and consulates outside of the United States through the I-20 application form.  Students who are interested in the F1 visa employment should be able to show adequate support for themselves during their stay because legal employment opportunities are basically limited.

When considering applying for an F1 visa, it is important to note that under the F visa classification there are actually three categories that applicants can qualify under:

  • F1 visa for full-time students
  • F2 visa for spouses and children of F1 visa holders
  • F3 visa for border commuters who reside in their country of origin while studying in the United States

Holders of F2 visa are restricted from any type of compensated employment although minors may be allowed to study in public schools.  F3 visa which are granted mostly to nationals of Canada and Mexico are likewise prohibited from gainful employment but can participate in Curricular Practical Training.

How to Qualify for an F1 Visa Employment

It is important to understand that the F1 visa employment is a part of the F1 visa for studying.  Therefore, it is important to pass the requirements of the F1 visa in general to gain the privilege of gainful employment while studying in the United States.

The F1 visa unlike the F3 visa must maintain the minimum allowed course load assigned to full-time students to maintain their status.  Upon completion of their studies, holders of F1 visa can legally stay within the United States for a maximum of 60 days.

Furthermore, the F1 visa holder may opt to stay within the United States up to a year after graduation if he will be involved in the Optional Practical Training program.  The visa holder must complete his studies based on the expiration date stated in the I-20 form he submitted.  The I-20 form is issued by the College or University in the United States where the student will study.  Criteria to be satisfied include:

  • Should have a permanent foreign residence where he intends to return after completion of studies
  • Can only study in the academic institution where he was initially accepted
  • Should show proof of financial capability to survive in the United States
  • Must exhibit strong ties to the home country like family, assets, bank accounts, and others

Availability of F1 Visa Employment

Any non-immigrant with an F1 visa for studying can be allowed to engage in gainful employment based on what is authorized by law.   If the visa holder engages in any unauthorized employment, this constitutes a failure to maintain status which can be a basis for revoking the issued visa.  The types of F1 visa employment that is allowed by law can fall under any of the following categories:

  • On-campus employment
  • Employment authorized due to Severe Economic Hardship
  • Employment sponsored by international organizations
  • Practical Training – Curricular and Optional Practical Training

On-campus F1 Visa Employment

In order to qualify for this authorized employment opportunity, requirements that should be adhered to by the visa holder are:

  • Limiting to 20 hours per week the work schedule during school days and can work full-time during official school holidays
  • Employment does not necessarily have to be related to the degree course being taken
  • Maintain the F1 status by remaining a full-time student

F1 Visa Employment for Severe Economic Hardship

This is authorized by law due to its humanitarian nature in assisting the student to survive in the United States for the completion of his studies.  Qualifications to be entitled for this type of F1 visa employment include:

  • F1 status for at least one full academic year
  • Should be able to establish with the Citizenship and Immigration Services circumstances for severe economic hardship caused by conditions beyond his control after getting the F1 visa
  • Limited to 20 hours per week work schedule during school days and can work full-time on official school holidays
  • Any type of employment is allowed
  • Should apply for Employment Authorization Document from the Citizenship and Immigration Services

F1 Visa Employment with International Organizations

This type of F1 visa employment is quite rare considering that the international organization should be a recognized one.  The Citizenship and Immigration Services requires that the visa holder apply for an Employment Authorization Document prior to any employment.

Some of the recognized international organizations that hire F1 visa holders may require them to change their status to G which is a visa reserved for employees of international organizations.  The type of employment enjoyed by an F1 visa holder is temporary in nature unless he opts to shift to a G visa if a permanent employment opportunity will be given by the international organization.

F1 Visa Employment Practical Training Program

No F1 visa holder can work in the United States without prior approval from the Citizenship and Immigration Services unless it is an On-campus employment.  Granting of authorization for Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training allows students to work for a maximum of 14 months which can be distributed between the two training programs.

An interim order dated April 8, 2008 allows students of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to work legally in the United States under the Optional Practical Training program for a maximum of 29 months.  The F1 visa employment holder however is not allowed more than 90 days of unemployment.