Employment is defined as any type of work performed or service provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food, or other benefits. If a student does not receive any payment for work performed, this activity is not defined as employment but is considered to be volunteer work.

There are considerable restrictions associated with volunteer work and all F-1 and J-1 students should consult with ISL before accepting any employment or volunteer work in the United States.

Employment for F-1 and J-1 students is very restricted and proper authorization is required.

Employment for Students in F-1 Status

Different requirements exist for each type of F-1 employment. This is only a general overview of the possibilities and basic rules. A fundamental eligibility requirement for all types of employment is that a student must be in and must continuously maintain lawful F-1 status for one academic year prior to undertaking any off-campus employment.

Maintaining eligibility for most types of F-1 employment means that a student must obtain a position related to his/her major and limit his/her work to: 1) no more than 20 hours per week while school is in session, or 2) full-time work during school vacation periods.

All F-1 students must familiarize themselves with the employment regulations and application procedures by consulting with ISL staff. Students should not assume that they are eligible to work without first contacting ISL.

Categories of F-1 Student Employment

While an F-1 student has a variety of ways to undertake legal employment in the U.S., working improperly or without authorization is a violation of status. It is a student’s responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations that apply to F-1 students.

The ISL staff will advise the student on the appropriate application process for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). If a student fails to comply with his/her responsibilities, s/he may not be eligible for benefits typically granted to F-1 students.

On-campus Employment

Work on-campus is usually allowed if it meets certain requirements. Immigration regulations state that this employment is automatically authorized for any student in lawful F-1 status. Students should check with the ISL staff for school requirements and procedures governing the authorization of on-campus employment.

Internship with an International Organization

For students maintaining lawful F-1 status may obtain written permission to engage in an internship by a “recognized” international organization, such as the United Nations and the World Bank. Students must maintain their F-1 student status while employed by an international organization. Students must check with the Director of ISL to get an up-to-date list of organizations.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Some work experiences that are an important part of a student’s study program may be considered Curricular Practical Training. These experiences may include alternate work/study programs, internships, cooperative education programs, and practicum experiences.

Any student who works for one year or more in full-time curricular practical training is not eligible for practical training after completing his or her studies.

Curricular practical training may be paid or unpaid. You must contact ISL staff at least 30 days prior to your internship start date if you plan to engage in CPT. View the CPT Application.

Credit for CPT must be arranged with the appropriate academic department and the registrar before you engage in it.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of Optional Practical Training employment during their course of study in the US. They receive 12 months of OPT for each program of study, i.e. BA, MA, PhD (see the OPT Instructions). Students may be eligible to be employed in a job that is directly related to their major field of study for one year before and/or after they complete a study program. Such employment may take place at any location in the United States.

Categories of J-1 Student Employment

As program sponsor, Carleton College has the authority to authorize employment, within limits defined by the regulations, for those holding J-1 exchange-visitor status.

J-1 students must contact ISL staff to seek authorization before undertaking any employment.

On-campus Assistantship or Fellowship

A student enrolled in a full course of study may be employed on campus pursuant to the terms of a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship if the employment is both on campus and is related to the student’s course of study. Such employment is considered to be part of the student’s program of study and requires no specific authorization. However, the Director of International Student Programs must be informed of the employment.

Part-time On- or Off-campus Employment

(20 hours or less per week) A student may be authorized to accept part-time employment not related to the program of studies if the following conditions are met: (1) such employment is required by an urgent financial need that has arisen since acquiring exchange visitor status; (2) it does not cause the participant to reduce preparation and studies below the full-time level; and (3) it has the written approval of the sponsor and is signed by the responsible officer.

The dates and conditions of authorized employment should be stated in the form of a letter from the responsible officer to the exchange-visitor student.

Vacation Employment

During periods of school vacation, responsible officers may authorize full-time employment for exchange-visitor students, provided such employment meets the criteria stated above for part-time employment.

Academic Training

An exchange-visitor student may be authorized for a period of up to 18 months of employment for academic training directly related to the program of study while the student is enrolled in school or after completion of the program. Such a period of practical training can be authorized by the responsible officer provided: (1) the student is primarily in the United States to study rather than engage in academic training; (2) the student is in good academic standing; (3) the training is directly related to the academic program; and (4) the training is authorized in writing by the responsible officer of the exchange visitor program involved.

The Law and You

Last but not least, if you are accused of committing a crime and have been arrested, remember that you do have certain rights! (Please see ACLU information about your rights: Know Your Rights ) You should notify the director of ISL as soon as possible. You also have the right to notify your government about your arrest or detainment. If you choose to do so, the police must inform the appropriate foreign consulate or embassy immediately. Your consular officers have the right to visit you and arrange for your legal representation. Many countries (for example, China, Nigeria, and Singapore) require that the consul be notified by local law enforcement when their nationals are confined or detained. In these cases, you have no choice in the matter of whether or not the authorities notify your consulate; they must do so. Depending upon the severity of the crime of which you are accused, you should obtain legal assistance.

Remember that it is wise to cooperate with police and law enforcement and follow their instructions. It’s best to be polite and not to argue.