Employment: the rendering of services on either a part-time or full-time basis for compensation, financial or otherwise, including self-employment. (INS definition).

In other words, ANY time you provide a service to another individual or business and receive compensation in return (i.e. food, lodging, money, etc.), the U.S. government says that you are employed. If you work without INS permission, then you are working illegally.

It is your job as a student who is admitted into the U.S. as a nonimmigrant to only engage in activities, including employment, that are within the regulations of your F-1 status. International Student Services is here to inform you of these regulations and update you when changes are made, so please do not hesitate to ask if you are unclear about when and where you may work.

  • To begin working, you must obtain a Social Security number from the Social Security Administration. Only F-1 students are eligible to apply for this number. F2 spouses and children are not. You will meet with a representative of the Social Security Administration on campus during International Orientation.
  • You may work on campus without INS permission. On-campus work is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours per week during vacation periods (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Summer).
    Students who work more hours than authorized do not maintain legal status and jeopardize future work authorization.
  • Permission for off-campus employment under several different categories is only available to students who have maintained F-1 status for at least nine months.
  • F2 dependents may not work. There are no exceptions.


If you are authorized optional practical training (OPT) by your school, make sure that the school has updated your records in SEVIS to reflect this authorization and issued you a new SEVIS I-20 showing OPT authorization on page 3 of form.

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