Yes but with certain exceptions. As a general rule the employment must be limited to 20 hours a week (except during times when school is not in session or annual vacations) of on campus employment, must not displace US Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents and
The work must take place either at your school or at an educationally affiliated (associated with the school’s established curriculum or part of contractually funded research projects at the postgraduate level) off-campus location. Work that takes place at your school location could be for an on-campus commercial business, like a bookstore or cafeteria, as long as the work directly provides services for students.
Employment located on-campus that does not directly involve services to students (such as construction work) does not qualify as on-campus employment. Work with an employer that is contractually affiliated with the school is on-campus employment even if the work site is not located on the campus (such as a research lab affiliated with your school).
Normally after the first academic year has been completed, USCIS will authorize 3 forms of off campus employment: CPT (Curricular Practical Training), OPT (Optional Practical Training) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT). Questions regarding these employment options should always be directed to the Designated School Official and it is very important to make sure you take your certification letter to the Social Security administration in order to be issued a social security number and file taxes.
There are certain exceptions to waiting 1 year before applying for off campus employment. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will authorize off-campus employment only in cases of severe economic hardship occurring after a student’s enrollment in an academic program and after the student has been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year, or in emergent circumstances as defined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
USCIS makes case-by-case decisions for off-campus employment for students who can show that new, unexpected circumstances beyond their control have created severe economic hardship. These may include the following:
- Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment (if the student is not at fault)
- Large increases in tuition or living costs
- Substantial decrease in the relative value of currency the student depends upon to pay expenses
- Unexpected changes in the financial conditions for a student’s sources of financial support
- Unexpectedly large medical bills not covered by insurance
- Other substantial, unexpected expenses
An F-1 student must have remained enrolled for at least one academic year, in status and in good academic standing before USCIS will authorize off-campus employment.
The F-1 student must be unable to get on-campus employment, or the pay from available on-campus employment must be insufficient to meet financial needs.
For each request approval, a DSO must provide the F-1 student with a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” endorsed to that effect.
The F-1 student must file a Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” and pay a fee to USCIS. The student should file within 30 days of the day the DSO endorses the Form I-20. If USCIS approves the application, the student will receive a Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document,” (EAD) from USCIS and can begin working.
Approval for off-campus employment is good for one year. If the F-1 student needs to continue working off-campus, the student must re-apply.
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