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Employment while you study

Thinking of working while you’re in the U.S.? Here’s how.


If you have an F-1 Visa, you are permitted to work in the United States when authorised by a designated school official, but this is only under certain conditions and in accordance with some quite complex guidelines and restrictions issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

There are several different categories of employment that are available as an F-1 student in the U.S.. On-campus employment is the most widely available work, while any off-campus employment must be related to your area of study and must be authorised by the Designated School Official.

For you to work in the U.S., you will need a Social Security number (SSN). However, you will still be able to apply for jobs without an SSN and then use that job offer to apply for an SSN after you have been hired.

For detailed information on working in the U.S., you can visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service website.

Working after you graduate
If you would like to stay on and work in the U.S. after you have completed your studies, you’ll first need to obtain a new visa. Finding your way through the U.S. immigration procedures is often challenging as there are a wide variety of visas and eligibility requirements, plus there are frequent legal rulings regarding visa status and immigration which means the regulations are constantly changing.

There are several common visa options which are most applicable to graduates.

Practical training on an F-1 Visa
With this visa, you are entitled to up to one year of practical training after completing your studies. Authorisation for this type of practical training can be granted for up to a maximum of 12 months and this will start once you have graduated or have completed your course of study.

Non-immigrant H-1B Visa (specialty occupation)
To apply for this visa, you need an employer in the  U.S. to sponsor you, to hold a bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification, and for the job responsibilities of the work to be directly relevant to your education / work experience.

Employment-based immigration
To apply for this visa, you will need to have a labour certification. This process of obtaining this certification is often challenging and can, depending on the jurisdiction, take years to complete. An alternative to this is to apply for a visa under another category, which does not require a labour certification. Most graduates will fall under these immigration categories:

1. First Preference: Priority workers
This includes individuals who possess an extraordinary ability in the sciences, art, education, business or athletics; or individuals who are outstanding professors / researchers; or are multinational managers / executives.

2. Multinational executives / managers
To qualify for permanent residence in this category, executives / managers of companies must have been employed for one of the three years prior to their transfer to the U.S.  Additionally, you must have been employed with the overseas company in an executive or managerial role.

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