International Education Center

How to Work in the U.S.

This page provide a list of options for F-1 international students to work while in the U.S.

On-Campus Employment

Working on-campus is a great opportunity to gain experience and earn a bit of extra income. All F-1 visa students are eligible to work on-campus as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status and enrolled full-time in 12 or more units. You are allowed to work part-time on-campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week during the spring and fall semesters and 30 hours per week during summer and winter sessions. No special permission is needed from the IEC Office. Your work must meet one of the following conditions:

  1. The employment takes place on the SMC campus and is paid by SMC. This includes any student services offices, departments, library, recycling center, etc. This is the most common type of on-campus employment.
  2. The employment takes place at one of the vendor locations that is on-campus such as coffee shops, bookstore, and cafeteria located at SMC.
  3. The employment takes place at an off-campus educationally affiliated location. This includes SMC's satellite campuses.

You can start your search for on-campus employment by visiting the Career Services Center website!

Note: F-1 students can only apply for jobs designated as Student Help positions. Those positions designated as Federal Work Study are reserved for students on U.S. government financial aid. Students who are offered a job are then given the necessary paperwork to apply for their Social Security Card.

A social security number is required before a student can begin working. If a student does not have a social security number and is offered a Student Help position on-campus, a staff member at the International Education Center will advise the student on how to obtain their social security number.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

An F-1 student may be authorized by the IEC Office to participate in a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. Students who have received one year or more of full time curricular practical training are ineligible for post-completion OPT.  A student may begin curricular practical training only after receiving his or her Form I-20 with the school's endorsement.

Please watch the following video to learn more!

Watch CPT Presentation Video!

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to a maximum of 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). 

Please watch the following video to learn more!

Watch OPT Presentation Video!

Economic Hardship 

If other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, an eligible F-1 student may request off-campus employment work authorization based upon severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control. These circumstances may include loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • F-1 status for at least one academic year
  • Good academic standing (not on probation)
  • Employment will not interfere with full-time studies
  • Able to demonstrate financial need

Please contact an Immigration Specialist at the IEC Office for a consultation: intled@smc.edu