Work Options

The F-1 visa is a student visa. The intent of the visa is to provide you the opportunity to study full-time and work towards completing your educational objective. The F-1 regulations do allow work, but work options are very limited. Work is not a right, but a privilege. Working even one day without proper authorization is a serious violation of your status and may lead to arrest, deportation, and being banned from returning to the USA.

F-2 visa holders are not allowed to work in the USA

On-Campus Employment

All F-1 visa holders can work up to 20 hours/week on-campus. DBU offers a variety of different on-campus employment options for our international students. Visit DBU's Career Services website to find on-campus employment opportunities.

The following are the requirements for any F-1 visa holder working on campus:

  • Work Hour Limits: You may work up to 20 hours a week during the required class time and up to 40 hours a week during breaks.
  • Social Security Number (SSN): You need an SSN before you are able to begin working on campus.

New initial students may not start working more than 30 days before classes start.

Off-Campus Employment

Off-campus employment opportunities are extremely restricted and must fulfill the following requirements. Any off-campus work that does not fulfill these requirements is a violation of your status.


Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT allows for you to work off-campus if a class or program requires it. Examples of this include internships, student teaching, and practicums. 

You may only apply for CPT if you have an academic requirement that makes it a vital part of both your class and program.


  • Contact a DSO for the CPT Application Packet at
  • Make sure you fulfill the listed immigration and DBU requirements
  • Complete the application
  • Report back to a DSO

Please note: you cannot start working until you have finished the application process and received an authorized EAD from a DSO.

An EAD is a plastic card that gives work authorization.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT provides 1 year of work authorization for practical training related to your degree. It can be used at each academic level (associate, bachelor, master, and doctorate).

Post-Completion or Post-Graduation

This is the most common use of OPT. Most students save their OPT to work a year after graduation. Doctoral students may use during the dissertation phase if CPT is not available.

Pre-Completion or During Studies

You may apply for part-time or full-time OPT while you study. This option is not common as it takes away from the possible 12 months of OPT. During required class times (fall and spring semesters), it allows part-time work authorization. Additionally, you cannot work on-campus while doing pre-completion OPT.

CPT is a better option for most students and our DSOs are available to advise students.


  • Complete the application >>
  • Pay OPT fees to USCIS >>
  • EAD form
    • This is a plastic card giving work authorization
  • Make sure you are on the official university graduation list.
    • Only students on the graduation list will be allowed to apply for OPT. 
  • Request access to the OPT seminar 4 months before you graduate.
    • Send an email to with:
      • DBU ID#
      • Full name
      • Degree

A 2-year extension may be available for students who complete STEM-related degrees (science, technology, engineering, and math)

Severe Economic Hardship

Economic Hardship work authorization is available if your financial sponsor has sudden or unforeseeable severe economic hardships that leave them unable to support you at the time. 

This authorization takes time to apply for and get approval. Please talk with a DSO as early as you can to see if this might be a good option for you.


  • Up to 1 year of off-campus work authorization. Renewable if hardship continues
  • Requires an application and fees to USCIS
  • Must be able to prove the hardship meets the conditions listed here
  • Will receive an EAD
  • May work part-time (up to 20 hours a week) during class time, and full-time during breaks

Volunteering vs. Work

Getting paid for any work is considered employment and requires work authorization. Volunteering is legal and we strongly recommend that you find opportunities to volunteer and serve your community. However, we advise you to talk with a DSO since volunteering or taking unpaid internships can qualify as employment in certain situations.

Here is a helpful webpage from the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to clarify what is and is not work. Reach out to one of our DSOs by emailing before taking any opportunities.

  • Do I need a Social Security Number (SSN) before I can start working?
    No, it is not required when you start, however most US companies will still require you to have an SSN before they allow you to begin working. If you have a job offer and need an SSN, please contact a DSO to help you with the application process.
  • Can I work for a company in another country while I’m here?
    No. Because you are physically present in the USA even work done remotely is considered illegal.
  • Is working online ok?
    No. Because you are physically present in the USA work online is considered illegal.
  • Can I invest?
    You may invest as long as you are completely passive. Active trading or management of investments would be a work violation.
  • Can I start working now, and wait to get paid until my EAD comes?
    No. You must have the official EAD in your hands before you may start working. Working without your EAD would be an Immigration and DOL law violation.
  • Can I babysit or tutor if it is not reported to the IRS?
    No. Any kind of work without authorization is a violation of your status.
  • Can I volunteer if they don’t pay me but provide housing, food, or scholarships?
    No. If you receive any kind of compensation for what you are doing then it qualifies as work, even if it were put in a non-money form.

This is not a complete list of options or questions. If you have another question, please contact a DSO before you accept an opportunity: