When you apply for a student visa, you must show United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you have enough funds to financially support yourself during your stay in the United States. You may, then, be thinking about working as well as studying on a student visa. Read on to more about what work opportunities you have open to you while still complying with the specifics of your student visa. For any questions about immigration, please contact a New York City temporary visa immigration lawyer today. Although the U.S. immigration system is complicated, our knowledge is greater and we will do everything we can for you.

What Is a Student Visa?

If you live outside of the United States but would like to study there, you have the option of applying for a student visa. There are two visa categories for people who want to study while in the country, F visas and M visas.

F visas and M visas share some requirements. For both, you’ll need to be enrolled in an academic, vocational, or language training program. The Student and Exchange Visitors Program of Immigration and Customs Enforcement must have approved your proposed school, and you’ll need to be enrolled full-time. If you aren’t proficient in English, you must enroll in a course(s) to become proficient in English. As explained above, you are required to have sufficient funds to support yourself during the entire course of study. And finally, you are required to live in a home outside the United States to which you intend to return.

Under an F-1 visa, you have to be enrolled as a full-time student at a college, university, language training program, seminary, conservatory, high school, elementary school, or even another type of academic institution, so long as the institution has been authorized by the United States to accept international students. Your study program must end in a degree, diploma, or certificate.

An M-1 visa is a student visa category for those in vocational or otherwise non-academic programs, outside of language training.

Is It Possible To Work While On Such a Visa?

It is possible to work if you have either an F-1 or M-1 visa, though the requirements for each differ, with F-1 visas offering a wider range of options.

M-1 visa holders can only work by participating in a practical training program and only once they’ve completed their course of study.

F-1 visa holders, on the other hand, have four different circumstances in which they are allowed to work: on-campus employment, off-campus employment, curricular practical training, and optional practical training.

On-campus practical training (OPT) tends to be the most easily accessible of the four employment options. OPT takes place either on campus or at an “educationally affiliated off-campus location.” You are only allowed to work 20 hours a week while studying, and full-time while on holiday or vacation. This is the only kind of employment F-1 visa holders are allowed during their first year of study.

Off-campus employment is allowed once you have finished one academic year, if you are experiencing a qualifying economic hardship or emergent circumstance. The Department of Homeland Security recognizes financial hardships such as loss of financial aid (so long as you didn’t lose it due to misbehavior) or a large and unexpected medical bill. Emergent circumstances refer to world events that can affect groups of F-1 holders, like but not limited to natural disasters and military conflicts. You may also be allowed to suspend certain other requirements of your F-1 visa under the Special Student Relief for emergent circumstances.

Finally, we have curricular practical training and optional practical training, which is also further divided into pre-completion and post-completion optional practical training. These programs are meant as a way for student visa holders to gain real-world experience in their field of study. You are allowed to do both pre-completion and post-completion optional practical training, but you are limited to a maximum work duration of 12 months together for all kinds of optional practical training.