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Visa Options for Students

F-1 for academic students

Students who wish to pursue academic studies in the United States may be eligible for an F-1 student visa if they:

  • Have a permanent foreign residence which they have no intention of abandoning
  • Have been accepted into a full-time academic or language training program at a DHS-approved educational institution in the U.S.
  • Obtained a SEVIS I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) form and paid the SEVIS fee;
  • Are proficient in English or are enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency; and
  • Can prove ability to financially support themselves during the entire course of study. To search for a DHS-approved school, please visit

F-2 visas for the spouse/minor children of an F-1 student
The spouse and minor children of the F-1 student may join the student in the U.S. by obtaining F-2 visas. The spouse of the F-1 student may not accept employment or attend school, unless the studies are recreational in nature. Children in F-2 status are eligible to attend public or private schools in the U.S. from elementary through 12th grade.

Working while in F-1 status

On-campus employment
Once a person is initially admitted to the U.S. in F-1 status, he may work on campus with the school's permission. During the school year, the work is limited to 20 hours per week but can be full-time when school is not in session (e.g. spring break, Christmas vacation, etc.)

Off-campus employment
A student in good standing, who has been enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year, may ask permission from the DSO to work off-campus under certain conditions.

  • Severe economic hardship: An F-1 student who qualifies based on economic hardship can work up to 20 hours per week when school is in session and 20 or more hours per week when school is not in session. An application for this type of employment authorization should be discussed with the DSO and must be filed with the USCIS.
  • Internship with an international organization: The F-1 student must obtain an internship offer with an approved international organization. After discussing the internship opportunity with his or her DSO, the student must apply to the USCIS for employment authorization.
  • Special student relief: An F-1 student from a DHS-designated country that is currently experiencing an emergency may be eligible for off-campus work authorization and course load reduction.

Off-campus employment
A student in F-1 status who has been enrolled as a full-time student for one academic year may apply for practical training if it's directly related to the student's course of study, and its purpose is for practical training, and the training is not for English language proficiency.

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is typically in the form of work/study, internships, cooperative education, etc. A job offer and DSO authorization are necessary to pursue CPT. CPT may be available to graduate students as early as their first academic term, depending on the school's curriculum and requirements. Applications for CPT are submitted to and approved by the DSO.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available to F-1 students during their studies ("pre-completion OPT") or after completing their degree program ("post-completion OPT"). A total of 12 months of full-time OPT is available to F-1 students for each progressive degree level. Applications for OPT must be discussed with the DSO and filed with the USCIS. An EAD will be issued by the USCIS for the requested period of work authorization. Students who have completed a degree in certain science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields may be eligible an additional 24 months of OPT.