Education & Opportunity: Maximize Your US Experience with a Student Visa

Education & Opportunity: Maximize Your US Experience with a Student Visa


To enhance your prospects of securing employment in the U.S. post-graduation as an international student, it’s crucial to seize every opportunity to gain work experience prior to completing your studies. U.S.


employers tend to value students who actively participate in extracurricular activities and hold jobs alongside their academic pursuits.

Accumulating work experience in the U.S. not only enhances your competitiveness when seeking H-1B visa employment after graduation but also enriches your overall experience as an international student.


Fortunately, there are numerous avenues for international students on F-1 visas to secure employment while pursuing their degrees. Below are four common methods for international students to gain employment experience in the U.S.:

1. On-campus employment

Consider the option of securing a part-time position at your university library or bookstore. Additionally, becoming a Resident Assistant in your dormitory in exchange for room and board is another viable opportunity after completing your initial years of schooling.

If you believe that jobs unrelated to your future career aspirations hold little value, think again. Such roles still impress U.S.

employers as they showcase essential skills like leadership, communication, and problem-solving. Even dedicating a few hours weekly to a university job demonstrates your commitment as a highly engaged student.

To expand your work experience further, rethink your approach to school breaks. Instead of returning home, remain in the U.S. to capitalize on additional work opportunities. Explore summer job prospects through your career center and seek positions that facilitate extensive interaction with Americans.

2. Off-campus employment

Remember, working off campus without authorization from your university is not permitted. However, your university may grant authorization for off-campus work in cases of economic hardship.

For instance, if there’s a significant devaluation of your home country’s currency against the U.S. dollar, rendering it difficult to pay tuition, you might qualify for off-campus work under this hardship provision. Similarly, if your financial sponsor, such as your father, loses their job unexpectedly, this could also meet the criteria for economic hardship.

Essentially, any unforeseen circumstance affecting your ability to finance your education could qualify. If you believe you’re facing such circumstances, it’s essential to explore your options with your university.

3. Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

If economic hardship doesn’t qualify you for off-campus work, Curricular Practical Training (CPT) might be an alternative, if available for your situation.

CPT is particularly appealing for international students seeking off-campus employment as it offers hands-on experience in their field, akin to an internship or practicum with a partnering employer.

While some college majors offer CPT, others do not. It’s acceptable if your chosen degree program doesn’t include CPT, but be aware that this might limit your options for off-campus work experience. Ensure you gather information and ask pertinent questions.

Recently, the significance of CPT has surged because it’s entirely managed by universities, without government involvement. Opting for CPT for summer internships, for instance, can eliminate uncertainties associated with processing delays typically encountered with programs like Optional Practical Training (OPT).


If your major doesn’t offer CPT, consider discussing the possibility of incorporating it into your program with relevant individuals at your school.

Keep in mind that if CPT is accessible to you, it’s advisable to restrict your CPT work to fewer than 20 hours per week if you intend to compete for an H-1B visa post-graduation. Engaging in full-time CPT for 12 months or more renders you ineligible for OPT, significantly reducing your chances of securing permanent employment in the U.S.

However, accruing part-time CPT hours doesn’t affect your eligibility for OPT, which is highly valued by U.S. employers as a seamless way to hire international students initially.

4. Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a renowned program among international students, allowing temporary employment relevant to their field of study. For instance, working at a bank would qualify if you’re pursuing finance.

Currently, certain STEM majors are eligible for up to 36 months of OPT, while non-STEM majors typically receive 12 months. Unlike CPT, which is managed solely by universities, OPT involves the U.S. government, presenting challenges for the program.

There are two types of OPT:

Option 1: Pre-completion OPT

Typically available after completing one full academic year in a U.S. college or university, pre-completion OPT permits up to 20 hours of work per week during the academic term and full-time work during breaks. Some international students secure summer internships relying on pre-completion OPT to work in the U.S.

While OPT application processing times are supposed to be within 90 days, this year saw delays of up to five months for some applicants. Consequently, many international students nationwide missed their scheduled summer internship start dates, and some couldn’t begin their internships at all.

Option 2: Post-completion OPT

Those authorized for post-completion OPT can work part-time or full-time after graduation, with paid or unpaid employment. It’s essential to secure work related to your field of study; for instance, if you’re studying accounting, a job at an advertising firm designing logos wouldn’t qualify for OPT employment.

A final note

Even if you’re not yet ready to explore job opportunities or haven’t settled on a major, it’s crucial to meet with the appropriate contacts at your school promptly to discover available work programs for F-1 students.

Familiarize yourself with the regulations governing employment in the U.S. and don’t hesitate to pursue job opportunities. Always ensure to consult your university before accepting any form of employment, including volunteer or unpaid roles.

If you come across a job opening at your university that piques your interest or learn about an appealing off-campus internship related to your field of study, verify your eligibility before applying.

Kickstart the process by scheduling two appointments. Firstly, meet with your designated school official (DSO), typically found at your International Student Services office. Secondly, arrange a meeting with a staff member from career services.

Clearly express your intention to maximize all available programs for on-campus and off-campus work during your degree.

If you’re currently excelling in a summer internship, aim to demonstrate your value so that your employer considers retaining you for the fall. If your employer doesn’t broach the topic, take the initiative to propose continuing your work into the fall term.

Present a comprehensive plan outlining your contributions, and initiate the conversation with your manager. Remember: accumulating significant work experience during your studies enhances your prospects for securing an H-1B job in the U.S. after graduation.


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