F-1 Visa Category: Employment Option For Students

Student Visa Employment Information For F-1 Visa:

Generally

While, for the most part, students may not engage in employment in the United States, in some instances employment is permissible or can be authorized. Students may engage in periods of pre-graduation practical training or practical training upon completion of their educational programs, as long as the training in their field of study.  During a student’s academic program, he or she may be authorized by the USCIS to work off’-campus because of unforeseen economic necessity.

Students may also engage in some types of on-campus and work/study employment, and may do so without explicit authorization from the USCIS. Likewise, off-campus employment that is a part of a fellowship, scholarship, or assistant-ship grant or postdoctoral research for which the student is paid by the school is appropriate without USCIS authorization. Without an explicit employment authorization document from the USCIS, many employers unfamiliar with the rules on employment authorization may be reluctant to hire these students. Designated school officials provide students with documentation in these cases: notations on the student’s Form I-20 and letters to employers verifying the student’s employment eligibility.

On-campus and work/study (curricular) employment permissible without explicit USCIS authorization:

(A). On-campus employment

Two types of on-campus employment are permissible for students without any type of authorization from the USCIS:

1. On-campus employment that will not displace a U.S. resident

2. On-campus employment pursuant to the terms of a scholarship, fellowship, assistantship, or postdoctoral appointment

  • In either case, the student must he pursuing a full course of study, hut can work full-time during vacation or recess periods, as long as the student will be registered for the coming term. Once the student’s educational program is completed, he or she is not entitled to engage in on-campus employment without authorization and can only work pursuant to a period of authorized practical training.
  • With regard to employment that will not displace a U.S. worker, the judgment on this issue is basically left to the school, although the USCIS would be extremely sensitive to complaints, for example from a labor union, that foreign students were being used in a position that is displacing U.S. workers. The on-campus employment can be for a commercial firm providing on-campus services for students, such as in the school bookstore or cafeteria. On-campus employment cannot exceed 20 hours a week, except during holidays and recesses.
  • With regard to employment pursuant to the terms of a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship, the employment is considered to be a part of the student’s academic program, as is a postdoctoral research appointment. This work is considered to be “on-campus” even if it is performed in a location not on the school’s premises, as long as the location is “educationally affiliated” to the school. Like other types of on-campus employment, however, such employment cannot exceed 20 hours & week while school is in session.
  • On-campus employment may include employment at off-campus locations that are educationally affiliated with the established curriculum and contract-based educational a nations.  The provision enables graduate students to conduct research under the supervision of a professor who has a contract-based research grant which is not payable through the educational institution.

Note two additional points regarding on-campus employment:

  • In  the  case  of  a  transfer,  the  student  may only engage in  on-campus employment  at the  school having jurisdiction  over the  student’s  SEVIS record (the transfer school has jurisdiction over the student’s SEVIS record on the “release date” specified by the current school).
  • Upon initial entry in F-1 status to begin a new course of study, the student may not begin on-campus employment more than 30 days prior to the actual start of classes.

(B). Curricular Practical Training

Some schools have alternate work/study courses as a part of the regular curriculum, either for all students or for students in particular programs of study. A student may engage in off-campus employment that is required by a work/study or cooperative education program in which the student is enrolled, and may do so without obtaining explicit USCIS authorization.

In addition, the Immigration Service has identified two other situations which will be considered curricular practical training:

  • The student is given course credit for the employment, even when the course is an elective in the student’s program, e.g. two credits for summer employment in the student’s major field. The course must be described in the school’s catalog with course objectives clearly defined, and must be a regular part of the curriculum, with a faculty member assigned to oversee the course.
  • The student is not given credit for the employment, but the internship or practicum is a mandatory requirement for graduation. Again, the requirement should be included in the school’s catalog. This provision permits F-1 students to participate in educational programs, such as hotel management, nursing, law, engineering, and teaching, which routinely require their students to undertake noncredit internships.
  • Some schools with long-standing relationships with particular employers have established programs under which the school’s students may be hired for course credit by the employer. Other schools have established course requirements for internships to meet the Service guidelines.
  • Students who receive one year or more of full-time curricular practical training curricular employment is barred for foreign students during their first academic year in student status, even if such early curricular employment is normally required at the student’s school.
  • A student may be authorized 12 months of practical training, and becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she changes to a higher educational level.

As noted, the student does not need USCIS approval to engage in curricular practical training. Instead, a request for authorization for curricular practical training must be made to the designated school official. Finally, the DSO must sign, date, and return the SEVIS Form I-20 to the student prior to the student’s commencement of employment. Keep in mind that Form I-538 is no longer required in these cases under new rules issued in December 2002 because notice to the Immigration Service is accomplished through SEVIS.

Off- campus employment authorized by the USCIS because of unforeseen economic necessity.

For a student to be eligible for employment authorization because of unforeseen economic necessity, the following requirements must be met:

1. The  student must  show that he  or  she  needs to  work  because  of “severe economic  hardship  caused  by  unforeseen  circumstances  beyond  the student’s  control.” The rules highlight the following unforeseen circumstances:

  • 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 or living costs.
  • Unexpected changes in the Financial condition of the student’s source of support.
  • Medical bills or other substantial and unexpected expenses.
  • The  student must  show that suitable  on-campus  employment is  unavailable.

2. The student must have completed one full academic year in F-1 status.

3. The student must be in good academic standing as determined by his or her designated school official and must be carrying a full course of study.

4. The student has demonstrated that acceptance of employment will not interfere with the student’s carrying a full course of study.

5. The student must obtain a recommendation from the designated school official in favor of work authorization.

6. The student must obtain an employment authorization document from the USCIS.

7. The student may work no more than 20 hours per week when school is in session (full-time work is permissible during vacation period).

8. The employment authorization is automatically terminated whenever the student fails to maintain status.

(A). Procedures to obtain work authorization because of unforeseen economic necessity:

The rules set out the following procedural steps for a foreign student to obtain employment authorization based on unexpected financial problems:

  • The student must request a recommendation from the DSO for off-campus employment.
  • The designated school official evaluates the request and makes a recommendation on it; actual employment authorization must be applied for with the USCIS based on the designated school official’s recommendation. The designated school official evaluates the request to determine if
  • The student has been in F-1 status for one full academic year.
  • The student is in good standing and is carrying a full course of study, as defined by the rules.
  • The student has demonstrated that acceptance of employment will not interfere with the student’s carrying a full course of study.
  • The student has demonstrated that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control.
  • The student has demonstrated that on-campus employment is unavailable or otherwise insufficient to meet the unforeseen circumstances.

1.  The designated school official completes the certification in SEVIS. Form I-538 is no longer required in these cases under the SEVIS rule issued in December 2002. The DSO endorses Form I-20 with the recommendation and returns it to the student.

2.  The student applies for employment authorization by mailing the application to the USCIS service center with jurisdiction over his or her place of residence.  Because the application must be mailed to the service center, it must include photos, which will be included on the employment authorization document (EAD) issued to the student. Therefore, the checklist for the EAD application for students seeking authorization based on unforeseen economic necessity includes:

  • Form I-765
  • Form I-20, with the employment page demonstrating the DSO’s comments and certification
  • Supporting documentation, including affidavits regarding the severe economic necessity requiring employment
  • Copy of Form I-94 (front and back)
  • Copy of the front and back of any previously issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • Two (2) photographs full-face, passport-style, the same type used for an adjustment application.
  • Filing of $175 payable by check or money order to the “Department of Homeland Security.”

3.  As an alternative to filing by mail, applicants are now able to electronically complete and submit Form I-765 and the related links fee through links on the USCIS homepage (http://www.uscis.gov).  When completing the application electronically, users should note that an e-filing session wills “timeout” after 15 minutes of inactivity. Therefore, it is recommended that users have relevant information at hand when they complete the application, including the following:

  • Bank account information
  • “A” number (if applicable)
  • Form I-94 number (if applicable)
  • Most recent dates of entry and port of entry into the United States.

4.  The  student may commence employment once the RAD  has been issued; the  student  may  not  commence  employment  until  the USCIS  issues  an EDD to the student.

5.  The EAD may be accepted by the employer for employment eligibility verification on Form I-9.

(B). Procedure to obtain renewal of authorization because of unforeseen economic necessity:

Employment authorization based on unforeseen economic necessity may he granted in one-year intervals up to the expected date of completion of the student’s course of study. To renew the employment authorization, the student must submit the following to the USCIS service center with jurisdiction over his her place of residence:

  • Form I-765
  • Form I-20, with the designated school officials endorsement recommending employment
  • Copy of Form I-94 (front and back)
  • Copy of the front and back of the previously issued Employment Authorization Document (FAD)
  • Two (2) photographs (full-face, passport-style, the same type used for the adjustment application,
  • Filing fee of $175 payable by check or money order to the “Department of Homeland Security”

The student’s I-20 should be endorsed to reflect that the student is maintaining status and is in good academic standing. There is no provision for back-dating a new RAD to the expiration date of a prior EAD. As a result, F-1 students must ensure that they apply for replacement EADs sufficiently in advance of the expiration date contained in any current EAD to avoid a lapse in employment authorization.

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Basic Information About The F Category Visa To USA

F Category Nonimmigrant Visa Process:

1. General Requirements

Foreign nationals may enter the United States as nonimmigrant in order to engage in academic studies in this country, subject to certain restrictions. These students, who can range from elementary school students to doctoral candidates and persons engaged in postdoctoral studies, are classified in the F visa category. Sec 101(a) (15) (F) of the INA, 8 U.S.C.A. Sec  1101(a) (15) (F).

Students in vocational or nonacademic programs at one time were included in the F category, but since 1982 have been admitted only in the M visa category. This category, with much greater limitations than are placed on the F category, is not discussed here. Students in academic programs can also be admitted to the U.S. in the J visa category for exchange visitors, if the school sponsors an exchange visitor program recognized by the U.S. Department of State. Many schools have such programs. The J visa category has a major disadvantage for some students: if the program is funded in whole or in part by the student’s government or the U.S. government, the student may be subject to a requirement that he or she return to his or her home country for two years before being permitted to return permanently to the United States or to return temporarily to work in the H or L nonimmigrant categories.

As long as F-1 students are bonafide nonimmigrants, they can pursue their academic goals in the U.S. without regard to the availability of similar training in their own country, and can remain here for many years in order to complete a full academic program. They may even engage in a specific period of practical training after completion of their studies as long as the training would not be available in their own country.

2. Duration of Stay

Unlike most other nonimmigrant who are given a definite period of stay in the United States, foreign students are permitted to remain in the U.S. for the “duration of status.” Duration of status means that a student remains in valid status during enrollment in any number of academic programs (e.g., high school followed by college followed by master’s degree), plus any periods of authorized practical training, and a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S.

Several years ago, the Immigration Service adopted rules that eliminated completely the extension of stay application for foreign students. Under the rules, the student remains in valid status as long as he or she has not exceeded the estimated program completion date inserted by the designated school official on the student’s Form I-20; that date, in turn, can be an estimate based on the time an average foreign student would need to complete a similar program in the same discipline, and can include a grace period of up to one year. If a student completes the program by the estimated completion date, he or she can advance to the next academic level without requesting an extension from the USCIS, and remain in statement of student status.

Reinstatement requires that the student show that the violation of status was due to circumstances beyond the student’s control or that the student would suffer “extreme hardship” if he or she is not reinstated.

 3. Application Process

The foreign national seeking to enter the United States to study does not need any advance permission from the Immigration Service. The student must obtain a certificate of eligibility (Form I-20) from the academic institution at which he or she will enroll, and submit this certificate, together with a nonimmigrant visa application and supporting documentation, to a U.S. consulate in the alien’s home country. Once the visa is issued, the student can apply at the border for admission to the U.S., the same as any nonimmigrant. A prospective student already in the U.S. in a different nonimmigrant status may apply to the USCIS to change to student status to undertake studies here. Such changes are often viewed skeptically by immigration officers, however, based on their suspicion that the alien intended to engage in studies when he or she entered the U.S. in the different category.

4. Special Conditions

Foreign students must be enrolled in a full course of study, not part-time studies (although a limited exception exists for certain border commuter students). They must also demonstrate prior to the granting of a visa that they have sufficient means of support to cover them through their full academic program. Authorization to work because of financial need is granted to students in only the most limited circumstances. Other limited employment opportunities are also available to students. Although the spouses and family members of students may enter the U.S. with the principal student in the F-2 visa category, under no circumstances may they be granted permission to work. Unlike some students who enter in an exchange-visitor program sponsored by their school (J-1 status), F-1 students are not subject to any special requirement to return to their home countries for two years prior to accepting employment here as a nonimmigrant or prior to immigrating.

IIRIRA imposes special restrictions on the granting of F-1 status to attend public schools. Note the following:

  • An alien cannot be granted F-1 status in order to pursue a course of study at a public elementary school or in a publicly funded adult education program.
  • An alien cannot be granted F-1 status to attend a public secondary school unless the alien reimburses the school for the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of his or her education, and the alien intends to remains at the school in such status for no more than a year.
  • An alien who obtains an F-1 visa to attend a private elementary school, or a language training program that is not publicly funded, may not transfer into a publicly funded elementary school, a publicly funded adult education program, or a publicly funded adult education language training program.
  • An alien who obtains an F-1 visa to attend a private secondary school may not transfer into a publicly funded secondary school unless the alien intends to remain at the school in such status for no more than a year, and the alien reimburses the school for the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of his or her education.

A student who obtained F-1 status to attend a private school and transfers into a public school or a publicly funded adult education program as prohibited by the new law is considered to be in violation of status and is therefore subject to removal. In addition, such an alien is inadmissible until he or she has remained outside of the United States for a continuous period of live years. These changes went into effect on November 30, 1996.

5. Family Members of the F-1 Student

Family members of the foreign students may enter the U.S. in the F-2 visa category. Eligible family members include the spouse and minor children of the F-1 student. A minor is a person under 21 years of age. Keep in mind that each family member must present a Certificate of Eligibility issued in his or her own name under new rules issued in December 2002. A new form is required for a dependent when there has been any substantive change in the F-1 student’s current information.

Although the spouses and family members of students may enter the U.S. with the principal student in the F-2 visa category, under no circumstances may they be granted permission to work. The F-2 spouse may not engage in full-time study, and the F-2 child may only engage in full time study if the student is in an elementary or secondary school.
The spouse may engage in study that is a vocational or recreational in nature. A failure to abide by these restrictions may result in a finding of a violation of status and may lead to the dependent’s removal.

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