8.1. Working before graduation

There are many possibilities to get an immigration visa, but in general apply for the student’s visa F-1 or J-1, which allow you to work.

The F-1 visa allows aliens to come to the US as full-time academic or language students if they are enrolled in a program which leads to a degree or to a certificate. They may work in a part-time job on campus. They can also work off campus if they can show that it is economically necessary or if the job provides practical training in the student’s chosen field.

J-1 visa is for coming to the US to participate in an approved exchange visitor program. Visitor programs can be sponsored by businesses, schools, and various organizations and institutions. Persons eligible include scholars, students, professors, research assistants, job trainees, au pairs, international visitors on cultural missions, and others. The J-1 visa is exempt from FICA withholdings.

The requirements are:

– On-campus: without obtaining permission for 20 hours per week during academic year and 40 hours per week during summer and winter breaks (F-1), with permission from sponsor (J-1).

– Off-campus: with additional permission (work permit from INS for F-1, written permission from sponsor for J-1).

– Summer internship (as optional practical training or academic training): with additional permission (work permit from INS for F-1, written permission from sponsor for J-1)

– Summer internship (as curricular practical training) with additional permission (F-1). You will work and at the same time earn credit. Here is how it works:
1. Find a job. Get from the employer a letter with the duties of the job, beginning and ending date of your employment, and supervisor’s name, title, address and phone number.
2. Find a professor in an area related to the job willing to certify that the employment you are to undertake is to fulfill a curricular requirement. Get a letter from him that includes the course name, title, a brief course description, and certify that you have registered for the course.
3. Fill form I-538 and submit it with your I-20 to the International Center at least a couple of weeks before leaving for work.

Please note the following:

– Most business schools discourage students from working during the academic period (as they consider the MBA program itself will keep you busy enough, and working would hinder your performance. Most business schools, on the other side, encourage working during the summer (but do not require it).

– Under all circumstances, your employment should not interfere with the academic program.

– Spouses and significant others can work with permission (from the INS) under the J-1 visa, but not with the F-1.

– Consider doing your internship under curricular practical training as a way to earn credit while not having that time deducted from the 12 months practical training.

– Stay in contact with the University’s International Center (and with your sponsor, if you have a J-1). They can provide counseling and advice.