A Brief Summary of Employment Options
This is a general overview for foreign nationals currently in F-1, J-1 and J-2 visa status. It will provide you with an introduction to how employment is defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the various categories of employment authorization which may be available to you. This does not explain the various steps required in each application.
You should note that some applications may take several months to be approved. For detailed information about application procedures and eligibility requirements, please contact International Affairs (OIA).
Definition of Employment
Immigration regulations defines employment as any type of work performed or services
provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room,
food, or any other benefit.
Some notes of caution:
- Do not assume that you are automatically eligible to work in the U.S. Unauthorized employment is the most serious violation of your status.
- Please consult with your adviser in the OIA before accepting any off-campus employment. The OIA can help you with matters pertaining to applications for employment authorization.
- Be careful: volunteering in a position that would normally be paid is also considered employment. This could lead to finding you worked without authorization and, therefore, violated your status.
- Persons in J-1 status MUST always obtain written work authorization from their Responsible Officer before engaging in any employment, including on-campus work for students. Contact OIA for assistance.
Employment Eligibility Verification
Within the first three days of beginning work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9), which will be kept by the employer. You may need your passport and visa status documents proving that you are authorized to be employed in the U.S. to complete the I-9 form. The I-9 must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission or if you change employers.
On-Campus Employment Options
Work on the UT Health Science Center campus is permissible as soon as you are a full-time enrolled F-1 or J-1 student at UTHSC. Acceptable employment includes: work required by a scholarship, assistantship or fellowship, work in the library, computer center, administrative offices, and work performed on UTHSCs premises for an outside contractor or firm as long as that employer provides direct services to students (example: work for a food service company at UTHSC). Employment is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, but may be full-time during vacation periods. J-1 students must have written authorization from the Responsible Officer.
Off-Campus Employment Which Qualifies as On-Campus Employment
The definition of on-campus employment includes jobs with employers that are educationally affiliated with UT Health Science Center, provided that the job is associated with UTHSCs curriculum or related to contractually-funded research projects and provided that the job is an integral part of your academic program (example: research work at one of UTHSCs affiliated hospitals may be acceptable for graduate students in the sciences). Employment is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, but may be full time during vacation periods.
Please consult the International Student Adviser in the OIA if you are not sure the employment will qualify as on-campus.
F-1 Off-Campus Employment Options
Curricular Practical Training:
Under most circumstances, to be eligible for this category, you must have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student for one academic year and be in F-1 status at the time of application. A job offer is required to be eligible to apply for Curricular Practical Training. While there is no limit to the length of time you may be employed in Curricular Practical Training, any student who works for twelve months or more in full-time training automatically loses the right to any Optional Practical Training after completion of studies. (For more information on this F-1 employment authorization category, see the Curricular Practical Training handout available from the OIA.)
Curricular Practical Training is defined as:
- training that is required for all students in the degree program as part of the established curriculum (e.g. required internships as published in the school catalog), OR
- training programs taken for academic credit which are an integral part of the established curriculum, but are not required (e.g. field study courses as published in the school catalog or practicum classes).
Internship with an International Organization:
To be eligible for this category you must be in F-1 student status. If you are maintaining lawful F-1 status and are offered employment in the form of an internship by a "recognized" international organization, you may obtain permission to engage in this work during summer vacation periods prior to graduation. You must first obtain a written certification from the international organization about the proposed employment, and then apply to USCIS. Some examples of "recognized" international organizations include the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.
Optional Practical Training:
To be eligible for this category you must have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student for one academic year and be in F-1 status at the time of application. A job offer is not required to be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training. You are eligible for a total of twelve months of full-time Optional Practical Training for each higher degree level as an F-1 student, and you may also have the option to extend your OPT by 17 months if your major is one of the STEM fields and your employer is certified for E-Verify.
You may (1) apply for periods of practical training before completion of studies, (2) save the total twelve-month period to be used after completion of studies, or (3) use a combination of both. Such employment may be full time or part time, and it may take place at any location in the U.S., but it must be directly related to your major field of study. Its purpose is to round out or complement your studies. You may apply for Optional Practical Training up to 60 days after completion of studies, although this will shorten your OPT time.
Any periods of Optional Practical Training used before completion of studies will be deducted from the total twelve-month period available. For example, if you worked full-time for two months during a summer vacation, you would only have ten months of practical training available after graduation. (For more information, see the Optional Practical Training handout available from the OIA.)
Employment Due to Severe Economic Hardship:
To be eligible for this category you must have been in F-1 student status for one academic year. A job offer is not required to be eligible to apply for this category of work authorization. If other F-1 employment authorization opportunities listed here are not available or are otherwise insufficient, you may apply to USCIS for off-campus employment authorization based on "severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the students control." You must have experienced a significant change in funding available to you in order to apply. You may only work 20 hours per week while school is in session; full time during breaks and your annual vacation.
J-1 Off-Campus Employment Options
Academic Training is available to J-1 students for a total of 18 months or the length of time that you have been a student, whichever is less. For students who receive a doctorate, the total maximum Academic Training is 36 months. You may use Academic Training before and after completion of your studies. If the employment is a degree requirement (such as an internship), the time used will not count against your total for Academic Training.
Before completion of studies:
- Any Academic Training used before completion of studies is deducted from your total amount of time. You must have a job offer within your field of study to qualify for Academic Training and should consult your Responsible Officer (RO) in OIA to discuss whether the employment is appropriate. If the RO approves the employment, you will get written authorization to work for that specific employer.
After completion of studies:
- To use Academic Training after completion of studies, you must obtain a job offer in your field of study and then get employment authorization from your RO no later than 30 days after completion of studies. You may then work only for that specific employer. If you want to change employers, you must contact your RO with a new job offer to obtain a new employment authorization prior to starting work.
Remember: You must always have valid work authorization from your RO before you begin employment.
Employment Due to Severe Economic Need:
To be eligible for this category of employment, you must be a full-time J-1 student in good standing. You must show proof in writing to your Responsible Officer (RO) in OIA of serious and urgent financial need which was unforeseen when you enrolled in school. If your RO agrees that you may work, you must obtain a job offer. The RO will then authorize employment with that specific employer in writing, and you may begin working. You may only work 20 hours per week while school is in session; full time during breaks and your annual vacation.
Persons in the Research Scholar or Short-Term Scholar categories may work at the location of their sponsor or designated school/institution indicated on their DS-2019 form in activities that are part of the research program.
Research Scholars and Short-term Scholars may also engage in occasional lectures, seminars or consultations with other institutions provided the RO has approved such off-campus employment in advance.
Always discuss such off-campus employment with your RO first.
J-1 Alien Physicians
J-1 Physicians (clinical fellows or medical residents) may only work at the location(s) approved by ECFMG on form DS-2019. For more information, check with the Office of Graduate Medical Education at UT Health Science Center.
No moonlighting or additional employment is allowed.
J-2 dependents may work in the U.S. once they have obtained an Employment Authorization Document from OIA. To apply for this work authorization, please email email@example.com for the application process.
Office of International Affairs
Johnson Building, Suite 205K
847 Monroe Avenue
Memphis, TN 38163
Hours of operation:
8 a.m. to 5 p.m., M-F