Employment Options

F-1 students are not allowed to work in the United States without prior work authorization. There are numerous employment eligibility students may obtain under limited circumstances and it is the student’s responsibility to comply with all U.S. immigration regulations that apply to F-1 students. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to consult with us. 

A. Enrolled as Full-time Student: On-campus Employment

F-1 students are permitted to work on-campus (work done and paid by Cornell University) while you are enrolled full-time in your program of study. This is the only type of employment that does not require work authorization nor realated to your field of study.

You are allowed to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week when classes are in session, and may work up to 40 hours per week when school is not in session or during holidays. It is considered to be on-campus employment only if the paycheck is issued by Cornell University. An F-1 student is not allowed to work on-campus after the program end date on their I-20 without work authorization.

B. Enrolled as Full-time Student: Off-campus Employment

F-1 students are eligible to seek off-campus employment under limited conditions. Most importantly, students should not begin employment (paid and unpaid) without obtaining work authorization. There are two types of F-1 practical training available while enrolled as a full-time student:

Working off-campus without authorization (paid or unpaid ) is a violation to your status, which will result in your immigration status being terminated.

C. End of Degree Program: All Employment

Post-Completion OPT is available to students who want to obtain authorization to work in the United States at the end of the degree program. One can apply for this 90 days, at the earliest, before the end of the I-20.  More information can be found on:

Employment vs. Volunteering

It is important that students should not assume that an upaid job is same as volunteering. Work that is unpaid may still be considered employment for F-1 status and any unauthorized work would be considered a violation of your F-1 status.

According to the Department of Labor, a volunteer is: an “individual who performs hours of service… for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered.” If you are uncertain whether an opporturnity will be considered as "employment" or "volunteer", please reach out to the DSO before accepting an offer.

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    Clive Liew

    Student Services Administrator


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