F-1/ Student Visa
Persons wanting to come to the US for attendance at a school full time may be eligible for an F visa. You must show that it is temporary in nature, that the sole purpose is to pursue a course of study at a college, university, seminary, high school, elementary school or in a language training program, and that you intend to return to your foreign country at the conclusion of your studies. You may also be able to change status when your studies are finished without leaving this country. A foreign student in full-time studies at a college or university is usually in F-1 status. While in F-1 status, students may be eligible for work authorization. The most common work authorization is on-campus, where a student in F-1 status is permitted to be employed so long as the student does not work more than twenty hours each week while school is in session, or full-time during vacations and recess. The employment must actually be completed on the premises or at an affiliated off-site location. Typically, this work would include the cafeteria, library or perhaps working for a department within the school.
A second category is often referred to as Curricular Practical Training (CPT) which are work-study programs that are required as part of a student's degree. A student must first have at least nine months of full-time enrollment at the school before being eligible for CPT (although students enrolled in graduate studies may be able to begin immediately). The maximum amount of CPT is twelve months. Care must be taken in the total amount of time spent in CPT, as it may affect post-completion practical training (work authorization).
At times, a student may be able to establish severe economic hardship, and if so, the student would be allowed to work off campus twenty hours per week while school is in session, and full-time when school is not in session. Employment is based strictly upon economic necessity and is not deducted from the time in post-completion practical training, but the student must have completed, in good academic standing, at least one full academic year in F-1 status.
Finally, there is post-completion practical training, often referred to as Optional Practical Training (OPT). This is most often used by a foreign student upon completion of either undergraduate or graduate studies. The OPT must be completed within a fourteen month period following completion of studies. The OPT is actually work authorization granted to the student and is an excellent way for a student to find an employer, and similarly, it is an excellent benefit to any given employer in that the employer may be able to observe the student in an employment situation before making any commitments toward other employment categories, such as an H-1B. Please note that if a student has received one year or more of full-time curricular practical training (see above) the student is ineligible for OPT. However, if the student has received slightly less than one year of curricular practical training, the student would be eligible for a full one year of OPT.
All employment by a foreign student must receive the cooperation of the college or university. This is normally done through an International Office at the school, and is performed by a Designated School Official (DSO).