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Employment Options for F-1 and J-1 students

Most international students that hold an F1 or J1 visa are allowed to work in the United States, but only under certain conditions and in accordance with complex guidelines and restrictions issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Generally, all employment is contingent on remaining within the terms and restrictions of your F1 visa. There are several categories of employment during the term of your stay as an F1 student in the United States. On-campus employment is the most freely available, and then there are four categories of off-campus employment.


Types of Employment

Severe Economic Hardship 

Students who are experiencing severe economic hardship due to unforeseen changes in their financial circumstances after they arrived to the United States may be eligible to apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to work off-campus.

Examples of unforeseen circumstances:

  • Loss of financial support or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student
  • Substantial changes in the exchange rate or value of currency
  • Inordinate increases in tuition or living costs
  • Unexpected changes in the financial state of the student’s sponsor
  • Medical bills
  • Other substantial and unexpected expenses

Economic hardship employment is designed to allow the student to work off-campus for 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time during vacation periods. Employment does not need to be related to the student’s course of study and no offer of employment is needed to grant this type of employment. Employment is granted for periods of 1 year at a time and authorization ends if the student graduates, transfers to another institution, or fails to maintain status.


  • Must have been in F-1 status for one academic year (fall and spring semester)
  • Must be in good academic standing
  • Must be enrolled full-time
  • Must demonstrate that the employment will not interfere with student’s ability to maintain full-time enrollment
  • Must document that employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control
  • Must document that on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient to meet the student’s financial needs

To apply for Economic Hardship employment please contact the GEO office.

Social Security & Tax Information

  • Steps for obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN) for Employment:

  • Items you will need to take to your Social Security Appointment

  • Social Security Administration Office and Directions

  • Other Helpful Social Security Resources


We’re here to answer your questions.

Reed Hall 122, Global Engagement Office 

10501 FGCU Boulevard South
Fort Myers, Florida 33965