To engage in any type of employment as a J-1 student, you must first obtain written authorization from the Responsible Officer (RO) or an Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) who represents your J-1 sponsor. Your J-1 sponsor is the organization that issues your Form DS-2019. If The University of Iowa is your sponsor, then ISSS advisors are your RO/AROs. If your J-1 sponsor is another institution or agency, ISSS advisors have no authority to grant you work.
Definition of “Employment”
Employment is any work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, books, supplies, room and board, or any other benefit or compensation. Only if you will receive absolutely no benefit or compensation of any kind at any time is an activity considered by the USCIS to be “unpaid volunteering.” Based on input from immigration attorneys, ISSS also cautions J-1 students about “volunteering” in a position which would normally be paid; “volunteering” should be restricted to true volunteer activities, for example with social service organizations, religious organizations, non-profit groups, etc. Unauthorized employment is a serious violation of student status. Consult our webpage on Volunteer Activities to see if your situation could be violating any US laws. Please contact ISSS if you ever have any questions or any doubt about whether you are authorized to accept an offer of employment.
You may work up to 20 hours per week during the academic year and full time during the Thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break, and summer as long as your DS-2019 is valid, you have written authorization from ISSS, you are in good academic standing, and you are enrolled full time. (Exception: Enrollment is not required during winter break or summer session, but you must not have graduated and intend to enroll for the following semester). “Student employment” includes:
- Employment required by a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship
- On-campus jobs unrelated to study
- Off-campus jobs if “necessary because of serious, urgent, and unforeseen economic circumstances” that arose after you arrived in the United States. These are typically of short duration and exist because of factors beyond your control. For further information, talk to an ISSS adviser.
- Academic Training is employment in the field of your academic program in the United States. The maximum length of time allowed for both pre- and post-completion Academic Training authorization is either 18 months or the number of months you are a full-time student, whichever is shorter (unless the employment is required in order for you to graduate or you are receiving a Ph.D., in which case you are eligible for 36 months of Academic Training). You are eligible for Academic Training authorization: (1) Before completion of your program of study--You may work part-time while classes are in session and full-time during vacation periods. Under certain circumstances, you may work full-time while still engaged in studies (e.g., while you are writing your thesis or dissertation) and (2) After completion of your program of study--You may work if you can present your J-1 Responsible Officer with documentation of an offer of appropriate employment and a letter of support from your academic adviser before completing your program.