Employment Rules

F-1 and J-1 students are subject to limitations on their ability to work in the U.S.

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 the student 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 F-1 and 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.

On-Campus Work

On-campus work is defined as on-premises with the source of payment originating from the University of Iowa.  On-campus employment may also include employment at an off-campus location which is “educationally affiliated” with the UI—students in this latter situation should consult with ISSS to ensure the work is appropriate.    

F-1 students may work on campus as long as they are active in their program.  Departments should review the program start/end dates and the student’s status on the first page of the I-20 and the status indicated on the I-94 card to determine eligibility. 

J-1 students may also work on campus as long as they are active in their program.  Departments should review the program start/end dates and the student’s status on the first page of the DS-2019 and the status indicated on the I-94 card to determine eligibility.  Additionally, all J-1 students should have a letter of permission from ISSS or their program sponsor.  These letters must be renewed annually.

Please note that as soon as an F-1 or J-1 student completes his/her program and graduates, the student is no longer eligible to work on-campus, even if the end date on their document is a future date.

Off-Campus Work

Off-campus work is defined as any non-UI employment

F-1 and J-1 students may apply for work authorization and work off campus in very limited situations.  They may never start to work off-campus without work authorization. 

One such situation is “training” or work authorization for work related to the student’s major field of study.  Because such work must be related to the student’s major field of study, ISSS does frequently request that academic advisor assist by evaluating the connection between the work opportunity and the student’s studies. 

F-1 Students

There are three types of work authorization. 

  1. The first is Curricular Practical Training (CPT) which is administered by ISSS.  Students must meet several requirements to be eligible for CPT, and the position must be related to the student's major field of study. 
  2. The second type of practical training authorization is Optional Practical Training (OPT).  This work authorization is primarily available for students who are completing their studies and wish to work in the U.S. after graduation in their major field of study.  It is facilitated by ISSS and processed by USCIS.
  3. A final type of off-campus work authorization available to F-1 students is Severe Economic Hardship.  Applications are processed by USCIS. 

J-1 students

  1. There is only one type of training authorization, Academic Training.  Depending on a student’s eligibility, it may be applied for and receiving during and/or immediately after a student’s studies.  Academic Training requests are administered by ISSS.

For information on other U.S. immigrations classifications and their ability to work and/or study in the U.S, please view a general guide on immigration status, study, and employment.