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 U.S. laws. Please contact ISSS if you ever have any questions or any doubt about whether you are authorized to accept an offer of employment.

On-Campus Employment

On-campus employment includes on-campus jobs unrelated to study as well as employment required by scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship.

You may work on campus 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 in the form of a letter, valid for 12 months
  • you are in good academic standing
  • you are enrolled full time (enrollment is not required during winter break or summer session, but you must not have graduated and intend to enroll for the following semester)

Procedure to Obtain On-Campus Work Authorization Letter

To request on-campus employment authorization, please login to your iHawk account (click the blue login button) using your HawkID and password. Go to "J-1 Student Services" and complete the e-form "On-Campus Work Authorization."  You will be notified when your authorization letter has been issued within a week if there are no questions.

Please note that your written authorization from ISSS must be renewed on an annual basis.  If it has expired, you may not work on campus anymore.

Off-Campus Employment (academic training)

  • 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.