Center for International Programs

International Student Services


Overview for F-1 and J-1 Students

The United States has very strict rules regarding the ability of foreign nationals to work in the United States. Working without the appropriate authorization is considered illegal employment according to federal immigration law and is a potentially deportable offense. SEVIS regulations require that all unauthorized employment be reported, so it is essential for international students to understand how employment rules pertain to them.

International students in valid F-1 or J-1 status may work on-campus at the school which they are authorized to attend for up to 20 hours per week during the academic year.  They can work more than 20 hours each week (full-time) during vacation periods and holiday breaks.

Students in valid F-1 or J-1 status may obtain off-campus work permission in certain circumstances.  You can only be employed off-campus by meeting eligibility requirements and obtaining written authorization first. ALWAYS speak with an advisor at CIP before starting off-campus employment.  Planning is essential as some options, such as Economic Need Employment or Optional Practical Training, require applications to the USCIS that may take up to 3 months to process.

Defining Employment

According to U.S. federal regulations, "the term employee means an individual who provides services or labor for an employer for wages or other remuneration" (8 CFR 274a.1(f)).

Remuneration, or compensation, means something given to a person because of a service provided. It can be a paycheck, a bonus payment, a stipend, or it can be meal vouchers, housing, or payment of travel costs. Any of these would be considered to be compensation under immigration regulations. Simply put, if you receive anything for providing a service you are being compensated.

Volunteering is defined as engaging in an activity that anyone (US citizen or citizen of another country) would engage in without expectation of compensation, monetary or otherwise, for the service provided. A job or position that is normally a paid one cannot be volunteer just because you agree not to receive compensation; this might violate other federal labor laws.

Types of Employment

There are different kinds of employment options available to F-1 and J-1 students in lawful status. Questions about employment eligibility should be directed to staff in CIP only.

On-Campus Work
F-1 On-Campus Employment for students who wish to pursue on-campus employment while studying at SJU

J-1 On-Campus Employment for students who wish to pursue on-campus employment while studying at SJU

Off-Campus Options
F-1 Curricular Practical Training for students with fieldwork requirements or internship electives built into the curriculum of their programs

F-1 Optional Practical Training for students interested in pursuing employment experience in their field of study before or following completion of studies

F-1 Economic Need Employment for students who have suffered unexpected and unforeseen economic hardship due to circumstances beyond their control

J-1 Academic Training for students who wish to pursue employment integral to the objectives of their academic program.


By working in the United States you will be required to pay taxes. To pay taxes, and therefore to work, you you will need to obtain a Social Security Number. Earnings are taxed at three different levels by local, state, and federal governments.

Saint Joseph's University is officially located in the city of Philadelphia, so all students working on-campus will pay Philadelphia's city-wage tax. In general, students who have been in the United States for less than six calendar years are exempt from Social Security taxes (also known as FICA). Even if you are charged these taxes initially, when you file a tax return for the year you should receive a refund on these and any other taxes that did not apply or for which your government has a tax treaty with the U.S.