US Immigration regulation states that nonimmigrants, like people who have F-1 visas, are permitted to engage in employment only in situations which are authorized for their visa type. The F-1 visa is work-restrictive. In order to maintain valid F-1 status, a student must not work in the United States, unless the employment is specifically authorized under the regulations.
Five categories of employment are available to F-1 students, three of which are described below:
- On-campus employment: Please read our On-Campus Employment page to learn when and how often F-1 student visa holders can work on-campus. To find an on-campus job, please visit the GW Career Center's Handshake page.
- Practical Training
- Curricular practical training (CPT) is permission to engage in off-campus employment or internship related to your degree program. It is an integral part of a degree program for which work authorization is provided to allow students to gain practical experience in their field of work while they are still taking classes in their degree program.
- Optional practical training (OPT) is temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study. Most GW students engage in one form of OPT called post-degree completion OPT, which starts after a student completes degree requirements. For information on when and how often an F-1 student visa holder can engage in OPT, check out the OPT instructions.
For information on any of the following topics, please see an ISO Advisor. These are types of employment which are rarely granted, are specific to the student’s situation and involve complex immigration matters.
- Employment with a qualifying International Organization.
- Employment authorized due to severe economic hardship.
- Employment authorized by the Special Student Relief Program.
Social Security Administration and Social Security Numbers
A Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued to people who are employed in the US. The number is issued by the Social Security Administration. The ISO does not issue Social Security Numbers. Its primary purpose is to track individuals for Social Security purposes, and a Social Security Number does not grant work authorization. Students on F-1 visas are eligible for a Social Security Number if they have been offered employment.
The ISO has developed a handout to help students understand how to apply for a Social Security Number.