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Work Options for Foreign Students


As an international student, you may be able to work in the U.S. in conjunction with your studies. Work authorization for international students is known as Optional Practical Training (“OPT”). OPT is intended to enhance a student’s academic experience with practical, on-the-job training. You may be eligible for OPT if:

  1. you are maintaining F-1 status and
  2. have been a full time student for a least one academic year (two full semesters).

OPT can be utilized during the semester for up to 20 hours per week; during summer and winter recesses; after completion of course requirements for a degree; full-time while working on a thesis or dissertation; or full-time after graduation. OPT is normally issued for 12 months total and must be completed within 14 months following graduation.


The TN classification is a popular option for many international students. The TN classification is generally open to individuals who hold four year degrees in professional occupations designated under the North American Free Trade Agreement. These professional occupations include, but are not limited to: accountants, architects, computer systems analysts, economists, engineers, librarians, management consultants, mathematicians, occupational therapists, pharmacists, physicians, scientists, and teachers. TN status is issued in one-year increments with the ability to extend annually.



The H-1B category is designated for individuals who seek to work temporarily in a “specialty occupation” which is a position that requires at least a Bachelor’s degree. Typically, the foreign national must hold a U.S. baccalaureate degree (or higher), a foreign degree determined to be equivalent to the U.S. degree, or a combination of education and experience which is equivalent to the required U.S. degree. Examples of specialty occupations include: accountant, computer analyst, engineer, financial analyst, scientist, architect, and a variety of managerial positions.

Information courtesy of the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services website

Page Summary: Students in the U.S. in nonimmigrant visa categories may work under certain specific conditions.