It is essential that you understand and comply with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) restrictive employment regulations. Ignorance of the regulations does not excuse a student from the serious ramifications of unauthorized employment, which may result in deportation. You must obtain appropriate employment authorization before you engage in any type of employment.
Definition of Employment
Employment refers to any work performed or services provided (including self-employment) in exchange for money or other benefits or compensation (such as free room and board in exchange for babysitting).
Social Security Number
Individuals authorized for employment in the U.S. must have a social security number (SSN) to be paid. Prior to applying for a SSN, you must have the following documents:
- Letter verifying an offer of employment
- Letter from your international student advisor verifying your employment eligibility
- Valid passport
- I-94 arrival/departure record
Social Security Administration
- Location: 811 E. Sprague, Suite A, Spokane, WA 99202
- Telephone: 800.772.1213
- Hours: Monday–Friday, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
- Click here for more information about SSN for non-citizens.
Since F-2 dependents are not authorized for employment in the U.S., they are ineligible for a SSN.
If WSU issued your I-20, you may work part-time (20 hours per week or less) during the fall and spring semesters on the WSU campus that issued your I-20. On-campus employment is “incident to status.” If you do not have lawful F-1 status, you are ineligible for on-campus employment.
On-campus employment includes teaching and research assistantships. Graduate students on half-time teaching or research assistantships may not be employed elsewhere on campus for additional hours. During annual vacation periods (i.e., summer break), students may work full-time on campus.
Washington State limits the total number of hours in a calendar year for temporary employees. If you wish to work more than 20 hours per week during summer, winter, or spring vacation, check with Human Resource Services (SAC 145) to determine your eligibility.
Practical training authorization permits an F-1 student to be employed temporarily (on or off campus) at a job related to the student's major field of study. There are two types of practical training: curricular and optional.
To be eligible for either curricular or optional practical training, you must have had lawful F-1 status for one academic year.
Severe Economic Hardship
The DHS may grant off-campus employment authorization to an F-1 student as a result of “severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control.”
It is difficult to obtain this type of work authorization unless you can document that the unforeseen circumstances occurred after you arrived in the U.S. and were beyond your control.
In order to apply for this type of employment authorization, you must first meet with your international student advisor to discuss your situation and obtain the necessary recommendation.
The DHS does not permit individuals with F-2 status to be employed under any conditions. Employment is defined as the rendering of services, part- or full-time, for financial or other compensation; this includes self-employment.
Academic Center, 130