International Student Work Permit for Foreign Students in USA
In addition to applying for student financial aid and scholarships, another way many students finance their college and university studies in the US is to work their way through school. Many Americans would never finish their college degrees without working to help pay the costs. Unfortunately, this option is not immediately available to foreign students / international students studying in the USA on a student visa.
Working On Campus with a Student Visa: No Work Permit Needed for a Foreign Student / International Student
Many US colleges do offer work-study programs to foreign students / international students. These jobs usually entail manning a help desk, working at the college library, or maybe even mowing the campus lawns. Payment for these jobs is generally low, but every dollar can help when it comes time to buy another textbook or if you plan on eating more than microwave popcorn nightly!
Foreign students / international students are limited to working 20 hours a week, on or off-campus (although off-campus requires a special international student work permit and is available only after the first academic year - see below), so you should not depend on work to provide you with much money during the school year. During holidays and school vacation, however, a foreign student / international student with the proper paperwork can work an unlimited number of hours on-campus, so you may be able to earn a significant amount over the summers.
Working Off-Campus with a Student Visa: International Student Work Permit Required
As an international student / foreign student, finding work off-campus in the USA is not an option at first, but once you have spent a year in the United States you may be eligible to apply for an international student work permit that allows you to work off-campus, in an area related to your field of study.
After you have been studying in the US for a year, go to the International Students Office at your college or university - or to the school’s Registrar’s Office - where they can give you the necessary forms and explain how to apply for the student work permit that will allow you to work off campus. In order to obtain the international student work permit, you will need approval from both your school and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If you are approved for the international student work permit, you will still be limited to working no more than 20 hours a week while school is in session, although you may work full-time during holidays or school vacation. Being able to work off-campus during the summers not only helps with money, but also allows you the opportunity to accumulate valuable work experience while you are still a student.
For links to specific regulations and forms, see F-1 Visa - US Student Visa for College & Academic Study in the US.