Working rules for international students are different in every country. While some countries allow them to work over 20 hours a week, others limit them to just volunteering positions. If you plan to continue your studies in Canada, the US, or a European country, this article is for you. We try to cover important rules for working while studying in Canada and other major destinations for international students.
In this guide:
- Working while Studying in Europe
- Working while Studying in Canada
- Working while Studying in the United States
Working while Studying in Europe
If you are going to Europe for higher education, you need to know the types of permissions and their closes regarding working for students.
This section about working rules for international students applies to people from all countries outside the European Economic Area.
Student or Tier 4 Student Permission
If you have Student or Tier 4 immigration permission for full-time studying in European countries, you can work part-time during your studies.
If you are wondering where to see your work conditions, check the wording on the immigration sticker in your passport or the Remarks section of your Biometric Residence Permit.
On the other hand, if your Student or Tier 4 immigration permission is for the part-time course, you are not permitted to work in most European countries.
Visitor or Short Term Student Permission
If you go to a European country like the United Kingdom as a visitor or short-term student, you cannot work, either paid or unpaid.
However, you can volunteer in a job different from unpaid work. There are some volunteering available for international students in Europe.
The immigration authorities in European countries treat working rules for international students very seriously.
Authorities can refuse immigration applications or remove internationals from the country if they work too many hours or have some jobs that are not allowed.
How many Hours can an International Student Work in Europe?
Your visa sticker or BRP (Biometric Residence Permit) includes the employment terms and the number of hours per week you can work during the academic year.
Assume you have the typical Student or Tier 4 immigration authorization and also are enrolled in a degree-level program.
In that situation, you can work up to 20 hours per week throughout the academic year or 10 hours per week for particular programs.
Keep thorough records of your daily hours worked if you work odd hours and are employed by more than one company to ensure you are not at risk of violating your employment contract.
You could face harsh repercussions if you are caught working more than your weekly allotment of 10 or 20 hours during a given week while classes are in session.
Additionally, international students are permitted to work full-time or any additional hours during the applicable program-related breaks.
As an undergraduate, you have the typical holidays on Christmas, Easter, and summer breaks that apply to your program.
Christmas and Easter are typically when postgraduate students on a yearlong taught program take a break from their studies.
If you are a postgraduate research student, your supervisor decides about vacation time, typically six weeks each year.
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What Type of Work can International Students Do?
In working rules for international students in Europe, there are some restrictions on the type of work. For instance, international students cannot do the following jobs:
- Business activity,
- Professional sportsperson,
- Doctor or dentist in training,
- Work in a position that would fill a permanent full-time vacancy.
Working after Graduation with Student or Tier 4 Permission
In addition to taking holidays, international students are permitted to work more than 20 hours per week between the official program end date and the expiration of their visas to remain in Europe, which is often four months.
Unless your examinations or dissertation are finished early, you should not work more than 20 hours per week up until the conclusion of the program’s date.
If you are a postgraduate research student, you can start working full-time after formally submitting your thesis for review to the Research Degrees Office, successfully finishing your corrections, and successfully defending your viva.
Additionally, if you have finished your program, you are only permitted to continue working more than 20 hours per week after it has ended.
Working while Studying in Canada
Canadian policy toward immigration extends the opportunity to gain valuable work experience to international students.
Working rules for international students who have chosen Canada as their study destination are more convenient comparing many other popular destinations.
Work On-Campus, Working Rules for International Students
If an international student satisfies specific requirements, they may work on the campus where they are registered.
For an international student in Canada to work on-campus without a work permit, they must:
- Have a valid study permit;
- Have a SIN (Social Insurance Number);
- Study a full-time post-secondary course at a DLI (Designated learning institution).
Working for a company based on the grounds of the educational institution where a student is enrolled is considered on-campus labor.
The school, a staff member, a student organization, a privately owned business on campus, a private contractor who works for the school, and an on-campus self-employed person are all examples of on-campus employers.
Work Off-Campus, Working Rules for International Students
International students are permitted to work for an employer off the campus of the academic institution where they are registered if they have a current Canadian study permit.
They qualify for off-campus employment and can work up to 20 hours per week during the ordinary academic year and full-time during designated breaks like the summer, winter, and spring breaks.
International students must have the following criteria to be eligible to work off-campus during their studies:
- Have a valid study permit;
- Study full-time at a DLI;
- Have a SIN.
An international student must discontinue working off campus if their circumstances change and they are no longer eligible.
If the following criteria are met, a student who is no longer enrolled full-time may occasionally be authorized to continue working off campus:
- Have been enrolled as a full-time student in Canada since the start of the study program;
- Attend classes part-time because it is the final semester of their program of study, and they are no longer obliged to enroll in full-time classes to graduate.
International students from the following countries are ineligible to work off-campus:
- Students registered in an FSL (French as a Second Language) or ESL (English as a Second Language) program;
- Participants in a course or program of general interest;
- Attending a designated educational institution and visiting or exchanging students.
The number of hours and credits allotted toward finishing a degree, diploma, or certificate, as decided by the DLI, is taken into account by the IRCC (Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada) when determining a student’s full-time status.
Work as a Co-op Student or Intern
A co-op or intern work permit must be applied for together with a valid study permit if the study program being pursued by an international student at a DLI in Canada mandates an obligatory work placement or internship.
Post-Graduation Work Permit
An international student may apply for a post-graduation employment permit after they graduate.
Spouses or common-law partners of international students enrolled in full-time studies may occasionally qualify for an open work permit.
Working while Studying in the United States
Most international students in the United States hold an F1 visa and the US non-immigrant student visa.
F1 students can work in the United States, but only under certain conditions and following complex working rules for international students issued by the USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service).
There are several employment categories during your stay as an F1 student in the United States.
On-campus employment is the most freely available, and there are four categories of off-campus employment.
Work On-Campus, Working Rules for International Students
USCIS laws allow international students to work on campus and do not require USCIS approval.
Despite the benefit of on-campus employment that comes with F1 status, not many colleges offer this kind of opportunity.
Even if you land a job on campus, you should not count on it to cover all your annual expenses, as many of these occupations have nothing to do with your studies.
Before accepting any on-campus employment, many colleges demand authorization from the International Student Office, and they might not allow such employment during a student’s first semester or year.
For on-campus work, an F1 student is subject to the following rules:
- Have valid F1 status;
- Work up to 20 hours per week while studying;
- Work full-time on campus during holidays and vacations if you intend to register for the next academic semester;
- The employment may not take a job away from a US resident.
Before applying for or accepting employment, you must get approval from the international student office because your status always relies on your school’s assistance.
Optional Practical Training
International US students with valid F1 immigration status can engage in OPT (Optional Practical Training) employment both during and after the completion of their degree.
The OPT program follows the rules the US Citizenship and Immigration Service set forth, and every OPT employment is subject to USCIS and the university’s International Student Office approval.
After completing at least nine months of enrollment, you can apply for OPT. Still, you cannot start working until you have obtained your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) from USCIS and have completed at least a year of enrollment.
You can apply for an OPT EAD without having a work offer, and your OPT employment can take place anywhere in the US.
Make sure you collaborate closely with the international student office at your school, as the USCIS can take up to 90 days to process your application.
The authorization condition is that you continue to have a valid F1 visa, and your international student office is available to assist you throughout your stay.
General OPT requirements include:
- Employment must be “directly related” to the student’s major;
- Students must maintain lawful F1 status;
- Students must apply for OPT before completing all work toward a degree;
- Students who have engaged in 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are not eligible for OPT;
- OPT is permitted for up to 12 months full-time in total – part-time OPT while still in school reduces available full-time OPT by half the amount of part-time work.
The Department of Homeland Security revised its OPT rules in April 2008 so that students enrolled in particular degree programs might extend their OPT by an additional 17 months, for a total of 29 months.
Curricular Practical Training
When practical training is essential to the established curriculum or academic program, CPT (Curricular Practical Training) is an off-campus work option for F1 students.
“Alternative work/study,” “cooperative education,” or “any other sort of mandatory internship or practicum sponsored by sponsoring firms through cooperative agreements with the school” are all examples of CPT employment.
International students who wish to be considered for this position must possess relevant work experience, or academic credit must be granted.
International students who work for CPT may be paid. It is necessary to obtain prior approval from the school’s office for international students and notice from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service.
General CPT Requirements include:
- You must have been enrolled in school full-time for one year on valid F1 status (except for graduate students where the program requires immediate CPT)
- The CPT employment must be an integral part of your degree program or requirement for a course for which you receive academic credit.
- You must have received a job offer that qualifies before you submit your CPT authorization request.
- Your job offer must be in your major or field of study.
You must receive CPT authorization from your international student office. Once you get CPT authorization, you can only work during the approved dates and for the authorized employer.
Your CPT permission will also state whether you are permitted to work for CPT either part-time or full-time.
According to the working regulations for international students, they are only eligible for part-time CPT while enrolled in classes.
There is no time restriction on CPT, regardless of whether you are authorized to work full- or part-time. However, you are ineligible for OPT if you have worked full-time on CPT for 12 months or more.
Severe Economic Hardship
Any F1 student experiencing “extreme economic hardship,” as determined by USCIS, may work off-campus up to 20 hours per week while classes are in session and full-time during breaks.
Severe economic hardship requirements include:
- Have a valid F1 status for at least one academic year;
- Have good academic standing;
- Provide evidence of economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control;
- Show that on-campus employment is neither available nor sufficient;
- Make a reasonable faith effort to locate employment on campus before applying.
Employment with an International Organization
Employment with a reputable international organization is the last employment option for international students with F1 visas in the US.
The Red Cross, the African and Asian Development Banks, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and numerous more comparable but less well-known organizations are mentioned on the official State Department list as examples of recognized organizations.
Because OPT or CPT have universal applications, this employment category is frequently disregarded.
Only students with sponsorship from one of the organizations listed and a job offer are qualified.
However, this career category has certain advantages for those fortunate students who do receive such sponsorship.
Whether planning to go to a European country or North America, you are considering working rules for international students there. If it is true, this article is for you. We covered all you need about working while studying in Canada and the US. We also explained working rules for international students in the UK, which you can apply to most European countries. For more information on this matter, keep reading the Abroadin blog.