As an F-1 or a J-1 student you are pretty limited in your ability to work during your studies. The student visa is intended for study and not employment. But what is considered employment in the US? And how can you make sure that you do not break the rules without meaning to? US labor law is very complicated and as an international student it is important to understand it and follow these rules. Being “employed” without proper authorization can jeopardize your student status in the US, and your ability to receive future visas to work, study or live in the US. Here are some general concepts to help you navigate this:
Work is when you provide a service in exchange for money or goods.
Working in the US is considered “working” while physically located on US soil.
Here is a quick guide to some unexpected things that may or may not be considered work:
• Running an Airbnb (you are working by actively posting, promoting and managing your Airbnb)
• Day trading stocks/ currency/ cryptocurrency (you are working by actively managing, buying and selling your stocks)
• Babysitting a friend’s child in exchange for housing or meals (You are being reimbursed for your service in goods instead of money, but you are still receiving “payment”)
• Working remotely for a company in your home country. (You are on the US soil, so you are working in the US)
• “Volunteering” at SXSW in exchange for a SXSW pass. (You are being reimbursed for your service in goods instead of money, but you are still receiving “payment”)
• Participating in a study for which you receive a gift card — (You are being reimbursed for your service )
• Receiving an honorarium/ travel reimbursement for giving a talk at a professional conference — (You are being reimbursed for your service)
• Owning stock/currency/cryptocurrency – (you are not actively managing this, it simply sits there and makes you more money.)
• Renting out your home as an Airbnb, and hiring a property manager to handle the logistics – (The property manager is working, you are just making money)
• Volunteering with a non-profit organization where no one else who is in the same or similar position receives payment — (True volunteering is only if you are in a position for which no one else receives reimbursement, if other people get paid to do this, and you are doing it for free, it is not volunteering, it is exploitation)
• Receiving a prize or a fellowship – (You are just getting money for being smart! Way to go!)
If you are ever unsure whether you are working or not, please schedule an appointment with an international student advisor, and we will be happy to discuss it with you. If you are interested in working off campus, there are some work authorizations for which you may be eligible. Please take a look at our website and schedule an appointment with an international student advisor to discuss your options.