You should not assume that you are automatically eligible to work in the United States. Unauthorized employment is one of the most serious violations of F-1/J-1 student status. Any unlawful employment—even for one day—even if you did not know it was illegal—poses a serious threat to your ability to remain in or return to the United States. You should speak with an International Student Advisor before accepting any employment.
International students in F-1 status may be eligible for the following types of employment authorization:
- On-Campus Employment
- Practical Training—Curricular & Optional
- Economic Hardship Work Authorization
International students in J-1 status may be eligible for the following types of employment authorization:
- On-Campus Employment
- Academic Training
- Economic Necessity Work Authorization
Definition of Employment
Employment is any type of work performed for services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit. If you receive no pay or other benefit for the work performed, this activity may still be defined as employment, you should speak with an International Student Advisor for further questions about unpaid work. You may not work without payment for a job that would otherwise be paid to someone else.
Even though Babson specializes in teaching entrepreneurship, international students face limitations on actually operating a business in the U.S. While in the U.S., employment (including self-empment) without appropriate authorization is a serious violation of lawful status.
The following overview is in response to common questions from international students in F-1/J-1 status who wish to engage in entrepreneurial endeavors in the U.S. Because there is much speculation around what activities are considered employment in the U.S. (and therefore require authorization), students are strongly encouraged to get professional independent legal advice (from an exclusive practitioner of immigration law) to avoid accidentally engaging in unlawful activities. Email International Student and Scholar Services to request a list of immigration attorneys.
Some activities may be authorized if F-1 practical training or J-1 academic training (described below) is granted. Consult the Glavin Office to determine eligibility.
- F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT): Immigration regulations permit self-employment.
- F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT): Self-employment is not permitted; a clear employer-employee relationship must exist.
- J-1 Academic Training: Self-employment is not permitted; a clear employer-employee relationship must exist.
OPT, CPT, and Academic training allow a student to engage in activities (that may or may not involve payment) that are educational in nature and involve a trainer/supervisor in the role of employer*. An employer is someone with the authority to: hire/fire the student trainee; to set an appropriate wage (if applicable); and to assign, monitor, and evaluate the activities being performed by the student trainee.
View the 2010 USCIS memo on the employer/employee relationship.
*Regulations specifically allow a student to employ themselves during OPT.
Planning vs. Operating a Business
Employment can be seen as providing goods or services in exchange for some kind of compensation (monetary or otherwise).
Some planning activities that are generally not considered to be employment (and therefore permissible without specific authorization) are: conducting market research; scoping out and even purchasing physical space for your business; registering a business under your name; securing any necessary business licensing; preliminary meetings with potential clients/customers and/or employees/contractors.
While inside the U.S. in F or J status, you are neither permitted to develop products and services, nor permitted to work for a business that is registered online or outside the U.S. (including a family business) unless you qualify for, and have been granted specific authorization (practical or academic training, as described above).
Blank Center Summer Venture Program & Butler Launch Pad
While much of what occurs during membership in the Butler Launch Pad (BVA) and Summer Venture Program (SVP) is not considered employment (research, feasibility studies, business planning, etc.), any activity that directly results in income generation is considered employment and requires specific authorization.
International students must consider limitations of their immigration status when setting goals and determining whether the BVA or SVP is right for them.
Passive vs. Active Income
International students must not actively be involved in making money in any way while in the U.S. in student status without authorization (CPT, OPT, Academic Training).
Passive income (dividends, interest received, capital gains, etc.) may be permissible. Consult an immigration attorney to be sure.
U.S. Department of Labor laws prohibit an international student from choosing to be unpaid for work that would otherwise be paid to someone else.
If engaged in activities that would normally be paid, you are considered to be working even if payment occurs at a later time (this means you can’t choose to volunteer until work authorization is approved).
On-Campus Work Considerations
Work that qualifies as on-campus employment must be paid through Babson’s payroll with specific exceptions.
A student must never be paid directly by a Babson employee for activities, including assistance with research, grading, or personal tasks such as babysitting, yard work, etc. as these are not permitted under the definition of on-campus employment. See On-Campus Employment, below.
Current Babson students in F-1 and J-1 status who are maintaining valid status may be eligible for on-campus employment. Opportunities range from administrative positions in offices to working at the ice skating rink. Positions can be found online through the Student Employment Office. All students must have a Social Security Number (SSN) before beginning employment.
On-campus employment encompasses jobs that are paid directly by Babson College or direct affiliates. On-campus employment is limited to part-time (up to 20 hours/week) during the academic year; it may be full time (over 20 hours/week) during official college vacation.
Examples of employment NOT considered on-campus employment are:
- A professor paying a student directly to help with a project
- Posting flyers or advertising for a company on campus
- Remotely working from your on-campus residence for a company
- Answering an advertisement you saw posted on campus
Employment at the Babson Campus Store (run by Follett), Babson Dining Services (run by Chartwells), the Babson Recreation & Athletic Complex/BRAC (run by RecFit) or the Babson Executive Conference Center is considered on-campus employment BECAUSE these companies at these locations are contracted to provide direct service to Babson students.
- F-1 Students do not need authorization to work on-campus (off-campus employment requires authorization). However, to apply for a Social Security number(SSN), students must complete and submit the On Campus Employment SSN Request Form
- J-1 Students must receive authorization BEFORE beginning on- campus (and off-campus) employment and report their employer information to the Glavin Office through the On Campus Employment SSN Request Form.
COVID-19 PROCESSING UPDATE FOR SECTION THREE: Email completed On Campus Employment SS Request Form and I-94 to email@example.com
Note: You must have received your SSN and completed all human resources paperwork before beginning your on-campus employment.
Meet with an international student adviser in the Glavin Office BEFORE beginning any employment to be sure that you do not accidentally engage in unlawful employment.
Off-campus Employment Based on Economic Hardship
F-1 students who have found themselves in serious financial difficulty due to severe and unforeseen circumstances which are beyond their control and, as a result, may not be able to continue their studies, are eligible to apply to the USCIS for employment authorization.
The purpose of employment, in this case, is to earn money (as compared to OPT where the purpose is to gain experience in your field of study). As a result, any type of job is allowable with this type of work authorization.
Students who meet the following criteria are eligible to apply. The student must:
- Demonstrate unforeseen severe economic hardship due to circumstances beyond the student’s control.*
- Have been in valid F-1 status for a minimum of one academic year.
- Receive certification from the International Student Advisor that no opportunities are available for on-campus employment or that on-campus employment is insufficient to meet the student’s financial needs.
Note: Examples of circumstances that might have been unforeseen include loss of an assistantship or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student; substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate; unexpected changes in the financial condition of a student’s source of support; medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses. Documentary evidence supporting the hardship must be submitted (e.g. newspaper clippings showing currency fluctuation, an affidavit from sponsor explaining the inability to pay, verification from the department regarding the loss of assistantship, etc.)
How to Apply
Make an appointment to see the International Student Advisor and bring the following to the appointment.
- Completed Form I-765
- Completed Form I-538
- Completed budget sheet
- Your current, valid Form I-20
- Personal letter explaining the circumstances of the hardship. Explain clearly how the circumstances were unforeseen and the hardship you will suffer if the employment authorization is denied.
- Documentation of the unforeseen hardship* (see Note above)
- A letter from your academic advisor or college dean verifying that you 1) are in good academic standing, and 2) acceptance of the proposed employment will not interfere with your carrying a full course of study.
- Two (2) photos taken according to USCIS specifications
The following must be sent to the USCIS Service Center:
- Check or money order made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Completed Form I-765
- Two passport photos
- I-94 (arrival/departure record)
- Photocopy of Form I-20 with recommendation for employment
- Photocopy of all previous Form I-20s
- Photocopy of any previously-issued EADs (if applicable)
- Photocopy of passport identification and expiration page(s)
- Photocopy of F-1 visa (except Canadians)
- Personal letter
- Supporting evidence of unforeseen circumstances and hardship (including budget sheet)