Making Money: Employment Options for J-1 Exchange / Sponsored Students

As a university sponsored J-1 student, you’re eligible for employment authorization while in the U.S. but if you’re sponsored by an outside organization (including the U.S. or your home government), you need to confirm your eligibility before applying to work.

On-Campus:

On-campus employment is work that takes place either at your school or at an off-campus location that is educationally affiliated with your school. This work could even be for an on-campus commercial business, like a bookstore or cafeteria, as long as the work directly provides services for students.  You can work up to 20 hours a week during the academic year and up to 40 hours a week during the summer and vacation periods.  Do note that these jobs can sometimes be hard to obtain and the institution is required to give first consideration to a qualified U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.  You may want to start looking in places where your skills and experience are highly valued:  in your International Student Office or as a teaching assistant for a foreign language department.

 Should you find an on-campus position you’ll be required to apply for authorization from your International Advisor. As this is not a USCIS application, there is no fee. Once your work permit is issued, you can present it to your on-campus employer and begin working.

Off-Campus:

The off-campus employment authorization program for J-1 students is called Academic Training and in this program employment must be directly related to the academic program listed on your Form DS-2019.  Your program sponsor (the institution or organization that issued your Form DS-2019) is responsible for granting the authorization.   There is no fee to apply and you can apply during your academic program or after completion.

Eligibility Requirements:
  • You must be in lawful J-1 status and in good academic standing if still enrolled.
  • Health insurance coverage for you and your dependents must be maintained for the duration of the Academic Training period.
  • You can accept paid or unpaid employment or internships but if you are doing unpaid work, you will likely be asked to show proof of financial support for the authorization period.
  • You can work part-time during the academic year, and full-time during vacation periods and/or after you complete your program.
  • You must have a job offer in hand when you apply.
  • Employment must begin within 30 days of the program completion date however total time authorized will be counted from your program completion date.
  • Academic training must be done with a specific employer.
  • The amount of Academic Training available is as follows:
    • PhD students are eligible for up to 36 months of Academic Training.
    • Students other than PhD students are eligible for up to 18 months, or for the period of length of the study program, whichever is shorter.
  • All Academic Training is counted as full-time (i.e., three months of part-time work is the same as three months of full-time work).
  • Academic Training can be authorized for consecutive or overlapping periods with more than one employer but a separate application must be filed and approved for each employer / job.
Application Process:

The deadline to apply is usually your program completion date and the processing time is quick, usually one-four days,  as it’s done in-house.  Most schools require you to fill out a school-specific application and also provide a letter of recommendation from your faculty advisor. In addition, you will likely be required to obtain a letter from your prospective employer with the name and location of the organization, the name and address of the training supervisor, a brief description of what you will be doing, the number of hours per week you are working, your salary, and the dates of the training period. Again, as this is not a USCIS application, there is no fee.  

The Social Security Number (SSN):

A social security number (SSN) is required for everyone who works in the United States, even non-immigrants. However, a social security card is not a work permit and you must apply for work authorization separately.   For more information about when and how to apply for your SSN, please visit the U.S. Social Security Administration website.   

Taxes:

In general J-1 students who have been in the U.S. for five years or less are exempt from social security taxes (also known as F.I.C.A. tax). You should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws. Students in J-1 status are subject to all other taxes that may apply, including federal, state and local. For more information, consult with a tax professional and/or Publication 519 of the Internal Revenue Service.  

After your Program:

After your approved period of J-1 Academic Training expires, you have 30 days to leave the United States or apply for a change of status.  For more information about the (even more complicated!) H1-B petition process, visit the USCIS website.
 
Do keep in mind that if you are subject to the Two Year Home Residence Requirement after your approved training period, you may not change to another non-immigrant status or acquire H status until you have returned home and have resided for two years in your home country or have requested and been granted a waiver of the two-year requirement.

** Please note that USCIS regulations are subject to change and you should always check with the International Advisor at your school for the latest information and requirements.**
 

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