Employment Opportunities in the USA for Foreign Students

The US is still widely considered to be the Promised Land. Others are just curious to experience the culture first-hand. One of the ways for students to go to the US is to try to find work. This isn’t as simple as it sounds – while there are opportunities to find employment, there are also a few things you need to know, apart from getting a visa, which is a trial in itself. There are 4 ways to get a job in the US: On-Campus, Off-Campus, OPT, and CPT.

On-Campus Employment

This, basically, means that you can stay in the US as a student/worker while attending classes. Your job must be conducted on campus, meaning you can work as a research assistant, a teaching assistant, or even a waiter at the campus restaurant. Regarding research and teaching, the subject doesn’t have to be related to your field of study.

In order to qualify, you cannot work during the fall and winter months – this is the time dedicated to studying. In the spring and summer, you can work up to 20 hours a week, with the option of going full-time during holidays. You need to fill out 4 forms after getting a job: the U-M Student Temporary Employment Form, the I-9, the W-4, and the Direct Deposit Authorization Form.

Off-Campus Employment

This one is a little bit trickier. It is not available to everyone. You have to complete one full academic year, and be extremely down on your luck. That means that you can qualify for this position if you suffer a great financial loss, lose your job if it’s not your fault, you have a medical expense not covered by your insurance that exacts a heavy toll on your wallet, or something to that effect. If your country of origin is in crisis or an emergency, you may qualify for Special Student Relief. If your application goes through, you can work up to 20 hours a week.


OPT stands for Optional Practical Training. It consists of working at a job that is related to your field of study. For example, if you are studying different languages, you may work as a call center agent. There are two types of this program: pre-completion and post-completion. To qualify for pre-completion OPT, you have to have completed one full academic year, whereas you can do your post-completion OPT after you graduate. Post-completion OPT also allows you to work full time. The total time you can spend on both of these programs is twelve months.


Curricular Practical Training is designed to give you an idea about what real-world applications your field of study has. The wonderful thing about this type of program is that you can work full time. You can even participate in multiple CPTs if you want extra hours. However, if you spend more than a year in this program, you can’t apply for OPT. Of course, you have to have one completed academic year before you can apply.

Final Thoughts

You are more than welcome to explore other options that allow you to visit the States, like the Work & Travel programs. Again, we must urge you to take special care regarding the paperwork required to enter the country, along with whether or not you need a visa.