Work Authorization


On-Campus Employment

Students maintaining valid F-1 non-immigrant status are eligible for on-campus employment. Below is an overview of eligibility:

Students: F-1 students may work on-campus without special work authorization; however, J-1 students must obtain permission from the Responsible Office of the Exchange Visitor Program (the person who signed the DS-2019) prior to working on-campus.

Dependents: F-2 dependents are not allowed to work under any circumstances.

Semester Employment: Employment may not exceed 20 hours per week during the Fall and Spring semesters (there is no limit during summer, winter and spring official school breaks).

School Break Employment: On-campus employment is employment by the university. Working for an employer outside of USC Aiken (even if employment is done on the campus), REQUIRES prior work authorization from IP Office.

Paperwork: On-campus employment authorization paperwork is available at the IP Office (also under Forms on this site) and needs to be returned to the IP Office and then taken to Career Services for the I-9 verification process. The first time you are employed (on or off-campus) you must also apply for a Social Security card.

Paying Taxes: In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. 5 years or less are exempt from Social Security (F.I.C.A. or Medicare) tax; Federal, state, and local taxes, however, should be deducted from your paychecks. International students are NOT EXEMPT from these taxes.

Please note that even if you are not working and have no U.S. income, you are still required to file a U.S. tax return each year that you are here. GSME offers tax resources to help you with tax filing during each spring semester. Information regarding tax assistance will be announced through the USCA e-mail listserv.

Tips for Finding a Job On-Campus:

Visit the Pacer Career Website (hyperlink), speak with faculty, staff and friends about job opportunities, or contact specific offices for possible opportunities.

Off Campus F-1 Employment Options

A. Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training is an employment benefit available to students in F-1 status, so that they can gain practical experience in their major field of study. Depending on the student’s qualifications, there are several types of OPT available. Please read the OPT information listed on our website, as well as on the USCIS website for an overview of the program. All students wanting to apply for OPT are required to attend an OPT Workshop before they can apply. Two OPT Workshops are offered each semester—check the Upcoming Events and Newsfor specific dates each semester.

Reporting OPT: F-1 students on approved OPT are required to report changes to personal and employer information to the IP Office within 10 days of any change. It is the student's responsibility to provide the International Programs Office with the required information so we can update SEVIS. Please use the form on our website (Forms—hyperlink) to report OPT updates or e-mail our office.

Eligibility: To be eligible for ANY type of OPT you must meet the following requirements:

  • You have valid F-1 nonimmigrant status, maintaining status and are in good academic standing;
  • You have been enrolled as a full time student at USCA for at least one full academic year (2 semesters); and
  • You have been authorized for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), your total full-time CPT authorization does not equal or exceed one year for your current degree level.

Types of OPT:

Pre-Completion: To be used prior to the completion of your academic program.

Post-Completion: To be used after the completion of your academic program.

17-Month STEM Extension: For qualifying students currently using Post-Completion OPT.

Cap-Gap Extension: An automatic extension of Post-Completion OPT for students with pending or approved H-1B petitions.

B. Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) is an employment option available to F-1 students enrolled in a degree program. Employment must be directly related to the major area of study and students must receive academic credit for the work experience. Credit for CPT may be gained through internship, independent study, or practicum courses. Academic departments are responsible for determining the appropriate means of earning credit for proposed CPT employment.

Economic Hardship Employment Authorization

Economic Hardship Work Authorization permits off-campus employment that is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond the student’s control that arose AFTER obtaining F-1 status.

Eligibility: Students who meet the following requirements may be eligible for Economic Hardship Work Authorization:

  • Student must have been in good standing as an F-1 student for at least one full academic year (two semesters) and is carrying a full course of study at the time of filing the application; and,
  • Student must prove the off-campus employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his/her control that arose after obtaining F-1 status.


Application Process: To apply for Economic Hardship Work Authorization, please make an appointment (through e-mail) to meet with the Director of the IP Office.

Taxes General Information

All international students, scholars and spouses are required to report their annual income by filing a tax return between January 1 and April 15. According to current regulations, all individuals in F categories must complete particular tax forms even if they had no United States source income. Please keep records of your income and expenditures to substantiate later claims on your tax returns, and keep copies of your income tax forms.

  • If you received work authorization and are employed, your paycheck may be lower than the anticipated amount due to tax withholdings. The amount withheld from your paycheck is dependent upon your tax status which, in turn, is determined by your visa classification and the amount of time you have been in the United States. Income taxes, when applied, usually amount to about 14% of total income, but may be as high as 30%.
  • If you receive scholarships or fellowships from USC Aiken, part of the amounts you receive may be taxable.

Disclaimer:

Due to legal restrictions on our capacity to advise you about tax liabilities, the IP Office staff is not able to answer individual questions regarding your tax situation. It is the responsibility of each international student and scholar to comply with US tax regulations. While the IP Office information on resources, is not trained to provide tax advice and disclaims all liability from the misinterpretation or misuse of these resources.

Social Security

International students on an F-1 visa are not eligible for a social security card until they decide to work. After the student received authorization for employment and before he/she can legally start working, they need to apply for a social security card. You will need a letter from the GSME, together with the offer letter of employment to apply for a SS card. Please contact GSME for help and more information.

*NOTE: This page is subject to change based on revisions of federal regulations and/or changes in the interpretation of those regulations. Information provided here does not constitute legal advice, and IP Office advisors are not attorneys. If you need legal counsel please contact a qualified immigration attorney.