Work-Study in USA: Visa Types to Apply For

Studying in the United States is an exciting opportunity for international students. Apart from gaining a world-class education, many students also aim to gain practical work experience through a work-study program. The work-study program allows students to work part-time while studying, providing them with valuable skills and financial support. However, before applying for a work-study program, it is essential to understand the different visa types available for international students in the USA.

F-1 Visa

The F-1 visa is the most common visa type for international students pursuing academic studies in the United States. It allows students to study at an accredited institution and work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the academic year and full-time during school breaks. To be eligible for the F-1 visa, students must be enrolled in a full-time program and maintain a valid I-20 form.

J-1 Visa

The J-1 visa is another visa option for students participating in work-study programs. It is designed for students who are part of exchange programs sponsored by educational or cultural institutions. The J-1 visa allows students to work on-campus or off-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the academic year and full-time during school breaks. To qualify for the J-1 visa, students must have a designated sponsor and meet specific program requirements.

M-1 Visa

The M-1 visa is for students pursuing vocational or non-academic programs in the United States. While the M-1 visa does not explicitly allow for work-study opportunities, students may be eligible for practical training after completing their program. The practical training can be in the form of internships or employment related to their field of study.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment authorization available to F-1 students. It allows students to work off-campus in their field of study for up to 12 months after completing their program. Students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields may be eligible for an additional 24-month extension, making a total of 36 months of OPT. OPT provides valuable work experience and allows students to apply their knowledge in a practical setting.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is another employment authorization available to F-1 students. CPT allows students to work off-campus as part of their curriculum or academic program. Students must obtain authorization from their Designated School Official (DSO) before engaging in any CPT-related employment. CPT can be part-time (up to 20 hours per week) or full-time, depending on the program requirements.


When considering a work-study program in the United States, it is crucial to understand the visa options available. The F-1 visa is the most common choice for international students, allowing them to work on-campus. The J-1 visa is suitable for students participating in exchange programs, while the M-1 visa is for vocational programs. Additionally, the Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) provide opportunities for off-campus work experience. Each visa type has its own set of requirements and limitations, so it is important to consult with the designated authorities and your educational institution to determine the best option for your specific circumstances.

Embarking on a work-study program in the United States can be a rewarding experience, providing international students with valuable skills and a chance to immerse themselves in a different culture. By understanding the visa types available, students can make informed decisions and maximize their opportunities during their time in the USA.

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