Do not count on being able to scrape up the funding after you arrive in the US. Getting a job is not an effective means of financing an education in the US. There are numerous restrictions on employment by foreign nationals, and some types of visas prohibit it entirely. Even when employment is permitted, it is usually limited to no more than 20 hours per week. Most international students are limited to on-campus employment. Your spouse will probably not be allowed to work.
Even if you are able to find work, you will not be able to get a job that pays well enough to cover all your expenses. The typical on-campus job will pay no more than $1,000 to $2,000 during the school year, and a similar amount during the summer vacation.
If you are studying on an F-1 visa, you may not accept off-campus employment during the first year of study. You may, however, take an on-campus job to help pay the bills. You are limited to 20 hours a week while school is in session, provided that you do not displace a US resident. (The test for displacement is whether the position is normally filled by students.) Full time employment is allowed during vacations if you will be returning to school at the end of the vacation period. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) permission is not required to accept on-campus employment, but you must first apply for a Social Security Number and complete a Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility). You may also need to get authorization from the foreign student advisor.
Graduate students who are participating in a cooperative education program are sometimes allowed to work for an off-campus employer who has an educational affiliation or research contract with the school. The employment must be required for the degree.
After the first year of study, a student on an F-1 visa may ask the INS for permission to accept off-campus employment. Permission is often granted if the student is experiencing severe economic hardship through no fault of their own, such as major currency fluctuations, loss of financial aid, loss or lack of availability of on-campus employment, unusual increases in tuition or living expenses, unexpected financial changes in the student’s source of support, and unexpected medical expenses. The student must be in good academic standing and enrolled as a full-time student, and the foreign student advisor must certify the student’s Form I-538 (Certification by Designated School Official). The student must submit Form I-765 (Application for Temporary Employment Authorization) and filing fee, along with the certified Form I-538 and the student copy of Form I-20, to the INS for work authorization. The employment authorization will be valid for one year.
Students on M-1 visas may not accept any form of employment, except for a temporary internship for practical training purposes.
Working while on a B-2 visa (Tourist) is grounds for immediate deportation.
Spouses and dependents of students admitted to the US on M-1, F-1, and J-1 visas may apply for M-2, F-2, and J-2 visas, respectively, in order to accompany the student during their stay in the US. Spouses and dependents of M-1 and F-1 students are not allowed to accept employment or engage in business while in the US. Spouses and dependents of students admitted on a J-1 visa may seek permission to work as a J-2 visitor. Individuals on a M-2, F-2, or J-2 visa may study on a full time or part time basis, but may not receive financial aid.
After you graduate, you might wish to work temporarily in the US. To do so, you will need to obtain H-1B status. Your degree must be in the area of expertise required for the position. You must have an offer of employment from a US employer. The employer must file paperwork to petition for H-1B status for you.
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