Employment authorization to allow international students to be paid for work in the U.S. is restricted by law. In general there are two overall categories of employment for during student status: on-campus and off-campus.
Enrolled F1 and J1 students may be paid for work on the Cornell campus. You may work at any type of job on campus; it does not have to be in your field of study. While classes are in session during the fall or spring semesters or if you are registered during the summer, you may work a maximum of 20 hours per week.
If you work over 20 hours per week in any week while you are registered, this is a serious violation of your immigration status and can have serious consequences. If you think this has happened, you must speak to an immigration advisor at the Office of Global Learning. During your winter and summer break, if you are not registered, you may work full-time (any amount over 20 hours per week).
F1 students do not need to complete any extra immigration procedure with the Office of Global Learning in order to start working. Your hiring department will have you fill in some paperwork.
J1 students who are on a Cornell DS-2019 form need to obtain a “J1 student employment authorization letter” from the Office of Global Learning BEFORE you may start working. Please come into our advising hours to obtain that letter and bring with you proof of your employment such as an offer letter or an email printed out. Your hiring department will also have you fill in some paperwork. J1 students who are not on a Cornell issued DS-2019 will need authorization from your J1 sponsor (e.g. IIE, Fulbright, etc.).
After having been in F1 status for at one full academic year or J1 student status after a semester, you are eligible to apply for off-campus work authorization in your field of study only. This could be full-time during the summer and the winter semester break, or part-time (limited to 20 hours of total employment per week, including any on-campus positions) during the academic year. There are two types of off campus work authorization for F1 students called "practical training" and one type for J1 students:
After graduation, there are a variety of visa statuses students will change to in order to continue a career in the U.S. Our Visas after Graduation section explores these options.
You may want to attend immigration workshops we hold every semester on the topics of work authorization and staying in the U.S. long term.
When you are working in the U.S., you will need to obtain a U.S. social security number. Read more about SSNs and how to get one here.