Federal immigration regulations allow F-1 students to work in the U.S. as long as they have proper authorization. Some F-1 employment opportunities require prior authorizations, while others do not (see On Campus Employment section). Before engaging in any type of work (including job trainings, orientations, and unpaid work), be sure to check if prior authorization is needed.

Although working in the U.S. can be a great experience, studying and academics should remain the priority for anyone on the F-1 student visa. 

Working without proper employment authorization or in an unauthorized capacity is a visa status violation and may lead to SEVIS record termination. This termination would require departing the U.S. immediately and may negatively affect future visa applications or benefits. Meaning it could make you ineligible for OPT or H1B status, and/or prevent you from obtaining U.S. permanent residency in the future. Examples of unauthorized employment are listed below.

The following sections provide detailed information about being lawfully employed as an F-1 student.


On-Campus Employment

International students can work on-campus up to 50% time (20 hours/week or less) during the academic terms (Fall, Winter, and Spring) and full-time during the academic break periods including summer quarter. Special authorization is not required to work on-campus as long as you are in valid F-1 student status, pursuing a full course of study. Once you complete your study program you are no longer eligible to be employed on-campus without special authorization (e.g. practical training).

On-campus employment is employment engaged in at UCSB such as a teaching or research assistantship, employment in the University Center, library aide, etc. Generally speaking, this means that you will be receiving a paycheck from UCSB. On-campus employment opportunities can often be found on Handshake.

Off-Campus Employment

Off-campus employment requires some form of written or documented authorization issued by either the USCIS or OISS.

You must be currently in legal status and have been enrolled as an F-1 student in the U.S. for a minimum of one academic year (9 months) to be eligible for any form of off-campus employment (You can engage in on-campus employment without any special authorization before 9 months have elapsed, as long as you are a full-time enrolled student).

Work Authorization Options for F-1 Students

Click on each link in the boxes below to learn more about each F-1 work authorization option, including eligibility requirements and how to apply.


Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is off-campus employment or an internship related to your major that is a requirement of a course.


Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment or training directly related to your field of study, and usually done after graduation.


If you have a degree in a (STEM) field, you may be eligible for a 24-month extension of Post-Completion OPT.


F-1 students can apply for off-campus work permission based on economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances.

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Unauthorized Employment Examples

Engaging in any of the following examples is an F-1 visa status violation and may result in termination. This list is not exhaustive. 

  • Working off campus without CPT authorization
  • Working (including job trainings and orientations) before having CPT approved
  • Working anywhere after I-20 program end date and before OPT start date
  • Working an unpaid job or internship off campus without authorization (see Volunteering section)
  • Receiving an honorarium that results in profit, without authorization (see Honoraria section)

Social Security Number

If you have never applied for or been issued a Social Security Number (SSN) you will need to do so within a month of beginning employment.  You are not required to have an SSN when applying or starting a job. 

Students are only eligible for an SSN if they are hired on campus, hired off campus (doing CPT), or applying for OPT (using form I-765). 

First, you will need to request an On-Campus Employment Request from OISS through the UCSBGlobal platform. When you fill out your request, you'll need your employing supervisor's name and contact information so that they can verify your employment. If you're not sure who this is, make sure to ask the department that hired you.

Once OISS verifies your employment information, as well as your full-time enrollment, they will approve your request and send you a UCSB Employment Verification Letter. You can include this letter in your Social Security Card Application.

Social Security Card Application for F-1 Students

Social security numbers (SSNs) will only be issued to F-1 students who have a UCSB Employer Verification Letter (explained in the section above). In addition, F-1 students must be registered for classes as full time students (graduates 8 units and undergraduates 12 units) before the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) can endorse the employment verification letter.

If a student is submitting this form during their first quarter at UCSB, then that student should wait at least 10 days after OISS has endorsed the employer verification letter before applying for their number. If students apply before the 10 day waiting period, the Santa Barbara Social Security Office will not be able to verify their registration in the SEVIS immigration database.

Students will need the following documents to apply:

  1. Form I-20 and I-94 (printout from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/)
  2. Passport (or original birth certificate—if passport exempt)
  3. One other form of identification (driver’s license, student card, health insurance card, marriage record, etc.)
  4. Properly endorsed UCSB Employer Verification Letter 

Social Security Administration

122 W. Figueroa Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (866) 695-6285

Directions from UCSB/Goleta: If traveling by bus from UCSB, take the 24X bus to the downtown MTD Transit Center. The Social Security Administration is about one block from Transit Center.

Please see the Social Security Administration website for further details about applying: https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/

Your SSN is a sensitive document/number that should only be provided to authorized personnel or agencies.  Keep your Social Security card secure and do not carry it with you on a daily basis.


Unpaid internships/positions are considered employment and therefore require employment authorization. The only instance when working is not considered employment is humanitarian volunteering (e.g. cleaning up a road after a natural disaster). If you have any questions about whether a job requires employment authorization, please consult an advisor before engaging in the job/internship. 

Reimbursements & Honoraria


For students who travel to locations away from UCSB for events such as conferences, they may be reimbursed for incidental expenses (e.g. food, travel, lodging, etc.) if there is a "net zero gain." Meaning the student is being reimbursed to cover the cost of their participation, rather than to profit from it. This may require a letter issued by OISS by the request of the organization. The student can contact their assigned OISS advisor to receive this letter.


We caution students who are offered an honorarium and recommend speaking with an advisor before accepting.