Working in the United States
As an F-1 student, your primary purpose in the United States is to be a full-time student. However, we understand that volunteer work, internships, and paid work may play a key role in your time here. There are very specific rules and regulations surrounding employment for anyone holding a visa in the United States. It is very important to follow those rules and to ask questions when you don’t understand a situation.
Unauthorized work will result in the immediate termination of your visa.
Students attending Smith on an F-1 visa are permitted to have campus jobs as a benefit of their visa status.
F-1 regulations state that international students must NEVER exceed 20 hours of work in any given week during the semester. However, according to Smith College Student Employment policy, first-year students can only work 8 hours per week; returning students may work up to 10 hours per week.
Workday & Social Security Numbers
Students can find and apply for open job positions in Workday. In order to obtain a Social Security Number, a student must have an on-campus job offer.
Once you have your job secured, you must apply for a Social Security Number and complete all Payroll paperwork BEFORE beginning work. See our Social Security page for more information.
During the summer, as long as you are an active student returning to Smith for the next academic term, you may work on a campus job on the Smith College campus. Please note: Students who work during the summer must pay housing and food costs to stay on campus.
Students who wish to work during the summer outside of Smith College but still within the United States must have special permission.
To work off campus, you must have special permission; both types require that the work be within your major.
Curricular Practical Training
Students are eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during the summer after sophomore and junior years. You must be returning to Smith College after the summer, as approval of CPT requires an academic component, usually the completion of a special studies course under direction of a faculty member. CPT authorization is free.
Optional Practical TrainingStudents are eligible for 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT), which may be taken during breaks (summer) or following graduation. OPT requires a lengthy application and approval process that can take as long as 90 days, so it is important to consult with the Office of International Students and Scholars early if you are considering this option.
Application for this program must be in your major, but does not carry a requirement for course credit. There is a $410 application fee required. Because this program is strictly optional, aid is not available for this program.
Volunteering & Unpaid Internships
Volunteering in set volunteer roles is allowable as an F-1 student. We encourage international students to connect with the Jandon Center for Community Engagement to identify great volunteer opportunities in the Pioneer Valley.
Volunteering in a position that would normally be paid, however, is problematic. This can be a violation of Department of Labor laws, since you should be paid for the hours you work in a job. Be wary of jobs that are normally paid but have made an exception because you are an international student.
Unpaid internships can be tricky, too. The ISSO strongly recommends CPT for all internships, regardless of payment, since CPT is really intended for any "practical training" experience, not just to get paid. This is also true for any internship supported by Praxis funding. If there is any compensation by the employer, financial or in-kind, CPT is absolutely required. Make sure to ask questions about any “stipends,” “reimbursements,” or other types of compensation you might receive, and talk with the ISSO ahead of time to make sure you have the right authorization.
For all unpaid internships in Massachusetts, certain criteria must be met. To learn more about these requirements, visite the Massachusetts Attorney General’s website on volunteers and interns. The United States Department of Labor website also lists similar national standards for unpaid internships.