Visas and other documents

A foreign national’s ability to be employed or compensated for services in the U.S. depends on his or her non-immigrant status and on the regulations that govern his or her status.

Many non-immigrant categories allow a person to be employed or compensated by a U.S. employer. In almost every case, however, employment and compensation are restricted to a specific, sponsoring employer or organization for a fixed period of time and for a specific activity.

Student visas

F-1 visa

Individuals in the U.S. engaging in a full course of academic study in an accredited educational program carry an F-1 student visa.

F-1 visas must be accompanied with the following supporting documentation:

  • unexpired foreign passport
  • form I-94 Departure Record
  • form I-20 Student ID endorsed with employment authorization by the Designated School Official (DSO)

Employment restrictions

  • Must maintain full-time enrollment as defined by academic institution.
  • Part-time study only with prior approval of DSO in accordance with Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) guidelines.
  • Maintain valid F-1 status.
  • Individual may be employed on the campus of the school they are authorized to attend for a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session. 
  • During school vacations, students may work on campus for a maximum of 40 hours per week if otherwise eligible and intending to enroll for the next term.
  • May participate in employment directly related to field of study. This employment may take the form of:
    • Curricular Practical Training: Employment required for completion of the student’s degree program. Requires approval of DSO on form I-20ID. An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is not required. Employment authorization is job specific.
    • Optional Practical Training: Employment during or after completion of studies. The total period of employment may not exceed 12 months. Requires recommendation of DSO and approval by Department of Homeland Security (DHS). EAD is required.

J-1 visa

Non-students in the U.S. as visiting researchers or professors under the auspices of the United States Information Agency and a Designated Program Sponsor carry a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa.

The J-1 status must be verified with the following supporting documentation:

  • unexpired foreign passport
  • form I-94 Departure Record
  • unexpired form DS-2019, specifying the sponsor and issued by the United States Information Agency (USIA)

Employment restrictions

  • Employment does not require additional permission from INS or and EAD.
  • Eligible for 18 months of academic training following completion of their program (36 months for postdoctoral training).
  • May engage only in part-time study related to principal activity provided program can be completed within limitations of stay.
  • Eligible to receive payment from the organization listed on Form DS-2019 as the source of funds and /or Designated Program Sponsor for the period of validity as stated on the DS-2019.
  • Under limited circumstances, may receive compensation from other institutions provided written authorization from the Responsible Officer of their Designated Program has been secured.
  • DS-2019 Form authorizes employment.
  • EAD is not required.

H1-B temporary worker in a specialty occupation

H1-B employees are authorized to perform professional services for a sponsoring employer in a specific position for a fixed period of time. Employment authorization is granted for an initial period of up to three years. Extensions for an additional three years are possible.

The H1-B status must be verified with the following supporting documentation:

  • form I-94 Departure Record
  • form I-797

Employment restrictions

  • May engage in part-time study while maintaining H visa status.
  • Employment permitted only with the sponsoring institution that obtained DHS approval for the visa classification.
  • Prohibited from receiving payments from other organizations.

Trade NAFTA (for citizens of Canada and Mexico)

Trade NAFTA workers are in the U.S. to perform professional services for a sponsoring employer in a specific position for a fixed period of time.

Trade NAFTA workers must submit the following supporting documentation:

  • Canadian citizens only require Form I-94 Departure Record (with Trade NAFTA designation indicated).
  • Mexican citizens require Form I-797A.

Employment restrictions

  • May be employed and compensated only by the sponsoring employer through whom the status was obtained.