Working in the US

There are limited work opportunities available in the US for F-1 students. To determine if you are eligible for the following types of employment opportunities while you study in the US, please read below and contact ISS for more information.

ON-campus employment

Active F-1 students may work ON-campus so long as:

  1. an ON-campus faculty or staff supervisor offers a job,
  2. the student obtains a Social Security Number (SSN), [see below for more details] and
  3. the student completes the appropriate HR/tax paperwork at Horky House.

If you participate in ON-campus employment, you may NOT work more than 20 hours per week when classes or exams are in session.

OFF-campus employment

After the first academic year, F-1 students may engage in three types of OFF-campus employment with authorization:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension


In general, F-1 students at Centre will use CPT for paid or unpaid, credit or non-credit US internships during the summer breaks. At Centre, OPT and STEM OPT extension are usually for employment after graduation. All OFF-campus work must be related to a student’s intended or declared MAJOR. OFF-campus work authorization cannot be authorized based on a student's minor(s) or general education credits. 

Note that F-1 students may also seek employment authorization under the sponsorship of a qualifying international organization or due to severe economic hardship, but these circumstances are atypical. Furthermore, the U.S. government considers starting your own business in the United States, also known as entrepreneurship, as work. Therefore, if you are an F-1 student who plans to start your own business in the United States, you must qualify and apply for OPT. You cannot be your own employer for the purpose of the STEM OPT extension.

If you are interested in working OFF-campus after your first academic year, please contact ISS to go over all policy and application.

Social Security Number (SSN) / Card

For F-1 students who have been given permission to work ON or OFF campus, you will need to acquire a Social Security Number (SSN) / Card. You should wait 10 business days after arriving in the US before applying for an SSN.

If you have not been offered a job, but want to apply for a Kentucky driver’s permit, license or ID card, then you will need to visit the Social Security Administration office for an ineligibility letter.

Please refer to the appropriate How-to Instructions on the Forms page, and contact ISS for more assistance obtaining an SSN.


Volunteering is a great way to “make a difference,” to help people where there is need and participate in your community. As an F-1 student, you may volunteer while you study in the United States, but you must maintain your nonimmigrant student status by complying with Department of Homeland Security rules and regulations.

Here are some important reminders if you plan on volunteering:

  • You cannot receive any form of taxable income from your volunteer activity.
  • If the volunteer position is one for which an employer would otherwise officially hire someone, you may work there only with all necessary employment authorization. [See OFF-campus employment above]


US Taxes

*Disclaimer: Tax law is subject to continual change, at times on a retroactive basis and may result incremental taxes, interest, or penalties. Each individual tax situation requires individual tax, judicial, and administrative interpretation of the current tax law based on the specific facts and circumstances and may require additional tax analysis. Centre College and Sprintax are not responsible for updating the following details for changes in law or interpretation after the date hereof. 

Generally, most international students who are on F-1 visas are considered nonresidents for tax purposes. If you have been in the US for longer than five years, the Substantial Presence Test will determine your tax residency.

As a nonresident alien for tax purposes, you may be taxed on US-sourced income. If your country of residence has signed a tax treaty with the US, you may be either partially or completely exempt from tax. That said, as a nonresident alien, you will need to file a federal tax return (often with Form 1040NR) to assess your federal income and taxes. Even if you do not earn money during your time in the US, you will still need to file Form 8843 with the IRS by the mid-April deadline.

Sprintax logo

Taxes are very complicated (!!), so we have teamed up with Sprintax to provide you with an easy-to-use tax preparation software designed for nonresident students. Check your Centre email for information, instructions, and discount code around the end of January. Reminder emails will also be sent around Spring break and right before the mid-April tax filing deadline.  


For more information, please contact ISS and/or refer to the following source(s):