Being a student is tough. Not only do you have to worry about attending classes, doing your homework, and engaging in social activities on- and off-campus, you have to live within the constraints of your budget. And often, that budget is rather limited. That is why many students try to find part-time work to help with the school and living expenses. Some have to work a number of jobs in order to make ends meet.
I was one of the students who needed to work while studying. My problem was that I was rather limited in what I could and could not do, because I was an international student in F-1 status. International students are not allowed to engage in “unauthorized” off-campus employment. The USCIS regulations provide that an F-1 student may engage in up to 20 hours a week of employment. This employment must be on-campus and excludes “on-site commercial firms” that do not provide direct student services.
But what if the student wants to sell something via internet while on-campus? Would that be considered on-campus employment? The analysis here becomes somewhat complex. If the student wants to sell several used text-books or a few items that the student no longer wants or needs, there should be no problem. However, if the student makes the products in the dormitory and tries to sell those products on the regular basis for profit, this begins to look like self-employment and is NOT authorized. Likewise, the F-1 students are not authorized to be compensated for their time while participating in medical experiments, customer service reviews, or any other type of compensation people receive for giving their time.
I had a student ask me recently whether she would engage in unauthorized employment by earning revenue using Google AdSense. Google AdSense is a free program, which enables users to earn profits by displaying relevant ads using a wide variety of online content such as websites or mobile apps. I told the student that she would be entering murky territory, as this might look like unauthorized employment to the USCIS. However, the law is certainly ambiguous enough were an argument could possibly be made in the student’s favor. (I stress POSSIBLY!)
Why is this important to the international students at any rate? Because engaging in unauthorized employment will prevent them from ever adjusting their status to that of permanent residents. As a part of their adjustment of status application, they will need to submit a form, which lists all of their employment. If this form lists any unauthorized employment, the student will not be able to adjust status.
For this reason, I always advise my international student clients to act prudently and on the safer side. I also advise to consider some other options that are available to them: OPT, CPT and in some circumstances, economic hardship. I will address all three of these possibilities in my next blog entry. Stay tuned and remember, just like with your reputation, it takes only one bad decision to ruin your chances at permanent residence in the United States.
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