Employment for International Students in J-1 Visa Classification
Whatever type of employment you are considering, you must first obtain approval in writing from your J-1 Responsible Officer, who represents your J-1 sponsor and issues your Forms DS-2019. Before approval, your J-1 Responsible Officer is obligated by regulation to evaluate the proposed employment in the context of your program and your personal circumstances, and then decide whether it would be appropriate or not.
If UNH is your sponsor, then your J-1 Responsible Officers are members of the OISS staff. If your J-1 sponsor is another agency and if you are uncertain how to reach your J-1 Responsible Officer, the OISS staff can assist you in doing so. However, if UNH is not your J-1 sponsor, then the OISS staff have no authority to grant your work permission.
You are eligible for "Student Employment" provided you:
- hold valid J-1 student status
- are registered and studying full-time
- are in good academic standing at the school that your J-1 sponsor has authorized you to attend
- your J-1 Responsible Officer has approved the specific employment in advance, in writing
Limitations: If authorized, you may work a total of 20 hours per week while school is in session. You may work up to 40 hours per week during official school breaks and vacation periods, including summer vacations, provided you are eligible and intend to register for the next school term. The 20-hour-per-week work limit while school is in session applies to and includes all types of "Student Employment." A 20-hour-per-week graduate assistantship, for example, would exhaust your academic-year on-campus and off-campus work eligibility.
How to Apply for Work Permission
First you should talk to your J-1 Responsible Officer about why you want or need to work, whether it is advisable, and what type of job would suit you best. If you have unforeseen need, your J-1 Responsible Officer will request a letter from you explaining the circumstances. If your J-1 Responsible Officer agrees that it would be appropriate for you to work, the next step is to obtain a job offer from your employer. You must obtain written permission from your J-1 Responsible Officer before beginning any employment.
Authorization to Work
A Social Security Number: To put you on the payroll, your employer will need your Social Security Number. If you do not have one, you must submit an application to the Social Security Administration.
Form I-9, "Employment Eligibility Verification": When you begin work, you and your employer must complete Form I-9, which requires you to document your identity and work authorization according to directions on the back of the Form. Of the various items acceptable as documentation, you may find that the most convenient combination is your passport, Form I-94, Form DS-2019, and your J-1 Responsible Officer's written work authorization. Since your Responsible Officer's authorization can be valid for no more than a year, you will have to obtain a new one at least annually, and then update your Form I-9.
Summer Employment for Students Transferring from one J-1 Sponsor to Another
If you intend to transfer programs between academic years and you want to work at the old school during the summer, you must delay the transfer procedure until after the period of employment, and must obtain employment authorization from the old school's J-1 Responsible Officer. This will be possible only if the old school's Form DS-2019 remains valid throughout the period of employment.
To work at the new school, you must first complete the transfer procedure and then apply to the J-1 Responsible Officer at the new school for authorization to work. The new school's form DS-2019 must take effect by the beginning date of your employment authorization.
Categories of Employment Available to J-1 Students
- Employment required by a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship: This kind of work is usually performed on-campus, with the school as the employer. In certain circumstances, however, the work can be done elsewhere, for a different employer. You might work in a government or private research laboratory, for example, if your major professor had a joint appointment there, and would be supervising you in work that counted toward your degree.
- On-campus jobs unrelated to study: The regulations, in allowing for jobs on campus that are unrelated to study, stipulate only that the work be done "on the premises" of the school. That means that the school does not have to be the employer, and that you could work for a commercial company, such as a food service, in its operations on your campus.
- Off-campus jobs to meet urgent, unforeseen need: Your J-1 Responsible Officer can authorize you to work off-campus in the "Student Employment" category only if you have serious and urgent financial need that you did not foresee when you became a J-1 student, or when you enrolled at your current school. Under certain circumstances off-campus work may also be available as "Academic Training," a separate category of study-related employment.
"Academic Training" is employment in the field of your academic program in the U.S. To determine the number of months of Academic Training for which you are eligible, see below under "before completion" and "after completion." In counting the months of authorization, part-time academic training counts the same as full-time.
- Before completion of your program of study: With permission for Academic Training, you may work part-time (20 hours per week maximum) while classes are in session and full-time during vacation periods. Under certain circumstances, you may interrupt study to work full-time, for example while you are writing a thesis. The limit is 18 months or the time that you have been a full-time student, whichever is shorter, unless the employment is a degree requirement.
- After completion of your program of study: You must apply for Academic Training prior to the completion of your program. The limit is 18 months or the time that you were a full-time student, whichever is shorter, minus any previous Academic Training. Note however, that if you receive a doctorate at the conclusion of your J-1 student program, you then become eligible for 36 months of "postdoctoral training," such as research, minus any Academic Training used before the doctorate was awarded.
Social Security & Other Taxes
Social Security taxes: In general, as a J-1 student you will be exempt from Social Security (F.l.C.A.) taxes for your first five years in the U.S., as long as you continue to declare non-resident status for tax purposes (see Internal Revenue Service Publication 519, "US Tax Guide for Aliens").
Federal, state and local taxes: Unless you qualify under a tax treaty between the U.S. and your home government, your earnings as a J-1 student will be subject to applicable federal, state and local taxes, and employers are required by law to withhold those taxes from your paychecks. By April 15 you must file a federal income tax return and a "Required Statement" covering the prior calendar year to determine whether you owe more taxes or will be entitled to a refund.