Is your employment "authorized"?

  • Get the appropriate documentation before commencing employment. Unauthorized employment poses a serious threat to your ability to remain in or return to the US.

  • If you have any questions concerning your eligibility or category of employment, please consult ISSS.

Work Authorization for International Students
  • Employed students are required to pay Federal, State and Local Taxes. Most F-1 and J-1 students are EXEMPT from FICA (Social Security & Medicare Taxes). Please visit the Tax Information section to read more about your tax liability.

  • In order to work in the US, you will need a valid Social Security Number (SSN). Your Penn ID number is not a valid Social Security number. Students may apply for an SSN only after they have been offered a job or upon receipt of work authorization. Information on applying for an SSN can be found in the Social Security section.

Employment: any type of work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit.

Volunteer Work: an unpaid position where the work performed receives no pay or other benefit 

PLEASE NOTE: Even if you are not receiving any form of compensation for services provided, the activity may still be considered unauthorized employment.


  • Active involvement in the creation of a company may be considered work, and therefore requires proper work authorization.

  • Volunteering for an organization simply to gain experience could be deemed unauthorized employment especially if duties are performed for which one would normally be paid. 

Even inadvertent violations may result in harsh consequences. Be cautious. ISSS is here to provide guidance, but unfortunately is not in a position to judge the legitimacy of all unpaid positions due to the intricate nature of U.S. labor law.

Different requirements exist for each type of student employment, but there are basic requirements that must be met for any employment:

  • Must currently be in valid F-1/J-1 status

  • Must be in good academic standing at Penn & engaged in a full course of study (excluding summer & school holidays)

  • Once employment is authorized you must maintain your eligibility or you will lose your right to continue employment.

Within the first three days of beginning work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled Employment Eligibility Verification (USCIS Form I-9). This form should be provided by your employer and must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission.


Categories of Student Employment

Click on the categories below to learn more about different types of employment authorization.

F-1/J-1 On-Campus Employment

F-1 CPT - Curricular Practical Training

F-1 OPT - Optional Practical Training


F-1 Internship with International Organization

J-1 Academic Training