Immigration question
February 15, 2008 10:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm a Canadian going to grad school in the U.S. I don't have a student Visa as it is not required for Canadians - we only need to show an approved I-20 form at the border - and I'm trying to figure out if and where I can work. I'm employed by the University as a TA but I'm not sure if I can work anywhere off campus or how that might be done. Any thoughts?
posted by pantsonsteven to Law & Government (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is a question best addressed by the international student office of the U.S. university you will be attending. This is because there is some room for interpretation as to what constitutes off-campus employment.

For example, this is what Carnegie Mellon says about employment options for foreign students.
posted by needled at 10:39 AM on February 15, 2008

While my circumstances were reversed (American gong to grad school in Canada), we were allowed to work on campus without needing any kind of permit. This meant anything on campus at all, so any of the restaurants, pubs, etc. To work off-campus, a special work permit was required that authorized up to 20 hrs/week. I'm not 100%, but I think the US has something similar.
posted by Nelsormensch at 11:08 AM on February 15, 2008

No, you likely can't work, especially off-campus. I'm in the same position. Contact your international office at school (there will be one) for the detailed semantics of this. And you are in fact on a student visa. Depending on your circumstances, it could be an F-1 (the most common one) or a J-1, or an M-1 for 'vocational' training. Your visa may vary. Contact your international office at school for the details on YOUR situation; this is a rule you really, really, really don't want to mess with based on incomplete info from online strangers who don't know all of your circumstances.
posted by barometer at 11:50 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you don't know how to find your international office, you'll want to find out: you have to get your visa signed once a year, and when (not if) something gets screwed up on your visa/application for something, you'll want them to be on your side. There is almost ALWAYS a link on the homepage of a university for something like 'international'. Click that, and follow the links for 'students.' Call them and ask about your situation, and then ask if/when your form needs to be signed (mine had to be signed when I started school, then once per calendar year if you're planning on crossing the US border at any point.)
posted by barometer at 11:55 AM on February 15, 2008

I'm a Canadian who did undergrad in the US (4 years ago so YMMV with this advice). I'm pretty sure you require an F-1 student visa even for grad school. The difference is that Canadians can just get the visa at the border without applying at the US Embassy/ Consulate -- hence the need to show an I-20 form. US Customs/ Immigration will issue an F-1 at that point.

If you are on an F-1, you can only legally work on campus. If you wish to work off-campus, the F-1 comes with up to 12 months of OPT (Optional Practical Training) which you have to apply to obtain. The purpose of OPT is ostensibly to allow you to bridge the period after graduation, so you can work in the US while your employer applies for your work visa. People have used OPT to work during summers but I'm not sure you can use OPT during the academic year.
posted by kitkatcathy at 11:57 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, as kitkatcathy says, you still need a visa for grad school. Especially for grad school, because we're working as RAs/TAs/instructors. My guess is you have an F-1, but your international office will know for sure, and they'll be able to explain in detail the terms of that visa. Take them seriously because if your off-campus work is reported (or on-campus work, in addition to your TA position), you are in violation of your visa, and it's really really not a good thing.
posted by barometer at 1:04 PM on February 15, 2008

Talk to the international students office at the university where you're headed. With immigration stuff, be sure to dot all your "i"s and cross all your "t"s; don't do anything halfway, and don't rely on the word of internet strangers as the final word. Your situation may be weird, be sure you get it right.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:12 PM on February 15, 2008

You are on a student visa, you just didn't have to apply ahead of time and no you can't work without first getting employment authorization from USCIS.

I work for SEVIS, we're comming to your apartment right now, start packing. kidding about the comming for you part, but not about the above. If you want a more personalized answer I'm username at hotmail.
posted by Pollomacho at 3:46 PM on February 24, 2008

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