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Students on F-1 and J-1 visas need to follow certain regulations to work in the United States. Learn about employment options for international students.

Section 1

On-Campus Employment and Finding a Job

“On-campus employment” means:

  • You are working on the Lehigh University campus (Asa Packer, Mountaintop or Goodman campus)
  • You are working for Lehigh University
  • You are receiving payments from the Lehigh University Payroll Office

If you do not meet all of the requirements, contact an OISS advisor.

J-1 students must get OISS authorization BEFORE working on campus.

F-1 Students

F-1 students can work on campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time or more than 20 hours per week during breaks.  F-1 students need OISS authorization to work off campus.

  • Completed payroll forms (I-9, W-4, Residency Certification, and International Tax Information) must be reviewed by OISS within three days of your employment start date. OISS will provide you with instructions on how to apply for a Social Security Number if needed. 
    • Click here for instructions on completing your payroll forms and making an appointment with OISS.
  • Students arriving in the United States for the first time can begin working on campus up to 30 days before the I-20 program start date.
  • On-campus employment ends when you finish your program of study, unless you receive a new I-20 for a new program at Lehigh.
  • You should only work at the school that issued your I-20. Taking classes at other LVAIC schools does not mean you can work there too.
J-1 Students

J-1 students enrolled full-time and in good academic standing can work on campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session if they are authorized by OISS.  To be eligible to work on campus, J-1 students must

  • Log in to iHome and fill out a Student On-Campus Work Authorization form (under J-1 Student Services).
  • Payroll forms must be completed and reviewed by OISS on or before your first day of employment. OISS will provide you with instructions on how to apply for a Social Security Number if necessary.
    • Click here for instructions on completing your payroll forms and making an appointment with OISS.
  • J-1 students who are sponsored by Fulbright or other US government agencies must obtain work authorization prior to completing payroll forms or working on campus
Finding a Job

The Graduate Life Office lists available graduate assistantships on campus.

Lehigh’s Center for Career and Professional Development offers career fairs at the beginning of the fall semester and can help with your cover letter, resume and job search.

The following campus offices typically hire the most student workers:

Section 2

Off-Campus Employment for Economic Hardship

As an international student, you should be prepared to fund your entire education. However, on rare occasions, students face financial challenges beyond their control, such as a primary sponsor losing their income, a disaster at home or substantial unexpected expenses.

In this case, you can apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to work off campus due to severe economic hardship. If USCIS approves your request, you can work for one year at a time, up to 20 hours a week during school and full-time on breaks. Unlike CPT or OPT, employment on economic hardship does not have to relate to your program of study.

F-1 Students

To be eligible, F-1 students must:

  • Have been in F-1 status for at least one academic year (two semesters, excluding summer)
  • Be in good academic standing
  • Show proof that the circumstances that led to the financial hardship are beyond your control
  • Document that on-campus employment opportunities are unavailable or insufficient to meet your financial needs

To apply, complete and sign Form I-765. Write (c) (3) (iii) in box #27 on the form. Then schedule an appointment with an OISS advisor and bring the following documents with you:

  • Completed and signed Form I-765
  • Check or money order for $410 payable to “Department of Homeland Security”
  • One-page statement explaining the circumstances that led to your financial hardship and why on-campus employment is not available or sufficient
  • Documentation of your financial situation at home, such as a statement attesting to loss of income or currency devaluation
  • Two passport photos taken within the last 30 days
  • Copies of your Form I-94, passport photo page, current visa page and all I-20’s
J-1 Students

To be eligible, J-1 students must:

  • Maintain a full course of study during fall and spring semesters
  • Be in good academic standing
  • Show proof of the financial or economic hardship

To apply, schedule an appointment with an OISS advisor. Bring your financial documents and proof of economic hardship. OISS will review your file and determine whether to authorize you to work off campus. If authorized, we will draft an employment letter for you.

Section 3

Preparing for a Career in the U.S.

The Office of International Students and Scholars works closely with Lehigh’s Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) to support the career development of international students. We can help you explore opportunities, develop skills, gain experience and build the connections that will help you succeed after graduation.


Explore magnifying glass iconEXPLORE

Familiarize yourself with Lehigh and U.S. culture. Participate in activities that will help you explore possible majors and career paths. Get to know people in your classes – both international and U.S. students. Meet with key contacts across campus.

  • Join campus clubs and organizations.

  • Use the resources and programs available through OISS.

  • Register for Handshake, a resource provided by CCPD that lets you search for and apply to jobs and research career development resources.

  • Review the “Explore Careers” category in the Handshake Resource Library. You can filter posted positions by OPT, CPT and other options.

  • Create an account with Interstride. As a member of the Lehigh community, you have exclusive access to this career powertool for international students. Click here for more details.

  • Join Lehigh Connects, an individual mentoring program, to find alumni mentors.

  • Participate in job shadowing and conduct informational interviews.

  • Meet with a career coach in CCPD to talk through your career goals.

  • Meet with your academic advisor to discuss your academic plans.

  • Meet with an OISS advisor to learn about your work eligibility in the U.S. and when you should apply.

Develop skills iconDEVELOP SKILLS

Develop the skills you need to secure an internship or full-time position. Use tools and resources to develop your resume, LinkedIn profile, professional network, interviewing skills, and more.

  • Practice talking to employers about what it takes to hire an international student.

  • Develop your professional and social English.

  • Review the Handshake Resource Library, especially the sections on the resume, cover letters, networking, interviewing, and international students.

  • Attend Career Lab to prepare your job or internship application materials and ask questions.

  • Attend Career Skills Sessions and career workshops for international students.

  • Research employers who are experienced at hiring international students.

  • Learn the differences between the internship or job search process in the U.S. and abroad.

  • Learn about proper office etiquette in the U.S.

  • Practice your interviewing skills through Big Interview or a mock interview.

  • Purchase interview attire.

  • Have a professional photo taken at the Career Expo that happens on-campus each semester.

Gain experience iconGAIN EXPERIENCE

Gain experience on campus through class projects, research, clubs, study abroad, leadership opportunities, etc. Seek out industry experience through externships, internships, and co-ops.

  • Meet with OISS to understand your options for off-campus work experience.

  • Ensure that you have the proper work authorization before working.

  • Apply to the externship program.

  • Apply to internships and jobs through Handshake and other job boards. Filter job listings by work authorization status.

  • Pursue experiences such as research, Mountaintop projects, leadership roles, etc.

  • Volunteer in the local community.

  • Consider immersion trips and study abroad opportunities.

  • Identify international companies operating in the U.S.

  • Develop a target list of employers that have sponsored H1-B visas in the past.

  • Have a “Plan B” – seek work opportunities abroad.

  • Meet with your career coach to develop your personalized internship or job search plan.


Form and strengthen relationships with alumni, professors, friends, family members, and industry contacts – both in the U.S. and abroad. Seek information and advice about career paths, industries, and organizations to make informed choices and uncover opportunities. Use available resources to identify contacts and grow connections.

  • Try to identify people in your home country who work for U.S. corporations.

  • Connect with former Lehigh international students who are working in the U.S.

  • Contact alumni through Lehigh Connects.

  • Conduct informational interviews.

  • Establish relationships with your faculty, advisors, peers, and campus offices.

  • Attend fall and spring Career Expos.

  • Attend Employer Information sessions

  • Check Handshake for other events.