Overview of Employment Opportunities for Students in J-1 Status
This is an overview of the two categories of J-1 student work opportunities established by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which oversees the J-1 program. Application procedures are not discussed in this handout, nor is eligibility except in a general way. Do not assume that you can work; for advice and further information, come to the Office of International Student and Scholar Services
Your J-1 Responsible Officer
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 Form DS-2019. Before approval, the 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 Binghamton University is your sponsor, then your J-1 Responsible Officer is the director of the Office of International Student and Scholar Services. If your J-1 sponsor is an agency, and if you are uncertain how to reach your J-1 Responsible Officer, the Office of International Student and Scholar Services will help you find out, but has no authority to grant employment permission.
Definition of "employment"
"Employment" is any type of work performed or services provided for which you receive a benefit, monetary or otherwise. Because of this broad definition of employment, even non-paid employment-related activities may require work authorization. Be sure to check with your Responsible Officer before engaging in any type of employment-related activity. All J-1 employment must be authorized in advance, before work begins.
The two categories of employment available to J-1 students
Category 1: "Student Employment"
J-1 "Student Employment" is limited to 20 hours per week except during school breaks and your annual vacation. Your J-1 Responsible Officer can approve "Student Employment" for up to one year at a time. Go online to arrange for written approval of all on-campus employment, including assistantships, if Binghamton University is your exchange program sponsor
Type 1: Employment required by a scholarship, fellowship or assistantship.
This kind of work usually occurs on campus, with the school as the employer, but in certain circumstances 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 would count toward your degree.
Type 2: On-campus jobs unrelated to study.
The regulations allow for jobs on campus that are unrelated to study, and 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.
Type 3: Off-campus jobs.
"Necessary because of serious, urgent and unforeseen economic circumstances" that have arisen since your arrival in the United States as an exchange visitor or since your change, inside the country, to J-1 status.
Category 2: "Academic Training" (For more information, see the separate Academic Training Information Sheet.)
"Academic Training" is employment in the field of your academic program in the United States. To determine the number of months of "Academic Training" for which you are eligible, see the "Before completion" and "After completion" paragraphs immediately below. In counting 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 while classes are in session and/or during vacation periods. 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.
If you can show your J-1 Responsible Officer a written offer of appropriate employment no later than 30 days after the end of your program, you will be eligible for "Academic Training" after completion. 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 three years of "postdoctoral training," such as research, minus any "Academic Training" used before the doctorate was awarded.
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 (see the dates in item #3 on your DS-2019) throughout the employment. To work at the new school, you must first carry out 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 (see item #3 on your DS-2019) by the beginning date of your employment authorization.
Social Security and other taxes
Social Security taxes. In general, as a J-1 student, you will be exempt from Social Security (F.I.C.A.) taxes for your first five years in the United States, as long as you continue to declare non-resident status for tax purposes (see Internal Revenue Service Publication 519, "U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens”).
Federal, state and local taxes. Unless you qualify under a tax treaty between the United States 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 of each year you must file a federal income tax return covering the prior calendar year to determine whether you owe more taxes or have a refund coming.
A note of caution
As a J-1 student you are eligible for a variety of work opportunities in the United States, but employment without proper authorization is a serious violation of your status. Before you start any kind of employment, you must first consult your J-1 Responsible Officer, whose written approval is necessary in advance.