Ask an OISS Advisor: Internship Work Authorization

QUESTION: Do I need work authorization for an unpaid internship?  
        by Martha Turner, Director, International Student and Scholar Advising

ANSWER: YES!  You definitely need work authorization.  If you are providing a service for which you are compensated through experience or payment or in any other way, then it is considered employment under immigration law and you need work authorization.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Work authorization is limited and restricted and varies depending on what you are studying at Washington University. So a student in Engineering has different options than a student in Business.
  2. For off-campus work, F-1s and J-1s can only work in a job related to one of their majors. The internship/summer job must be connected to the major, that is, field of study.
  3. In some cases, work authorization can take up to 3 months to obtain and must be finalized before the student beings employment.

Get educated before you look for summer internships/jobs.  To understand the immigration rules, you can speak with your OISS advisor and/or attend our Working 101 seminar on October 9th. (Register at: )



Send us your questions! “Ask an OISS Advisor” is a regular feature in the International Voice where OISS advisors answer questions that have been submitted by International Students and Scholars from Washington University. This means that we need your help! If you have a question that you would like to have answered in this column, please send it to us. It might be a question for which you don’t know the answer or it may be a particular issue that you have noticed causes confusion for many other international students. If you’re not sure if it’s a good question for this feature, go ahead and send it in, and we will decide. Please send your questions to the editor of the International Voice at: . Indicate if you prefer for your question to be anonymous.