Maintaining Your Student Visa As a Current Student

by MPOWER Financing | In Guides and Tools | 27 October 2021

It’s time. You’re finally achieving your dream of studying abroad. Studying internationally, while charming, can be difficult because you now have to maintain your student visa status. While abroad, you may decide that you want to work or be eligible to get a paid internship. Read on to learn more about how you can maintain your visa status while still achieving other academic and financial success.

Getting Started As a Student Studying Abroad

Once your student visa has been approved and you are studying in the U.S or Canada, you are legally responsible for certain conditions as a visa holder and student immigrant.

At a minimum, you are expected to be in a school and collegiate program of study throughout the dates determined by your visa holder status. While this seems simple, things may arise that may prevent you from maintaining those standards.

Expectations of a Student Visa

As an actively enrolled college student with a student visa, it is imperative for you to follow the requirements and restrictions of your visa. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple. 

Maintaining Your Student Status

Here are some tips to follow to maintain your visa status: 

  • You must maintain an actively enrolled, full-time student status in your classes.
    This means that even if you are struggling with the materials or your grades aren’t where you want them to be, you can’t bow out. Once you are registered for a class, you are required to complete the program. 
  • If you are struggling with English, Canadian French, or some other dominant language as a second language, please ask for assistance from a professor or the international office at your school. This applies to community colleges, as well as technical schools, and universities. Check with your international programs department or advisor to find out who to schedule an appointment with for more information on how to get started.
  • If there are personal reasons as to why you are unable to complete your studies, request a meeting with your advisor to discuss options.

Getting Help for Financial or Personal Issues

Whether you are having issues personally or need assistance with finances, there will be someone to help guide you along the way. The most important factor here is timing.

If you decide that you need assistance in maintaining the stipulations of your student visa, don’t wait and ask for it! 

Working in the U.S

You may find yourself asking “I have unexpected program fees for a course and I need help paying for them. Can I get a job on campus to finance such needs?” You may even find a great paid internship opportunity but aren’t sure if you’re allowed to make money while being a full-time student on a visa. 

In short, the answer is almost always YES!

Many schools will offer work-study programs, including graduate assistantships and on-campus jobs, that are geared towards the student population.

While these opportunities provide valuable experience and job skills, as well as a way to earn an income, you still have to follow some guidelines to maintain your visa status. Here’s the bottom line:

  • You can only work when you are authorized and approved to do so as stipulated by the conditions on your student visa.
  • You can complete curricular practical training (CPT).
  • You are eligible to attend optional practical training (OPT), otherwise referred to as temporary employment.

This is only applicable to F-1 students, which covers most international students on a visa. To do any work on-campus or off-campus requires speaking with your designated school official (DSO). The DSO will provide you with further guidance and recommendations based on your case.

If you are struggling with financial hardship, there are options. You may qualify for employment outside the typical parameters. The Department of Homeland Security determines this for U.S students. 

Emergent Circumstances and Special Student Relief in the U.S

To receive a work release, you are expected to qualify for emergent circumstances. These circumstances include “world events that affect a specific group of F-1 students and which cause them to suffer severe economic hardship, including, but not limited to, natural disasters, wars and military conflicts, national or international financial crises.”

If this applies to you, there is Special Student Relief (SSR) that suspends your existing student visa requirements for working.

Working in Canada

If you are studying in Canada, you can work in various capacities while maintaining your active visa status. These positions include:

  • Employment is on-campus and off-campus.
  • Work as an intern or for a cooperative (co-op).
  • Post-graduate work.

You are required to wait until your school session starts before you can begin working or interning. Your student visa will also indicate whether you can work on-campus or off-campus. Conversely, there are special stipulations that will allow you to work off-campus without a permit. The stipulations include:

  • Being a full-time student at a public or private college or university.
  • The maintaining of your visa.
  • Holding a Social Insurance Number (SIN).

Working on campus includes working at an on-site research laboratory, library, cafeteria, or other school-run organization.

Another question we hear quite often is “Can I work at a campus in my school’s network even if I am not studying at that location?”

Unfortunately, no. You are required to work and study on the same campus. Off-campus employment is an option though! You may work without a permit and off-campus while still maintaining your visa status if you meet these requirements:

  • You are a full-time student enrolled in academic, professional, or vocational training (Quebec offers vocational training only).
  • You are completing a minimum six-month study program.
  • The program you’re in will result in a certificate, degree, or diploma.
  • You hold a SIN.

The Canadian government does note that you are not eligible for employment off-campus if you take an authorized leave from school and your study program.

Focusing on Your Studies

Here at MPOWER Financing, we want you to focus on your studies. If you need additional immigration assistance and information, we can help. Our goal is to provide you with the tools you need to help cover your education costs. Learn more about our services and how we can help now. Contact MPOWER Financing for more information.

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