After arriving at DTS, F-1 students are eligible only to apply for a Social Security card after being hired for on-campus employment. F-1 students are authorized to work on-campus only and employment may begin 30 days prior to the start of classes. Apply only after arrival to DTS and all inquiries regarding on-campus employment should be directed to the Human Resources Office.
Your Work Restrictions
F-1 students are eligible to work on-campus; J-1 students must obtain permission from the Responsible Officer in the International Student Office (ISO) before they start working. When classes are in session, you may work up to 20 hours a week. If you have more than one job, be sure that your total working hours do not exceed this 20-hour limit. During semester breaks and summer session only, students may work full-time during the periods they are not also taking class. The Citizenship and Immigration Services can request information regarding compliance with work-hour restrictions, so be careful that your hours do not exceed the limit. F-2 spouses cannot work and cannot receive income for help given. J-2 spouses may be eligible to work if they receive approval first from the Responsible Officer in the ISO and secondly from the US Government.
Under no circumstances may a student be employed off campus without special permission from the International Student Office and the US Government. All forms of service for which payment is received (including reduced rent, babysitting, etc.) are considered employment. Receiving an honorarium for speaking at a church is also reimbursement; please obtain approval from the International Student Office to ensure you stay within your legal limits. If people give you gifts of any kind, you can accept them as long as nothing is expected in return from you and the gift is not connected to any work or service you have performed for them. For example, would this church be “freely” giving you a scholarship if you were not teaching a Sunday School Class for them? Except for on-campus employment or authorized off-campus employment, it is illegal for you or your spouse to provide any kind of service (work) with the expectation of reduced rent or some other gain.
Reimbursement for Christian Ministry Service
Often, churches and similar non-profit ministries in Dallas like to give financial compensation in exchange for ministry help. Under your non-immigrant status, this is illegal to accept unless approved by the International Student Office and the US government. Ask about receiving this approval after nine months of study as you will then be eligible under the Curricular Practical Training Agreement.
An offering given to you is acceptable only if it is a special event in the church, and is not an ‘honorarium’ given in exchange for regular, consistent ministry to them. You should in every public speaking engagement include a presentation of your future ministry in your own country and the special needs of that country.
Substantial Employment in Christian Ministry
Unless you make arrangements with the International Student Office, it is not permissible to take a regular salaried position in a church or ministry. If a church or any other tax-exempt ministry offers you employment, you should ask the church or ministry to change your visa to ‘Religious Worker’ (R-1). The ministry would do this through the services of an immigration lawyer. Your employer would make the required application, not DTS. You would then be able to work full time in that position, but could only study at DTS part-time, pending approval by your employer. You would then have a different set of restrictions and freedoms. See the International Office for details after your arrival.