International students struggle with employment complications

As non-citizens of the United States, international students can only apply for off-campus jobs in cases of severe economic hardship, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Just like many international students, Jummy Adegoke, a Marshall graduate student, was shocked to learn she can apply only for jobs on campus while she studies in the U.S.  

“When I first came to America in 2016, I was so surprised that I cannot work outside of campus,” Adegoke said. “There are jobs outside, and people begged us to take it, but I had to deny because I’m an international student. If they can let us work off-campus, that would be great; we can make more money. But rules are rules.”

However, there are international students who take risks in finding off-campus jobs. 

“I chose to work off campus at the beginning because I needed money at that time for living expenses and to help my parents so they don’t have to send more money for my expenses during living in the U.S.,” said an international student who graduated from Marshall and prefers her name remain anonymous for fear of being penalized.

This student is among numerous international students who decided to work off-campus, even though they are aware of the fact that doing so is illegal. If international students work a job off campus, this will violate their visa status, and if they get caught working illegally, they face the risk of being sent back to their home country. 

“I tried to apply to jobs on campus,” the student said. “I just got one job, but they didn’t pay really well, and I have to work a lot. So, I decided to work outside. I felt nervous at first, but when I worked there for a while, I felt comfortable, and I worked not really close to the campus, so I did not feel that much nervous anymore.”

The majority of international students who study at Marshall are on an F-1 visa, a student visa that allows a person to stay in the United States for education purposes. F-1 visa students can only apply for off-campus employment when they can show that new, unexpected circumstances beyond their control have created severe economic hardship, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Some of the situations may include: 

• Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment (if 

the student is not at fault),

• Large increases in tuition or living costs,

• Substantial decrease in the relative value of 

currency the student depends upon to pay 


• Unexpected changes in the financial conditions 

for a student’s sources of financial support,

• Unexpectedly large medical bills not covered by 


• Other substantial, unexpected expenses.

The International Students Services Office at Marshall has made an effort in preventing students from violating the law.

“We advise all F-1 and J-1 students during mandatory orientation, various workshops and personal advising sessions about the proper steps to securing authorized employment,” said Lesli Burdette, associate director of admissions for International Student Services. 

The unidentified student worked off-campus for roughly eight months and then decided to stop as she said taking a risk to violate the visa status is not worth it. 

“After graduated, I looked back the time that I worked, I don’t think it was worth it,” the confidential student said. “I also realized that when I worked like that, I didn’t have enough time to study. After all, I don’t think it’s a good idea to do that. As they have stated in the law, and you shouldn’t go against it. I learned from my mistake that we shouldn’t do it. Even we can make more money, but if we get caught, we will have to pay much more.”

Adegoke said she believes if international students are patient, they can find on-campus jobs that are suitable for them. 

“You don’t want to get in trouble with your status just because some money,” Adegoke said. “I believe if you walk around on campus, there will something somewhere available for you.”

Phuong Anh Do can be contacted at [email protected]