You should always consult with the International Student Advisor before beginning any employment. This is the only way to be sure that you won't engage in illegal employment, with all of its adverse consequences for your future in the United States.
Different requirements exist for each type of F-1 employment, but there are basic requirements that must be met for any F-1 employment:
- You must be enrolled for a full course of study
- You must be authorized by USCIS or the International Student Advisor.
Once employment is authorized you must maintain eligibility or you will lose your right to continue employment, even if it was authorized in writing.
Definition of Employment
Employment is any type of work performed for services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit. If you receive no pay or other benefit for the work performed, this activity is not defined as employment, but can be considered to be volunteer work.
F-1 Employment Options [pdf]