If I get a grad student stipend will this violate my F-1 status?

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Question:

I am foreign graduate student in the United States on an F-1 visa. My university has offered me a stipend to work as a research assistant. The stipend includes a monthly allowance for living expenses. If I work as a research assistant and accept the stipend, will I be violating my F-1 student status?

Answer:

A lot of graduate students in the United States are offered a stipend in exchange for providing a service as part of their education program. Stipends are typically offered to grad students in exchange for working as a teaching and/or research assistant.

It's important to realize, however, that because a stipend is a form of compensation, it makes the services you provide into paid work, in the eyes of the U.S. immigration authorities -- for which reason, the work must comply with the regulations on employment.

Like other employment, accepting and receiving a graduate stipend from the university does not violate your F-1 status if you are performing the work on campus, you are receiving payment directly from the university, and you aren’t working more than 20 hours a week while school is in session. Under these circumstances, the work is considered on-campus employment and receiving a stipend for it does not violate your F-1 status.

If you are receiving a stipend for work that you need to do off-campus, you want to make sure that the off-campus location is educationally affiliated with your school. Your Designated School Official (DSO) will be able to help you with that determination. Make sure to check with him or her before beginning any off-campus work related to your stipend.

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