Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Graduate Assistantships and Working On-Campus

International students are eligible for graduate assistantships and are generally eligible to work on-campus. The following guidelines apply to international students on F-1 (student) visas and J-1 (exchange visitor). These visa types represent the vast majority of the international students at the University of Tennessee (UT). If you have questions regarding another immigration status, please contact your Human Resources partner for guidance.

General Guidelines for On-Campus Employment

  • Most students on F or J visas are eligible to work for up to 20 hours a week on-campus.
  • Students working on-campus must maintain full-time enrollment and good academic standing in their program of study.
  • Students only have authorization to work for as long as their form I-20 or DS-2019 is valid for. If a student is pursuing Optional Practical Training (OPT), graduating, or transferring to another institution, their employment authorization for UT will end.

International Students on Graduate Assistantships

International students can hold assistantships at UT. Authorization is very straightforward and completed upon arrival in the U.S. International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) assumes the validity of assistantships (as stated by the offer letter) as on-going unless otherwise notified by the department. However, it may be necessary to request updated assistantship letters if the student requests an additional immigration benefit such as an extension or dependent addition. The onboarding process for international students ensures that proper employment authorization is provided. This protects the institution and the student from unauthorized employment repercussions. The onboarding process is as follows:

  1. Student is provided an official offer letter for the assistantship. Important, it is imperative that any arrival deadlines for the assistantship are clearly communicated to the student at this point.
  2. The student arrives in the U.S. and completes the initial immigration check in following the instructions at Completing the Initial Immigration Check In.
  3. The hiring manager can begin the hiring process following the guide Hiring a Student on an F-1 or J-1 Visa.
  4. If the student needs a Social Security Number (SSN), the hiring manager must issue a Social Security Memo following the instructions at Issuing a Social Security Memo for an F-1 or J-1 Student.
  5. The student can then follow the steps necessary to apply for an SSN following the instructions at Getting a Social Security Number (SSN).

International students on assistantships are allowed to work more than 20 hours a week during the summer (not in their first semester) and during official university breaks. This does require additional approval from the Graduate School and ISSS. This process is completed by submitting the Additional Pay Request for Graduate Students on Assistantships.

General Employment On-Boarding Process

International students who receive an on-campus offer of employment can follow the general steps provided at Hiring a Student on an F-1 or J-1 Visa.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Student Employment

J-1 exchange visitor students are eligible for assistantships and on-campus employment. However, the Department of State requires additional reporting on these students. If the student you are hiring is a J-1 student, you will also need a letter from ISSS stating that the employment has been approved correctly. The J-1 student can get this letter by booking an appointment with the J-1 Student advisor following the instructions at Getting Advising from International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).