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What international students need to know

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a freelancer is someone who does particular work for different organizations, rather than working full-time for one organization. A freelancer is also referred to as a free agent, unaffiliated, or self-employed.

Freelancing is a great way to supplement income, especially for international students. Writing is a given in college, so it’s no surprise that some students are turning to freelance writing for a side income abroad.

International students may also find their language proficiency an advantage when applying for a translation job.

But which countries allow students to engage in self-employment on a student visa? How limited are they in terms of the types of jobs they are allowed to do as freelancers? What type of working hours are they entitled to?

The answer to these questions may vary. Here is a breakdown of freelance work opportunities for international students in five countries:

Different countries have their own laws that may or may not allow international students to engage in self-employment while on a student visa. Source: Mladen Antonov/AFP

5 countries where students can and cannot supplement their income by freelancing

Freelancing in the United States

The answer as to whether or not an international student can engage in freelance work in the United States is not straightforward. Self-employment is considered self-employed.

In 2019, Adrian Pandev, an employment-based immigration attorney, notes that an F-1 student with a valid post-completion OPT work authorization can work for themselves, but it must be tied to his field of study.

Citing information from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), he said:

“The exact wording of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines states, ‘A student on the OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student must be able to demonstrate that they have the appropriate business licenses and are actively engaged in a business related to the student’s program of study.

USCIS notes that F-1 visa holders cannot work off-campus during the first year of college, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. After the first year of college, USCIC notes that F-1 students can engage in three types of off-campus employment:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)
  • Extension of STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT)

F-1 students might be eligible to work off-campus on a case-by-case basis due to special circumstances such as severe economic hardship or special student assistance, while M-1 students may take hands-on training after completing their studies.

“For F-1 and M-1 students, any off-campus training employment must be related to their field of study and must be authorized before beginning any work by the designated school official (the person authorized to maintain Exchange Student and Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS,” the USCIS said.

Some international students have managed to become independent in the United States, but not without some obstacles.

According to The Open Notebook, Shi En Kim, a doctoral student studying nanomaterials, was eager to engage in freelance work. She applied for the part-time CPT. CPT is authorized by the student’s university and must be part of the student’s curriculum.

“I spoke to my international student office, and right away they said no. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to give up,” she said. Kim then approached her dean, who agreed to support her, they appealed to the international students office and got the approval she needed to write scientific papers on her own.

TL; DR: International students in the United States may be eligible to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week, but that does not include virtual or onsite freelance work. Even if a student chooses to do virtual self-employment for an offshore company and receives payment through an account outside the United States, he will be committing tax evasion because it is mandatory to disclose income earned while residing in the United States. . Self-employment might be possible under the CPT or OPT, but students should contact their university for clarification.

Freelance work in Canada

It is possible for international students to work freelance in Canada. The country’s government notes that international students may be allowed to work on or off campus without obtaining a work permit, provided they have met the necessary requirements.

International students working off-campus must adhere to the following guidelines for working without a work permit:

  • Enrolled full-time in a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)
  • Enrolled in a post-secondary university, vocational or professional training program
  • A vocational training program at the secondary level (only applicable in Quebec)
  • Their study program lasts at least six months and meleads to a degree, diploma or certificate
  • Have started to study
  • Have a social insurance number (SIN)

Freelancing in the UK

According to the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), international students who are not from the EU are not allowed to start their own business or become a free agent.

An employment directive from the Career Services department at the University of Sheffield states that international (non-EU) students cannot be self-employed in the UK while studying. This means that they cannot register, trade or market their business for commercial purposes as long as they hold a student visa.

In some cases, certain vacancies for part-time jobs posted on student job portals such as Career Connect may be offered on a self-employment (also referred to as self-employment) basis.

Before applying for such jobs, it is advisable to consult with a university advisor if such work can be undertaken by international students.

Students who are eligible to self-employ in the UK are responsible for paying all their taxes and national insurance contributions themselves. They are also required to complete an online or paper tax return.

Freelance in Australia

The short answer is yes, international students in Australia are allowed to work freelance on a student visa.

A maximum of 20 hours per week is allocated to international students who wish to work part-time on a student visa and they can be employed full-time during holidays.

According to the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICSTD) Australia, international students wishing to be self-employed in Australia must obtain an Australian Business Number (ABN) to become an independent business or individual entrepreneur.

Additionally, applying for a Tax File Number (TFN) is essential for tax and student pension purposes.

Freelance in New Zealand

The New Zealand government website notes that international students are not permitted to work on their own (which includes freelance work).

In New Zealand, international students are only allowed to work for one employer and have an employment contract.

Income supplement: International students in New Zealand

International students wishing to work part-time in New Zealand are not permitted to register as self-employed and must be linked to an employer with an employment contract. Credit: Dean Treml/AFP

Ultimately, whether or not you can engage in self-employment will vary by country. It is best to check with relevant government websites and get confirmation from your international student adviser before doing any freelance work to ensure you are not breaking any laws while studying abroad.

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