How to Earn Passive Income as an F1 Student

Updated on March 18, 2024

At a Glance

  • F1 visa allows individuals to study in the U.S. for the duration of their course or up to 5 years
  • F1 visa holders are generally not allowed to work, except for limited part-time jobs on campus or during breaks
  • They may participate in authorized programs like Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • Earning passive income, such as renting out a room, is generally legal, with certain restrictions and tax implications

Are you studying in the U.S. on an F1 visa? And are you perhaps looking for ways to earn extra income during your studies? What is the legal way to do this and what types of income is illegal for someone on an F1 visa?

Here we’ll delve deeper into the do’s and don’ts regarding F1 visa passive income. It’s not as complicated as you would have thought. Let’s take a look.

What is an F1 Visa?

Before we can look into F1 visa passive income we first need to recap what an F1 visa is.

The F1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa and is available to people from abroad who want to study in the U.S. Only people who have been accepted into a course or school in the U.S. is eligible for an F1 visa. Nonresident aliens joining schools, seminaries, conservatories, training programs, or other academic institutions, therefore, apply for F1 visas.

The F1 visa allows you to live and study here. The visa is valid for the length of your course or for 5 years (whichever is the shortest). It is possible to extend your F1 visa if your course demands it, but you’ll need to renew it before it expires to avoid removal procedures. The F1 visa does not allow you to hold a job in the U.S. But, you may under certain circumstances be allowed to work for 20 hours per week at your school in a job that is in line with your course.

Who is Eligible for an F1 Visa?

As with any immigration matter in the U.S., only certain groups of people are eligible for an F1 visa. Here are the four eligibility criteria that determine whether someone may get an F1 visa:

  1. Official residency in a foreign country with intentions to return home
  2. Admission to an approved school
  3. Sufficient financial support
  4. Ties to your home country

You can’t apply for the visa without proper identification like a passport for instance. You also can’t apply for an F1 visa if you don’t yet have written confirmation of your admission to a school. The school you intend to attend must be approved by the government as a recognized academic institution. You can’t just claim any educational pursuit as a valid reason for your F1 visa application.

The government wants to make sure you can support yourself financially for the duration of your stay and would like to see evidence of it in the bank statements you bring along to your visa interview. In this interview, the consular officer also needs to see proof of ties to your home country. Evidence of ties could be things like family, assets, job offers or bank accounts. In essence, they want to see compelling evidence that you intend to move back to your home country when your studies are done in the U.S.

Can F1 Visa Holders Work in the U.S?

May an F1 visa holder work in the U.S.? This is one of the questions that have an effect on whether F1 visa passive income is legal. The answer is simple when you understand the work eligibility criteria.

F1 Visa Work Restrictions

F1 visa students may accept jobs in the U.S. when it complies with the following criteria:

  • They may work part-time (20 hours per week) during the semester of studies
  • They may work full-time (40 hours per week) during recess
  • They may work in an Optional Practical Training (OPT) program after graduation if authorized by the USCIS.

F1 students are first and foremost in the U.S. to study. Their visa therefore only provides rights and privileges that facilitates study-related activities. This is why they may only take a job in line with the field or subject of their studies. Anything beyond that (also called off-campus employment) is not allowed. OPT programs allow F1 students to be employed off-campus, but the program must first be approved by the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). Without proper authorization, you won’t be able to partake in your OPT. It will also be a good idea to do some research regarding F1 visa EAD (Employment Authorization Document).

F1 Visa Work Options

Before we look at how you can earn F1 visa passive income, let’s look at the three ways in which you can earn an income for active work on an F1 visa.

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a temporary authorization for work (or rather training) which is directly related to your studies. It could be both paid or unpaid and typically comes in the form of co-ops, summer internships, or normal internships required to earn academic credit.

Optional Practical Training

An OPT is a temporary employment directly related to your studies which is a lawful type of work for an F1 visa holder. You are allowed a maximum of 12 months on OPT during your studies. The number of months of OPT used during pre-completion (before you graduate) subtracts from the maximum 12 months you are allowed after completion (after you graduate).

STEM OPT Extension

Specific F1 students in fields of science, technology, engineering, or math may get an additional 24-month extension on their OPT programs which is called a STEM OPT. You’ll need to get this extension before your initial OPT program expires.

F1 Visa Passive Income

But still, the question remains whether you may earn a passive income whilst living in the U.S. on an F1 visa. May you be an Uber driver for extra income? What about renting out the spare room in your apartment on Airbnb?

Immigration lawyers help to give the best advice here. You can always contact one to help you in your unique situation. The general consensus is that it’s totally legal to earn passive income since you aren’t doing any work.

Renting out a room is legal especially if you use a property management company to do it on your behalf. They collect the money, they do any maintenance or upkeep work, and they deal with tenants. Just beware, using Airbnb to rent the room will be difficult since it requires you to have a Social Security Number (SSN) or else there are some intricate tax implications. We would also advise you to contact a tax specialist to help you with the filing of your taxes if you are unsure about your situation. You earned this income whilst in the U.S. and you need to make sure you do it according to the rules set out by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to become an Uber driver since it’s most likely outside your field of studies.


Life as a student on an F1 visa can be tough. You need to budget carefully and you also might be looking for ways to make some extra income. Earning an F1 visa passive income is totally legal. You just need to remember to comply with the tax laws. Ask advice from a registered tax practitioner to help you with filing your taxes. People without ways to earn a passive income can always consider CPT and OPT employment to earn a few extra bucks. Just make sure you keep to the conditions on your F1 visa.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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