I am an international Ph.D. student in the US and am planning to write an article for a US-based magazine. I'm doing this to increase my presence and build a relationship with this publisher. They will probably expect to pay me for this, but I am worried that this will qualify as work that is not permitted under my F-1 visa.

Ideally I would write the article and accept any payment. Does anyone know what to do in this situation? Could I have them pay me in my home country?

Please note that normally a citizen of another country can write for a newspaper or magazine in the US without either residing in or having a visa for the US. So if I were in my home country right now this would not be an issue, it is just that I am incidentally in the US that makes me concerned.

  • 5
    Is selling an article to a publisher employment? Apr 5, 2019 at 14:00
  • Just a thought, but suppose you went to another country for a few days to actually write the article? Apr 5, 2019 at 18:14
  • Just a comment that this is best asked in academia.SE as it's not strictly about travel.
    – RoboKaren
    Apr 5, 2019 at 18:18
  • 2
    @RoboKaren Or, perhaps even more appropriately, expats. Long-term visa questions are generally off-topic for travel.SE.
    – reirab
    Apr 5, 2019 at 21:41
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    This is not an answer but just a suggestion. Every college in USA which accepts international student does have "International admission office" where there are highly knowledgeable advisors which are also in contact with DHS for any issues. I will highly recommend you to talk with them first. Apr 5, 2019 at 23:38

2 Answers 2



F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. After the first academic year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)

For F-1 students any off-campus employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS.

Even though you won't have to leave the campus to write an article it will be considered "off-campus employment" when the magazine publisher is not part of your university.

  • So when you are still in your first year?
    No go.

  • Have you been a student for more than 1 academic year?
    Then you need to request permission before writing and submitting the article.

When the magazine and/or the subject of the article are related to your field of academic study, or when you're studying journalism or similar, then you can make a case that writing such articles is practical training and you may be granted such permission.

  • 3
    It is "dissemination", which it is encouraged in many universities, not just for peer-reviewed papers, but also for wide public. Apr 5, 2019 at 8:15
  • Can they have the publisher pay the university and the university pay the author to make it an on-campus employment?
    – Jungkook
    Apr 5, 2019 at 12:01
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    @Jungkook Lol that's a very optimistic opinion of the university bureaucracy. Maybe if they're in a journalism department they might be able to help Apr 5, 2019 at 17:29

You can’t work as an F1 student except at your own university. The one exception is if you are on OPT.

The journal will likely want you to fill out a W9 so that they can pay you, which is when they’ll discover that you don’t have work authorization.

Alternatives to getting paid would be:

  • they reimburse you for expenses (say you incurred research costs in writing the article)
  • they pay your research lab at your institution or your PI (professor), again offsetting research costs
  • they “pay” you in product such as giving you some of their books for free or a registration to the next conference (this is a legal grey zone, as commentators note)
  • 4
    Or ask your institute, and let them pay your institute. I expect you will get more by being the author of the article, then the check you will get, but you should be sure they will pay. Apr 5, 2019 at 8:13
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    Technically, paying you with products is not different from paying in cash, what is relevant is the exchange of value and not its form.
    – SJuan76
    Apr 5, 2019 at 9:28
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    Careful there. Payments "in kind" are still taxable under some circumstances.
    – Sneftel
    Apr 5, 2019 at 14:36
  • It's pretty common in academia and I haven't filled out W9s for when I get books instead of cash. I suppose at some time the IRS will crack down but every major publisher still seems to engage in it, so it'll be a national crackdown.
    – RoboKaren
    Apr 5, 2019 at 14:37
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    @Sneftel we're more concerned here about immigration law than taxation. As far as I can tell, working for in-kind compensation would still be working for the purpose of immigration law, regardless of whether the income is taxable. The University of North Texas, at least, thinks so: "Internships and Volunteering: If you receive any compensation, even in-kind compensation including meals, housing, or insurance, USCIS considers this employment compensation. If you receive employment compensation, you must apply for CPT."
    – phoog
    Apr 5, 2019 at 18:08

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