A woman with dark curly hair and mocha brown skin holds up a row of hundred dollar bills
Here’s How to Make Money as an Undocumented College Student

College is hard. Getting a job is hard. Paying rent is hard. But doing all this without papers brings an entirely new level of difficulty. Yet, here you are––along with 450,000 other undocumented students estimated to be enrolled in college in the U.S. With your grit, proven hustle, and defiant optimism, you can smash the “broke college kid” trope into pieces––because seriously, that’s a privilege not everyone can afford to relish.

The Barrier

Without papers, getting a job in the U.S. is a serious hurdle. When you complete an employer application, you’ll likely be asked to provide proof you have the legal authorization to work in the U.S. Again, see papers. You know this, though. But did you know you can legally work for yourself?

America, the Land of Entrepreneurs?

In 2019, nearly 22% of business owners in the U.S. were immigrants according to the New American Economy. Little surprise, in my opinion. A business takes hustle and tenacity––what every immigrant has. And its also one of the areas where undocumented people are granted a pathway to earning an honest living. Seriously. You don’t need to complete an I-9 form or any other work authorization form to set yourself up as an independent contractor or business owner.

Your Money-Making Path

As a college student, launching your own physical storefront is probably a bit of a stretch goal best left after you graduate. But being a business owner or independent contractor is within reach.

Business Online. With access to a computer and walking distance to a post office, launching your own business online is ridiculously possible. From using Etsy, Poshmark, thredUp, Zazzle, and more, you can leverage an existing marketed space to kick up your own sales. But don’t rule out building out your own website to offer your own creative endeavor.

Independent Contractor. Generally, if you assign yourself as an independent contractor, you can sell your services. Say, you’re highly skilled in translating. A company could hire you to translate for them, without requiring you to provide proof of immigration status. You’ll set your own rates, hours, and terms, and even process your own taxes since you’re not their employee, you’re their contractor.

A Quick Note on the Risks and Liabilities

Immigration laws, taxes, insurance, and contracts can get complicated. When pursuing your own business and independent contractor work, it’s worth mentioning it is your responsibility to assess your legal rights and liabilities. You may consider consulting with an immigration lawyer.

By Thomas Guzowski
Thomas Guzowski Assistant Director of Marketing