Ask the Advisor: Internships

Question:  I would like to find an internship during the Winter and/or Summer Break. Do I need prior approval from ISS to do this? Will I be violating any F-1 regulations related to employment?

Answer:  While international students with F-1 status are generally not able to work off-campus, students are eligible to volunteer off campus, or with proper authorization from ISS, are eligible to pursue paid and unpaid internship opportunities. Students may be authorized for internships working up to 20 hours/week during the academic year and up to 40 hours/week during breaks. If you are interested in a paid/unpaid internship or long-term volunteer opportunity, you should make an appointment in the ISS Office to discuss your options and the authorization process.

Regarding internships, the most common work authorization is called “Curricular Practical Training” or CPT (for students in F-1 status).  Students must have completed at least one academic year before they are eligible for work authorization. F-1 and J-1 students are permitted to volunteer in the US without additional authorization, but should be careful not to violate any labor laws. If you have a recurring unpaid volunteer opportunity, please consult with ISS or legal counsel to ensure proper documentation of the situation in order to protect your F-1 status. If you receive a job offer for an internship, be sure to meet with ISS at least two to four weeks prior to your employment start date. The minimum requirements to request CPT work authorization:

  1. Complete one academic year (9 months previous to your request) of study.
  2. The internship must be integral to a credit bearing course or independent study within your declared major (for CPT).
  3. Submit the necessary documents (see above, "Apply for CPT") to ISS at least two to four weeks before starting the internship. The required documents can be picked up in the ISS office or downloaded from the website.

Finding an Internship

Students may be authorized for internships working up to 20 hours/week during the academic year and up to 40 hours/week during breaks. Some students seek internships in places they might not otherwise be able to intern at during the academic year, (such as warm locations)! Some internships are paid and might even include housing as part of the employment offer.  Other organizations may be able to suggest a place to stay. Contact the Center for Career, Life, and Civic Engagement (CLC) if you’d like more information about finding internships AND attend other ISS or Career Services presentations throughout the year.

Remember, if you are interested in an internship in the U.S. you MUST be authorized for employment by ISS IN ADVANCE. Your academic advisor will also need to complete paperwork so be sure to think ahead to allow at least two to four weeks before your work starts to complete the CPT authorization process.

Internships Outside of the United States

Internships in your home country or countries outside of the U.S. do not need to be authorized by ISS, but please report them to the Center for Career, Life, and Civic Engagement so they can be posted to your Co-Curricular Record and for additional institutional support during your experience.