Working off-campus in the U.S. with an F-1 Visa
Information on this website is to supplement policies and guidelines found on the Penn State Global site.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is what most undergraduate students use for internships.
Note that students may work on campus with an F-1 visa. This website contains information about working off-campus in an internship or other practical training related to the student's major. Students studying here on an F-1 visa do not need to use CPT or OPT for on-campus jobs.
Tips from International Students
B.S. Information Sciences and Technology, May 2021
A lot of planning and preparation are needed to obtain a full-time position. I started my research in September of my senior year and applied to those positions at the end of December.
For my OPT process, I met with Ms. Kandy Szymusiak, the International Student Adviser, about four months before graduating in May 2021 to start the process. It is important to contact Ms. Kandy about the OPT application early since there could be a backlog in applications, and it could always take a long time before it is approved.
I met with Ms. Kandy four times to ensure that my STEM OPT was approved and that my documents were complete and correct for the OPT application submission to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
As an international student, finding jobs was challenging and competitive since international students from all over the United States are applying for the same job posting. Companies are hesitant to hire international students due to visa complexities. I checked with the companies to see if they hired international students since it would be a waste of time to fill out an application if they don't hire international students. It is crucial to keep track of all the job postings you applied for in a document when you submit numerous applications, such as the area and the positions.
Career Counselor Courtney Kantoski from Career Services helped me a lot in the career planning process. I went to her throughout my senior year to review and edit my resume and cover letters. I did a lot of mock interviews with Courtney, which helped me prepare for my actual job interviews.
Courtney helped me put a LinkedIn profile together for my job search and coached me on how to build connections with Penn State alumni, faculty, staff, and company recruiters. She guided me on career fair preparation available at system-wide Penn State campuses. She also helped me create a profile, upload a resume, and look for jobs on Nittany Lion Careers.
I am happy to conclude through all of this preparation, I was able to land a position as a Security Research Engineer at Cowbell Cyber in Pleasanton, California.
B.S. degree in Rail Transportation Engineering
A lot of planning and preparation goes into successfully landing an internship.
Luiz Almeida received his Bachelor of Science degree in Rail Transportation Engineering at Penn State Altoona. As an international student from Brazil, he pursued internships for CPT in 2017 and 2018. Luiz worked with Courtney Kantoski, Career Counselor at Penn State Altoona Career Services, to craft his resume and cover letters tailoring them to positions of interest. He created several versions of cover letters for ten positions he wanted for an internship.
Luis met with Ms. Kandy Szymusiak, the International Student Adviser, before he started the CPT application process.
Before landing an internship, Luis applied to about 50-60 positions all over the country. He researched companies he wanted to work for and expanded his search to other companies because he knew the competition would be tough. Luis created a spreadsheet of the companies he applied to, including the position, location, a quick overview of the company, and interview date. He completed a mock interview with Courtney to build his confidence and skills. He also used the Career Closet to obtain items to attend local career fairs.
Luis sent a thank you letter after every interview to the recruiters.
Luis completed two summer internships while attending Penn State Altoona. His first internship was with Norfolk Southern in Kentucky and the second internship was with Arup in New York City.
Luis graduated from Penn State Altoona and accepted a full-time job as a Rail/Civil Engineer with Arup in New York, working on projects such as the MTA Enhanced Station Initiative and the Long Island Railroad Third Track project.
Go to Kandy Szymusiak, International Student Adviser:
- Visa questions, such as visa status, work limitations, and restrictions, etc.
- Any questions related to CPT, OPT, and on-campus work.
- Traveling abroad, changing visa status, eligibility for CPT and OPT, etc.
Go to Career Services for:
- Job opportunities and on-campus employment.
- Resources such as cover letter and resume review, interview preparation, job search, and LinkedIn networking.
Recommended Next Steps
- Check what is needed and deadlines on the Penn State Global site.
- Contact your academic adviser early and inform them of your offer. Your adviser will guide you to the faculty supervisor of the internship course for your major or college if needed.
- If you do not need an internship to graduate, then you must work with your academic adviser to find a faculty supervisor for your field experience. You cannot enroll yourself in the internship course.
- After requesting to be in the internship class, you can double-check on LionPATH to see if you have been enrolled.
- Once enrolled in the course, you can apply for CPT on iStart.
This could take as long as three to four weeks. The stated twelve to fifteen business days do not include holidays and weekends.
- When you email your employer for an offer letter, ensure that they have the list of information that needs to be in the letter and that they know it is for your CPT application. The list of required information can be found on the Penn State Global site under the Application and Authorization Procedures section.
- Remind and inform Ms. Kandy, the International Student Adviser, that you have submitted your CPT or OPT application. The sooner you inform her, the faster your application will be reviewed by her.
Need funding for your experience?
Students may apply for either a $1,000 or a $2,000 award through the Penn State Student Engagement Network (SEN). Successful applicants will receive the requested amount and are required to participate in a free, non-credit-bearing SEN Canvas course centered on the student engagement journey.
Need funding for legal services?
Free legal services are available for current students.