Internships and Off-campus Employment

This experience has prepared me for the future. I am no longer scared to put myself out there and search for jobs.

Can I work off-campus?

A question we get all the time is: as an international student on an F-1 visa, can I work off-campus within the U.S.? The answer to this question is: yes! And we encourage you to, while remaining within the regulations of an F-1 visa. Off-campus work while enrolled as a student is typically through internships, a great way to gain work experience and put into practice what is learnt in the classroom. To do an off-campus internship while on an F-1 status, you could use pre-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT). We generally recommend CPT.

What is CPT?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is off-campus employment that is:
  • Directly related to your major field of study
  • Fulfills a curricular requirement within your major or earns academic credit
To be eligible for CPT, you must have been enrolled in a full-time course of study for at least two semesters. Unlike OPT, for which you have to apply to the government and pay an application fee, CPT requests are reviewed and approved by ISPaSO for free!

What is the process of getting an internship?

Every internship journey has unique aspects but the typical process at Principia College can be summarized as follows: 

  1. You find an internship that you are interested in; if you are unsure whether it fulfills CPT requirements, please consult ISPaSO. Besides direct networks, you may be able to find internship opportunities through platforms like LinkedIn, Handshake, and Interstride
  2. You let the Career Center know that you are looking for an internship. The Career Center can help you in your search and application stages
  3. You apply for the internship and you get accepted
  4. You work with the Career Center, your internship faculty advisor (this does not have to be your academic advisor), and the Registrar’s office to finalize the academic contract for your internship
  5. Once the academic contract is ready, you request for CPT from ISPaSO
  6. Once CPT is approved, you receive a CPT I-20 that contains CPT authorization details

Please note: if you accumulate 365 days of full-time CPT before graduation, you lose eligibility for OPT.

An internship done through Principia is a course. An off-campus practicum is also a course. Both of these off-campus employment scenarios can be achieved through CPT. But what if you are interested in doing an off-campus job – not an internship – within the U.S. before graduating? This can be done through pre-completion OPT. We generally don’t recommend pre-completion OPT since it takes away from post-completion OPT. We recommend using OPT after graduation.

Working outside the U.S. – does that require work authorization?

Work authorization rules of an F-1 visa apply only when you are in the United States. We encourage and support employment and internships outside the U.S., especially in home countries. Employment in your home country during your time as a student can not only earn you money and keep you connected with loved ones, it is also a way of building and maintaining career networks that can boost your employment opportunities after graduation.