International Students and Internships

U.S. Internships Off-Campus: Very Important Information for International Students

Recent regulatory updates related to F-1 status (your student visa status) have increased scrutiny on the work authorizations (CPT and OPT) of international students.  As a result, violations of your F-1 student status will likely cause significant ramifications that could interrupt your studies in the United States.  Notably, violations of your status will immediately cause accrual of “days of unlawful presence” which can lead to a formal ban from the United States. It is more important then ever that international students speak with the Assistant Director for International Student Engagement and the Piper Center to ensure that the academic internship process and the subsequent CPT authorization are properly implemented PRIOR to working in any capacity.  It is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that you are maintaining your F-1 status while in the United States.

important contacts
  • Megan Carmes, Assistant Director for International Student Engagement
    Buntrock Commons 111 | 507.786.3073 |
  • Bryan Shealer, Associate Director, Piper Center for Vocation and Career
    Tomson Hall 270 | 507.786.3049 |
  • Your internship MUST be directly connected to your MAJOR field of study.  (Concentrations and Emphases unfortunately cannot alone be the source of the connection.)  There is no simple standard to determine this connection, but it should be reasonable, clear, and as straightforward as possible.  The Piper Center can provide advice regarding the connection of a particular role to your major but the burden to establish the connection ultimately lies with the student.  It is encouraged that you maintain documentation to demonstrate this connection in case you need this in the future.  (Examples of Documentation: Job/Internship Description, letter from departmenal faculty or supervisor, relevant articles/research, etc.)
  • Work ONLY within the CPT authorization dates.  You may not begin working until the first day indicated on your CPT authorization.  If you need to work longer than the original end-date of your CPT, you must contact the Assistant Director for International Student Engagement to extend your CPT authorization before working beyond the original end date.  Orientations or other advanced hours related to the formal internship DO count as work, and you must be authorized for CPT in order to participate.
  • CPT must be authorized EACH semester, even if the same internship is continuing.
  • CPT must occur within the semester dates.  The dates of employment must coincide with the semester registered for the internship credit.  If the internship must occur during the breaks between semester (even by a day), please contact the Assistant Director for International Student Engagement for advice.
  • Remain vigilant about the number of hours you are working.  Students with full-time CPT authorization may work any number of hours during school breaks and during the summer.  Students can only work a total of up to 20 hours/week for ALL work (on- and off-campus IN TOTAL) during the academic year when classes are in session.  For example, a student working an on-campus job at 12 hours/week and an off-campus internship job at 8 hours/week is fine.  But if the total number of hours worked goes over 20 hours/week – even by one hour – the student would be considered out of status and accrual of “days of unlawful presence” would begin at that moment.

AFTER you have completed the academic internship process, AND after the academic internship credit appears as part of your registration in SIS, it is your responsibility to contact the Assistant Director for International Student Engagement on campus to request the CPT authorization in the SEVIS system.  You will need to provide the following letter to the Assistant Director for International Student Engagement  before Curricular Practical Training (CPT) will be authorized:

  • Letter from the employer on letterhead (typically an offer letter) with a site supervisor signature, which addresses:
    — student’s name
    — dates of employment
    — paid or unpaid
    — number of hours per week
    — brief description of responsibilities
    — a specific address (not a PO Box) where the work will happen
Internships Outside of the United States

International students who find internship opportunities outside of the United States (interim or summer) would NOT need to follow CPT requirements and are not required to register for academic internship credit – although you could register if you otherwise wish to earn credit for the internship.  Keep in mind that you may need work authorization in the country in which you would be working.  Internships during the Interim and academic terms are eligible for academic internship credit without incurring additional tuition fees.

International students are encouraged to consider whether they would like to do an internship in the U.S., their home country, or another international location. The connections and experience obtained during an internship can be highly valuable in finding long-term employment following graduation. It may therefore be beneficial to consider an internship in the country in which you will most likely live following graduation.

Relevant Regulation: cURRICULAR PRACTICAL tRAINING (cpt)

8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)
(i) Curricular practical training. An F-1 student may be authorized by the DSO to participate in a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. Students who have received one year or more of full time curricular practical training are ineligible for post-completion academic training. Exceptions to the one academic year requirement are provided for students enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in curricular practical training. A request for authorization for curricular practical training must be made to the DSO. A student may begin curricular practical training only after receiving his or her Form I-20 with the DSO endorsement.