Employment

Employment for F-1 and J-1 students is limited, and working without permission is a violation of status and a deportable offense. F-1 and J-1 students may not work off-campus without permission from DISSA.  On-Campus Employment is permitted with certain restrictions.  Students must complete employment paperwork with DISSA in order to work on-campus. A Social Security number is required for anyone receiving payment. DISSA can assist you with this process.

DISSA offers workshops every semester which explain the different types of off-campus work permission available to F-1 and J-1 students.

On-Campus Employment

F-1 On-Campus Employment Policies

F-1 students are allowed to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. If you were registered in spring and are registered for the summer term or will enroll for the following fall, you may work full-time on campus (more than 20 hours per week) during the summer.

All employees must complete the Employment Eligibility Verification known as the I-9. DISSA assists international students in completing this form and Form W-4.

J-1 On-Campus Employment Policies

J-1 students are allowed to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. If you have been registered in spring and are registered for the summer term or will enroll for the following fall, you may work full-time on campus (more than 20 hours per week) during the summer.

However, all J-1 student employment requires written authorization each year by the Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer (RO or ARO) of the student's program. This is done by completing the Permission for J-1 On-Campus Employment form in iStart. If your DS-2019 was issued by a programming agency such as IIE, then the RO or ARO of that agency must give you annual work authorization.

[Note: You can only be authorized for on-campus employment 12 months at a time. You must submit a new request in iStart each year.]


All employees must complete the Employment Eligibility Verification known as the  I-9.  DISSA assists international students in completing this form and Form W-4.

Steps for Initial On-Campus Employment

  1. Obtain an employment letter from the hiring department. (Visit the Social Security page of this website for more details about Steps 1-4.)
  2. Request the DISSA Social Security letter in iStart. You must upload the employer letter.
  3. When the DISSA letter is prepared, you will be notified by email.  If you are at another Penn State campus besides University Park, you can have the letter delivered to you.
  4. Take all necessary documents to the Social Security Administration office in your area.
  5. You will get a receipt from the Social Security office indicating that you have applied for a Social Security Number (SSN).
  6. Complete the I-9 and W-4 paperwork and turn it in to the DISSA desk in the Boucke Building. Students at other Penn State campuses may bring their documents/letters to their campus Human Resources representative.
  7. Pick up your I-9 and W-4 after you get the notification email and take these forms to your hiring department.
  8. When you receive your SSN card, take it to the hiring department so that they can update your I-9 and W-4.

 

Volunteering

What is Volunteering?

It is working for an individual or an organization in an unpaid position for humanitarian reasons with no expectation of remuneration.
 
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), individuals must be paid for service that is normally considered paid employment. If you are volunteering in what is normally a paid position or will be a paid position, then you must understand that it is not permissible. 
 
Even though payment (money) may not be exchanged, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) views some types of activity as employment, not volunteer labor. They explain, "the receipt of non-monetary compensation in exchange for services also constitutes employment. A classic example is a student who provides childcare or domestic services in exchange for free room and board. No money is exchanged in this instance, yet DHS would view this activity as employment.” (NAFSA Adviser’s Manual – with permission from NAFSA.)
 
 Examples of true volunteer work would be:

  • Serving in The United Way's "Day of Caring" event

  • Participating in Parent/Teacher Organizations (PTO) 

  • Working at schools (K-12) by cleaning, painting, etc.

  • Helping any charitable organizations with their needs

 
Unless the following activities are performed for a charitable organization, they would be viewed as true employment:  

  • running experiments in a laboratory

  • washing test tubes in a laboratory

  • performing clerical duties

  • providing computer programming and data analysis

There are two issues to consider:

  1. Can the non-citizen/non-permanent resident be employed? Depending on the situation, both the international student and the employer must determine the eligibility. 

  2. Must the activity be paid? Depending on the situation, the employer could risk violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Note: If there is a question, it is sometimes safer to seek employment authorization than to participate. Please seek counsel from a DISSA student adviser.  

Social Security Number for International Students

Getting a Social Security Number

The social security number is used for employment purposes in the United States in order to report wages to the government. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will issue a social security number for employment purposes only. If you have problems establishing a bank account, renting an apartment or opening a cell phone account, see an international student adviser in DISSA. We can help you find other ways to satisfy the requirement with the agency requesting the number.

The Social Security Administration will require that you prove your identity, age, immigration status, and eligibility to work. In addition, F-1 students must provide evidence of on-campus employment from the campus department and verification of enrollment status from DISSA. J-1 students must provide evidence of employment eligibility from the sponsor: if Penn State issued the DS-2019, DISSA will issue the letter; if a programming agency such as IIE or AMIDEAST issued the DS-2019, that agency must issue the letter.

How to Apply

  1. Social Security Card Application

  2. Original I-20 or DS-2019

  3. Original Passport

  4. I-94

  5. Letter from the on-campus employer (see department letter template below) on letterhead including the following:

    1. Identity of student employee

    2. Job description

    3. Anticipated or actual employment start date

    4. Employer identification number (EIN) - the Penn State EIN is 24-6000376

    5. Employer contact information, including the telephone number and the name of the F-1 student’s immediate supervisor

    6. Original signature, signatory’s title, date

    7. Letter from DISSA verifying student status, full-time enrollment and eligibility of employment. To request a letter, fill out the request for Social Security letter in iStart. NOTE: DISSA cannot issue this letter until a student is in registered status.

Local Social Security Administration Office (ask your Campus Contact for the nearest office):

901 University Drive, Suite 2
State College, PA 16801
(814) 238-5035
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 9 AM – 3 PM
Wednesday 9 AM - 12 NOON
Federal Holidays and Other Closings 

Sample Letter

Students must have on-campus employment verification from the hiring department. The verification must be typed on official school or department letterhead and contain the employer's original signature.

Dear Social Security Administration:
This letter is evidence of on-campus employment for (name of student).
Type of job: ____ (e.g. wait staff, library aide, research assistant, etc.)
Start Date: _____
Number of Hours Per Week: _____
Employer Identification Number (EIN): 24-6000376
Employer Telephone Number: _____
Student's Immediate Supervisor: _____
Employer Signature (Original Signature; no photocopy): _____
Signatory's Name and Title: _____
Date:_____

F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular practical training (CPT), employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, is available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year. Students in English language programs are ineligible for practical training.

Eligibility Requirements

For employment to be considered under CPT, it must fall into one of these two categories:

Required Part of Degree Program

  • If the academic program requires employment in your field of study to graduate, you may participate in CPT as long as you meet the other requirements of lawful status.
  • If the employment is required, CPT need not be credit-bearing.

Note: The nine-month in-status rule can be waived if you are a graduate student and the program requires employment before nine months. Undergraduate students must have completed nine months of full-time study in order to be eligible for any form of CPT.

Optional Part of Degree Program

  • If there exists a training opportunity which is an important part of your program and which is credit-bearing, you may be able to participate in CPT. Please note: students must be registered full-time every fall and spring semester unless they meet the criteria for being enrolled less than full time.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time Curricular Practical Training

  • CPT may be part time or full time. Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time CPT; employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time CPT.
  • Full-time CPT which is not a required part of a degree program (but must be credit bearing) will only be authorized during vacation periods.

Effect of Use of Optional Practical Training

Students should be aware that they will not be eligible for post completion practical training if they accumulate 12 months of full-time CPT.

Application and Authorization Procedures

  1. Fill out the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) eForm in iStart (Form #3.2).
  2. Upload the letter on employer letterhead indicating the
  • job title
  • exact start and end dates of employment
  • # of hours of work per week
  • place of employment, and
  • a brief description of duties.

[Note: The place of employment MUST include the street address, city, state, and zip code.]

  1. Register for the course that will cover the internship.
  2. Your request will be forwarded to your academic adviser for verification.
  3.  If approved by DISA, a new I-20 will be produced for you.

**Please note that failure to provide an employment letter containing all of the required elements will result in delayed processing. To facilitate DISSA review, please circle or highlight the required elements in the employer letter.**

Curricular practical training is not meant to be a convenient employment opportunity nor is it meant to be a device to save optional practical training months. If all eligibility requirements are met, an international student adviser will authorize CPT on a new I-20. You must be careful not to continue employment beyond the date authorized on your I-20 unless you apply for and are granted an extension of your permission to work.

Student Address

The Department of Homeland Security requires that our office submit your most current address in SEVIS-both home country address and local address. You can change your address at any time by going to LionPATH.

Who Hires International Students on CPT?

If you plan to do CPT, it is important that you plan early by visiting Career Services to learn about their services. Finding employment is difficult, and it is even more difficult for international students for legal and cultural reasons.

Career Services can help you with the following:

  • Developing career goals
  • Job search strategies
  • Resume writing and interviewing
  • On-campus interviewing including job fairs
  • Internship searches
  • And more!

F-1 Economic Hardship

Economic hardship refers to the financial problems caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control. These financial problems may be the result of a student losing a graduate assistantship, the death of financial sponsor, inflation in the home country causing the devaluation of currency or exchange rate, etc.

Students who are authorized for off-campus employment are limited to 20 hours of work per week while school is in session and full time only during vacation periods and summers.  It may not be possible to solve the problem through part-time employment.

To Qualify, A Student Must:

  • Maintain F-1 status for a full academic year
  • Be in good academic standing
  • Make a good faith effort to locate on-campus employment before applying
  • Meet with an international student adviser in 410 Boucke with required documents

Required Documents

  1. Documentation of the unforeseen nature of the economic hardship
  2. Documentation of your good faith effort in locating employment on-campus
  3. $410 check or money order made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  4. Two passport photos taken within the past 30 days

Your photos should be taken by a professional photographer and must meet Department of State requirements.  Write your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back. It works best to apply a piece of clear tape and write on the tape.  Put the photos in an envelope and write your name and I-94 number on the envelope.

  1. Completed G-1145
  2. Completed I-765 with (c) (3) (iil) entered in #16
  3. Photocopy of all I-20s including a copy of the I-20 issued for this employment
  4. Photocopy of biographical pages of passport
  5. Photocopy of most recent visa
  6. Photocopy of form I-94 record
  • Students who entered the U.S. prior to May 2013 should photocopy the front and back of the white I-94 arrival/departure card stapled in the passport.
  • Students who entered or returned to the U.S. after May 2013 should retrieve the I-94 from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
  1. Photocopy of any previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

DISSA must receive a copy of your EAD card when it arrives.

Mailing Documents

Mail your documents based on the address listed on the I-765 form. (It should be valid for at least the next 90 days.)

USCIS Dallas Lockbox

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS)

USCIS
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

For Express mail through private courier services such as United Parcel Service (UPS) or Federal Express

USCIS
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy, 121, Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, or Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS)

USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For Express mail through private courier services such as United Parcel Service (UPS) or Federal Express

USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

F-1 Internship with an International Organization

F-1 students may accept employment with an American institution of research and public international organization designated under the International Immunities Act.

This type of employment may be full or part time and does not have to be related to the student's major.  Students may be employed beginning in their first semester.  Employment with an international organization does NOT affect the student's OPT eligibility.  Students must maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year.  Employment authorization may be granted for one year and is renewable.

How to Apply

  1. Request I-20 by seeing an adviser in DISSA during walk-hours with your written offer of an international from one of the qualifying organizations.
  2. Within 30 days of the recommendation by DISSA on your new I-20, you must apply to USCIS for employment authorization with the following:
  1. Written certification from the qualifying international organization on the organization's letterhead with proposed start/end dates indicating that the proposed employment is within the scope of the organization's sponsorship;
  2. Check or money order for $410 made out the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  3. Two passport photos taken within the past 30 days.  Your photos should be taken by a professional photographer and must meet Department of State requirements.  Write your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back. It works best to apply a piece of clear tape and write on the tape.  Put the photos in an envelope and write your name and I-94 number on the envelope.
  4. Completed Form G-1145.
  5. Completed I-765 with (c) (3) (ii) entered in #16.
  6. Photocopy of all I-20s (pages 1 and 3) including a copy of the I-20 DISSA will issue for this employment.
  7. Photocopy of biographical page(s) of passport.
  8. Photocopy of most recent visa.
  9. A photocopy of Form I-94 Departure Record. Students who entered/reentered the U.S. May 2013 or later can print the I-94 from the CBP website; students who entered prior to May 2013 should photocopy the front and back of the white card stapled in the passport.
  10. Photocopy of any previously-issued EAD (Employment Authorization Document).

USCIS Service Center Addresses

The state of your local address on the I-765 will determine where you mail your application.

USCIS DALLAS LOCKBOX

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS)
USCIS
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

For Express mail through private courier services such as United Parcel Service (UPS) or Federal Express
USCIS
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy, 121, Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

USCIS PHOENIX LOCKBOX

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, or Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS)
USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For Express mail through private courier services such as United Parcel Service (UPS) or Federal Express
USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Notes

  • Make sure DISSA receives a copy of your EAD card when it arrives.
  • Remember: you must maintain full-time student status during fall and spring semesters.

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Students who have been in F-1 status for at least one academic year are eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) which is temporary employment in their field of study for purposes of gaining practical experience.  Students are eligible for an additional year of OPT at each higher degree level (i.e. Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD.)

The Four Types of OPT

  1. Post-Completion OPT is the most common type of OPT. It begins after the completion of a student’s degree program.
  2. Pre-Completion OPT is for work opportunities during the degree program for which CPT is not an option.  This can include summer (as long as the student will return for fall semester) or during the academic year.
  3. 24-Month STEM OPT is a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT for students who have completed a STEM field recognized by the Department of Homeland Security and who are working for employers enrolled in the eVerify program.
  4. Cap-Gap OPT is a short extension of OPT to cover the period between the end of OPT and the beginning of H1-B, for those who have a pending/approved H1-B Change of Status petition.

Note: Students who have completed 12 or more months of full-time CPT are ineligible for OPT.  Part-time CPT or CPT which totals less than 12 months does not affect OPT.

Post-Completion OPT

This type of OPT begins after a student completes the degree program.  However, "program completion" is defined differently based on degree level.

For undergraduate students and those without a thesis or dissertation requirement, program completion is based on graduation.

For graduate students with a thesis or dissertation requirement, there is some flexibility in determining the completion of program date. Click here for information about program end date.

When you are eligible to apply:

  • No earlier than 90 days from program end date
  • No later than 60 days after graduation

When you are eligible to work

  • When you have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) in hand
    AND
  • After the approved start date on your EAD card

NOTE: You cannot continue on-campus employment beyond the expiration date on page 1 of the I-20

Application Process

  • Request the I-20 by completing the OPT eForm.  Your academic adviser must complete the adviser portion of the eForm, informing us of your graduation date before DISSA can issue your new I-20.  If you have a second major, you must also obtain a letter from the academic adviser for your second major which confirms the completion of that program. DISSA generally requires 10 business days to process all applications for OPT although during peak periods times it may take longer.
  • Make sure U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your OPT application within 30 days from the issue date of the new OPT recommended I-20 AND before the end of your 60 day grace period.  DISSA does not approve OPT applications nor can we speed up or otherwise intervene in the process by the government.  It is also very difficult to cancel an application once it has been mailed to USCIS, so confirm your plans before you apply.
  • Send the following documents to USCIS:
  1. Check or money order for $410 made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  2. Two passport photos taken within the past 30 days.  Your photos should be taken by a professional photographer and must meet Department of State requirements. Lightly write your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back. It works best to apply a piece of clear tape and write on the tape. Put the photos in an envelope and write your name and I-94 number on the envelope.
  3. Completed G-1145.
  4. Completed I-765 with (c) (3) (B) entered in #20.
  5. Photocopy of all I-20s (pages 1 and 3) including a copy of the OPT I-20.
  6. Photo copy of biographical page(s) of passport.
  7. Photocopy of most recent visa.
  8. A photocopy of Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.
  9. Photocopy of any previously-issued EAD (Employment Authorization Document).

Where to send OPT application

Mail your documents based on your address listed on the I-765 Form, which should be valid for at least the next 90 days. Click here for more information on where to file I-765 Form.

Reminders

  • You must mail the OPT application to USCIS within 30 days of when the OPT I-20 was issued.
  • Make sure DISSA receives a copy of your EAD card when it arrives.
  • Update your employment status information and your personal address on the OPT in iStart within 10 days of any change.
  • You cannot continue to work on-campus beyond the expiration date on the I-20 until you get the EAD card and then only in your field of study.

Travel

An F-1 student who has an I-20 with an OPT recommendation and a travel signature less than 6 months old may return to the United States to resume employment. Students need to present their valid passport, valid visa, OPT I-20, valid EAD card, and job offer letter or pay stub to the officer at the port of entry. Students who do not have a job to return to may or may not be allowed entry at the discretion of the port of entry officer. Students on OPT may apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate if their visa has expired. Click here for more information on travel (in particular 2M, 2N, and 2O).

Pre-Completion OPT

This type of OPT is used during a student's academic program (before program completion) under these circumstances:

  1. full or part-time employment during summer vacation as long as the student intends to register for the upcoming fall semester
  2. part-time employment (20 hours or less per week) while school is in session as long as students continue to enroll full time for courses
  3. full or part-time employment after completion of all course requirements except thesis (Read the information found on the Post-Completion OPT page under "option 4" for more details.)
  4. It is recommended that students have a job offer before applying for Pre-Completion OPT.  OPT begins when the Employment Authorization document (EAD card) is in-hand and it is the start date on the card.  It takes approximately 90 days to receive the EAD card, so plan accordingly.
  5. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT for each higher level degree (i.e., Undergraduate, Graduate and PhD.) If you apply for Pre-completion OPT for a total of 12 months, you will no longer be eligible for Post-completion OPT.
  6. Pre-Completion OPT is deducted from the 12 month total of OPT students are eligible for at each higher degree level.  Pre-Completion OPT that is part-time is deducted at half the rate, i.e. 4 months of part-time Pre-Completion subtracts 2 months from the 12 month total.

Application Process

  • Request the I-20 by completing the OPT eForm. Your academic adviser must complete the advisor portion of the form informing DISSA of your graduation date before a new I-20 can be issued. If you have a secondary major, you must also obtaina letter from your second major academic adviser which confirms the completion of that program. DISSA generally requires 10 business days to process all applications for OPT, although during peak period it may take longer.
  • Make sure the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your OPT application within 30 days of the issue date of the new OPT's recommended I-20. NOTE: (1) OPT application are not approved by DISSA, but rather by USCIS. (2) It is also very difficult to cancel an application once it has been mailed to USCIS, so make sure of your plans before you apply.

Send the following documents to USCIS:

  1. Check or money order for $410 made out the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  2. Two passport photos taken within the past 30 days.  Your photos should be taken by a professional photographer and must meet Department of State requirements.  Write your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back. It works best to apply a piece of clear tape and write on the tape.  Put the photos in an envelope and write your name and I-94 number on the envelope.
  3. Completed G-1145
  4. Completed I-765 with (c) (3) (A) entered in #16
  5. Photocopy of all I-20s (pages 1 and 3) including a copy of the I-20 issued for Pre-Completion OPT.
  6. Photocopy of biographical page(s) of passport
  7. Photocopy of most recent visa
  8. A photocopy of Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. Students who entered/reentered the U.S. May 2013 or later can print the I-94 from the CBP website; students who entered prior to May 2013 should photocopy the front and back of the white card stapled in the passport.
  9. Photocopy of any previously-issued EAD (Employment Authorization Document)

Where to Send OPT Application

Mail your documents based on your address listed on the I-765 Form, which should be valid for at least the next 90 days. Click here for more information on where to file I-765 Form.

STEM Extension of OPT

24-Month STEM OPT

The 24-month extension of Post-Completion OPT is for students who have completed a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in either Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) fields. Students who have completed a previous degree in a STEM field from a U.S. institution within the past ten years and have completed a new degree at Penn State are also eligible for this OPT. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has created a list of STEM eligible CIP codes and the CIP code for your major can be found on page 1 of your I-20 under Program of Study. The 24-month STEM OPT is available twice during your college career as long as the second period of OPT is at a higher degree level. 

When You Are Eligible to Apply:

  1. Your major must be STEM eligible.
  2. Your employer must be registered with e-verify.  Not all employers are registered with e-verify, and DISSA does not have a list of e-verify employers.
  3. You and the employer must complete the I-983, and you must submit the form to DISSA with the STEM OPT request.  Page 5 of the I-983 does not need to be completed at this time.  Evaluation on student progress (top of page 5) must be completed and sent to DISSA at the 12-month anniversary of the STEM OPT start date and the bottom of page 5 must be completed and sent to DISSA on the 24-month anniversary of the STEM OPT start date.  Your immediate supervisor and the "Employer Official with Signatory Authority" may be different individuals at your place of employment.  There are instructions and information at the following sites:
  1. Your employer must agree to report your termination or departure to DISSA within 48 hours.
  2. You cannot accrue more than 150 days of unemployment during the total 36-month OPT period.  (No more than 90 of those days can occur during standard 12 month Post-Completion OPT.)
  3. You must agree to validate your address and employer/unemployment information every 6 months and update this information within 10 days of any change.  Use iStart to update your personal information and your employer information by selecting the eForm OPT Employer and Local Address Update.
  4. Your application for the STEM extension must arrive at USCIS before your Standard Post-Completion OPT expires, and it must be sent to USCIS within 60 days of the date the I-20 was issued and signed by the international student adviser.  Keep both dates in mind because failing to do so will jeopardize your application. You may apply up to 90 days before your OPT expires.  It takes approximately 90 days to receive your EAD card, but you may continue to work up to 180 days while your STEM OPT application is pending with USCIS. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicates that "employment through 'temp' agencies, consulting firms that provide labor hire, and other relationships that do not constitute a bonafide employer-employee relationship" do not qualify for the 24-Month STEM OPT. The employer who signs the I-983 must work at the company where they a placed.

Application Process

Step 1: Request the I-20 by completing the 24-Month STEM OPT eForm.  DISSA generally requires 10 business days (or more during peak periods) to process all applications for OPT.  You must submit a completed I-983 signed by you and your employer.  DISSA cannot issue the new I-20 without this eForm. Remember your employer must be an eVerify employer.  If you are applying for the 24-Month STEM OPT based on a previous STEM degree from another institution, you must also upload a letter from the Registrar's Office of that institution providing the CIP code of your major at that institution and a transcript.

Step 2: Within 60 days of the recommendation by DISSA on your new I-20, you must apply to the US government for OPT. DISSA does not approve OPT applications, nor can we speed up or otherwise intervene in the process by the government. It is also very difficult to cancel an application once it has been mailed to USCIS, so make sure of your plans before you apply. Your application must include:

  1. Check or money order for $410 made out to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security."
  2. Two passport photos taken by a professional photographer within the past 30 days. Your photos should be taken by a professional photographer and must meet Department of State requirements. Write your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back. It works best to apply a piece of clear tape and write on the tape. Put the photos in an envelope and write your name and I-94 number on the envelope.
  3. Completed G-1145.
  4. Completed I-765 with (c) (3) (C) entered in #16.
  5. A copy of your current EAD (Employment Authorization Documents) and any previous EADs.
  6. Photocopy of all I-20s (pages 1 and 3) including the I-20 issued for STEM OPT.
  7. Photocopy of biographical page(s) of passport.
  8. Photocopy of most recent visa.
  9. A photocopy of Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. Students who entered/reentered the U.S. May 2013 or later can print the I-94 from the CBP website. Students who entered prior to May 2013 should photocopy the front and back of the white card stapled in the passport.
  10. Photocopy of all previously-issued EADs.
  11. Photocopy of diploma or final transcript.

The I-983 form remains on file with the school, and you should keep a copy for the evaluation and in case the Department of Homeland Security conducts a site visit. 

Mail your documents based on the address listed on the I-765 Form, which should be valid for at least the next 90 days:

Where to Send Your OPT Application

Mail your documents based on your address listed on I-765 Form. Which should be available at least for the next 90 days. Click here for more information on where to file.

Cap-Gap Extension

This extension is for students with a pending or approved H1-B petition with a change of status option.

  • Students on Post-Completion or STEM OPT are permitted on April 1st to continue working between the end of their OPT and the beginning of their H-1B period on October 1 if the H-1B petition was filed before the end of the student's OPT period.
  • Students with a pending or approved H1-B petition who are not currently on OPT (such as current students or students in the 60 grace period) are eligible for an extension of F-1 status but may not work during the Cap-Gap period.
  • Students who chose consular processing may not take advantage of this extension.

NOTE:  This extension is automatic, but proof of the extension is not given unless requested.  Students may request an I-20 for proof of the extension by completing the Cap Gap eform on iStart. The extension ends if USCIS rejects, denies, or revokes the H-1B petition or if the employer withdraws the petition.

 

J-1 Academic Training

You may participate in academic training during your studies or after your studies if the academic training is approved no later than 30 days after completion of studies. However, the period of academic training will begin to count upon the program end date. 

 You are eligible for academic training as long as you meet the following criteria: 

  • You are primarily in the United States to study rather than engage in academic training; 
  • You are participating in academic training that is directly related to your major field of study; 
  • You are in good academic standing; 
  • You receive written approval in advance from DISSA for the duration and type of academic training. 

[Note: You are required to have health insurance that meets the Department of State requirements during the entire period of academic training.] 

Time Limitations 

For exchange, undergraduate, and master's degree students, academic training cannot exceed the number of months of study or 18 months, whichever is less

For PhD students the limit is 36 months or the number of months of study, whichever is less.  No more than 18 months of academic training may be used prior to the completion of studies.  A new form DS-2019 must be issued for each 18 month period. 

Procedure 

  1. Complete the Academic Training form in iStart.
  2. Upload an employment letter describing the details of the training program including: the job title, employment description, employment start and end dates, the number of hours per week, and the employment location. 
  3. Your request will be sent to your academic adviser who will confirm: the goals and objectives of the specific training program; the training program description, including its location, the name and address of the training supervisor, number of hours per week, and dates of training; how the training relates to your major field of study; and why it is an integral or critical part of your academic program. 

DISSA will determine whether the academic training request meets the criteria and time limitations and, if approved, will issue a new DS-2019 and letter for I-9 purposes. 

 You may submit additional requests to extend your employment or change employers as long as your request is made before your current employment authorization expires and as long as your employment does not exceed the time limitations listed above. 

J-1 Economic Necessity

This type of off-campus work permission is for J-1 students who can demonstrate that they are experiencing serious and unforeseen economic hardship. This hardship must have occurred after the student acquired J-1 status. This may include loss of funding due to no fault of the student, a substantial change in the value of the student's home currency, or significant unexpected expenses.

Please note the following:

  • Authorization can be granted one year at a time and the employment does not have to be related to the student's academic program.
  • Employment must be no more than 20 hours per week during the academic year but may be full-time during the summer.
  • Students must maintain full-time enrollment during the academic year.
  • Students must make an effort to find on-campus employment

You must see a DISSA adviser during walk-in hours and show evidence of economic hardship to be considered for Economic Necessity. You may not begin working until DISSA has approved your request. If approved, you will be issued a letter from DISSA authorizing your off-campus employment.


Please note: You may not combine on-campus employment and economic necessity employment in order to work more than 20 hours per week during the academic year.


 

J-2 Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

EAD Application

The following is required for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) application and should be assembled in the order listed.  You will then mail this to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS):

  1. Check (made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) in the amount of $410 U.S. dollars.
  2. A completed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization. For question #16 use code (c)(5) for J-2 work authorization.
  3. Two passport-style photographs with the J-2’s name and date of birth printed lightly in pencil on the back.
  4. DS-2019 photocopies – both J-1’s and J-2’s.
  5. Passport photocopies – J-2’s photo and biographical page.
  6. I-94 photocopies, both J-1’s and J-2’s. Copy both sides if you have a hard copy (issued prior to May 2013).
  7. Personal statement.  The statement must be signed and dated and must state:
  • The reason you wish to work;
  • That the J-1 has adequate funds to cover studies and living expenses; and
  • That any income that you earn will not be used to support the J-1.
  1. Copy of any past EAD card(s).

Tips 

  • Keep a photocopy of your application.
  • If you already have a job offer, you can include a job offer letter with your application. It may help expedite the processing of your application.

Submitting the EAD Application to USCIS

Mail the above documents to the USCIS Lockbox having jurisdiction over the address you have put on the I-765. The following addresses are from the I-765 instruction sheet (revised 9/21/2016).

USCIS Dallas Lockbox

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries

USCIS
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

For Express mail through private courier services such as United Parcel Service (UPS) or Federal Express (FedEx)

USCIS
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, or Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries

USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For Express mail through private courier services such as United Parcel Service (UPS) or Federal Express (FedEx)

USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Notes

  • USCIS will mail your EAD card to the address on the I-765. The address you use on the I-765 should be valid for at least 90 days (and sometimes more) because our experience is that government mail forwarded to another address is frequently lost. If you move, you should call the USCIS National Customer Service Center.
     
  • Within 2-3 weeks you should receive a notice confirming that your application has been received and informing you approximately how long the processing period is likely to be. You will receive a case number, which you may use to check updated information on the status of your application on the USCIS web site.
     
  • After your application has been processed, you will receive the EAD card, a plastic ID card with the J-2's photo on it. You can then take the card to a Social Security Administration office and apply for a Social Security Number and card which you can then use for employment purposes. See also Obtaining a Social Security Number.
     
  • Your EAD card will be valid up to the expiration date on the card. It can be extended further, provided the DS-2019 form for the J-1 and J-2 have not expired and the J-1 program is continuing. To extend your Employment Authorization Document, you will need to re-submit all of the above-mentioned documents to USCIS and enclose a copy of both sides of your EAD card.

Employers Who have hired International Students on OPT or Academic Training

If you plan to seek Optional Practical Training (OPT) (F-1) or Academic Training (J-1) upon completion of your academic program, it is important that you plan early by visiting Career Services to learn about their services. Finding employment is difficult, and it is even more difficult for international students for legal and cultural reasons.

Career Services can help you with the following:

  • Developing career goals
  • Job search strategies
  • Resume writing and interviewing
  • On-campus interviewing including job fairs
  • Internship searches
  • And more!

Below are employers who have hired international students in the past. We hope you find the list helpful in your search for employment. Please note that graduate students will find additional help through their departments and professional organizations.

Employers Who Have Hired Penn State Students on OPT or Academic Training
Advanced Interfaces State College PA
Advanced Micro Devices Sunnyvale CA
Agere Systems, Inc. Allentown PA
Amazon, Inc. Seattle WA
American Home Values Auburn CA
American University Wathington DC
AMF Bakery Systems Richmond  VA
Arizona State University  Tempe AZ
Baylor College of Medicine Huston TX
Bechtel Telecom Fredrick MD
Black and Decker Towson MD
BorgWarner Morse TEC Ithica NY
Cadbury Schweppes Morris Plains NJ
Capital One Financial Group    
CD-Adabco Group Melville NY
CDC Atlanta GA
Central Washington University Ellensburg WA
CGI-AMS Fairfax  VA
Citigroup New York NY
Citigroup Ridgewood NY
Clemson University Clemson SC
College of Wooster Wooster OH
Computer Aid Inc. Harrisburg PA
Copley Wolff Design Group Boston MA
Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Monterey  CA
Dell, Inc. Round Rock  TX
Dell, Inc. Austin TX
Deloitte & Touche LLP McLean  VA
Deloitte & Touche LLP Washington DC
Deloitte & Touche LLP New York NY
Deloitte Consulting Glenn Mills  PA
Diamond Innovations  Worthington OH
Duke University Durham NC
Duquesne University Pittsburgh PA
Ecentric Tech Gaithersburg MD
Edison Welding INstitute Columbus OH
Entergy Northeast Buchanan NY
Environmental Systems Research Institute Redlands CA
ERC, Inc. Edwards CA
Ernst & Young, LLP McLean VA
Expansyn Technologies, Inc. State College PA
Fan & Fitzpatrick Law Offices Rockville  MD
Fisher Marantz Stone New York NY
Gabel Entertainment New York NY
GE Global Research Center Niskayuna NY
GE Global Research Center Schenectady NY
GE Transportation Systems Erie  PA
General Electric Company Schenectady NY
General Electric Company Niskayuna NY
Glaxo Smith Kline Philadelphia PA
Goman Sachs New York NY
Gonzaga University Spokane WA
Harris-Stowe State University St. Louis WA
Harvard Medical School Belmont MA
Harvard Medical School Boston MA
Henry Ford Health System Detroit MI
Hewitt Associates Atlanta GA
Hewitt Associates Bridgewater NJ
Hoosier National Forest/Purdue University Tell City IN
Houserville Elementary School State College PA
Hyatt Hotels Corporation Washington DC
Independent Project Anaylsis Ashburn VA
Integrate Design Associates, Inc. Santa Clara  CA
Intel Corporation Chandler AZ
Intelligent Automation, Inc. Rockville MD
International Freight Transport Fan Wood NJ
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore MD
Kansas State University Manhattan KS
Kean University Union NJ
Kimberly-Clark Corporation Roswell GA
Lieberman Research Worldwide Los Angeles  CA
Louisiana State University Shreveport LA
Market Analyitics International, Inc. Ridgewood NJ
Marshall University Charleston WV
Mircosoft Redmond  WA
Motorola Plantation FL
Mount Nittany Medical Center State College PA
Mount Olive College Mount Olive NC
MySource Communication, Inc. San Roman CA
NEC America Labs Cupertino CA
New Jersey Institue of Technology Newark NJ
New York Presbyterian Coumbia Univeristy Medical Center New York NY
Nokia, Inc. Plano TX
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Gereensboro NC
Northwestern University Evanston IL
Ohio State University Columbus OH
Osran Sylvania Saint Mary's PA
Patel Chen Associates Inc. Grantcille PA
Penn State Hostpitality Services State College PA
Pennsylvania Hospital Philadelphia PA
Penske Logistics Beachwood OH
Praxair, Inc. Tonawanda NY
Pressley Associates Cambridge MA
Princeton University  Princeton NJ
Purdue University Layfayette IN
Rice University Houston TX
Rothstein, Kass & Company PC Roseland NJ
Saint-Gobain Ceramics & Plastics, Inc. Northboro MA
Seward, Inc. Minneapolis MN
Sheraton Hotels of New York New York NY
Smithgroup Washington DC
Tech-X Boulder CO
Temple University Philadelphia PA
Texas Tech Universtiy Lubbock TX
Textile & Clothing Dept. UC Davis Davis  CA
The Pennsylvania State University University Park PA
The Pennsylvania State University - Altoona Altoona PA
The University of Arizona Tuscon AZ
Toray Industries America, Inc. New York NY
Troy University Troy AL
Tulane University New Orleans LA
UCLA Los Angeles CA
UCSF San Francisco CA
University of California Berkeley Berkeley CA
University of Central Florida Orlando FA
University of Florida Gainesville FL
University of Hartford West Hartford CT
University of Maryland College Park MD
University of Minnesota Minneapolis MN
Universtiy of Nebraska, Lincoln Lincoln NE
University of Notre Dame Notre Dame IN
University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg MS
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Oshkosh WI
University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison WI
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Silver Spring MD
Washington State Department of Natural Resources Olympia WA
Weidlinger Associates Inc. New York NY
West Virginia State University Morgantown WV
Westinghouse Electric Company Pittsburgh PA
Whistling Straits Sheboygan WI
Yahoo, Inc. Sunnyvale CA
Yahoo Research Labs Pasadena CA
Young Scholars of Central PA Charter School State College PA

 

Address, Phone, and Employer Update Instructions

If you are on your first anniversary of Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT you must provide the following information to DISSA: 

  • Information regarding employment, your local U.S. address and valid phone number information.
  • If you are on STEM OPT, you must also validate your employment information every 6 months and submit an evaluation of the I-983 within ten days of your start date and within 10 days of the second 12 months of start date of the STEM OPT.
  • In addition, you must also submit an I-983 evaluation of the conclusion of all STEM OPT regardless of the time you spent working for a company. 

Note:  Failure to provide this information will affect your OPT and legal stay in the U.S.

How to update this information:

  1. Log into iStart.
  2. For Limited Access, you will need to enter your 9 digit Penn State ID, your date of birth, and your limited access pin.  If you do not know your limited access pin, select "Email Me My Limited Access Pin."  If you don't receive your Limited Access Pin, contact dissa-adviser@psu.edu to update your email address for access.
  3. On the left, go to Employment Authorization Requests and select OPT Employer and Local Address Update."
  4. Students on STEM OPT must also use this form to validate their STEM participation every six months.
  5. If you still have access to LionPATH update your address there until you no longer have access.
  6. Update DISSA using this form as often as necessary -- when employer changes, when employment address changes, when personal address changes, when employment ends, when the I-983 must be submitted, etc.

J-1 International Interns

Hosting International Interns

International Interns support the mission of the Fulbright-Hays Act as part of the Exchange Visitor Program which fosters global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges. Inernational Interns come to the United States in J-1 status. Interns are not “employees” in the traditional sense; rather, they are foreign university students or recent graduates of foreign universities who are seeking to enhance their skills through work-based learning. As the intern’s supervisor, you will assist him/her in gaining those skills and building knowledge of American techniques, methodologies and technology.

Interns may be paid, but payment is not a requirement of the internship. Interns must be regularly supervised and mentored throughout the internship, which can last between 3 weeks and 12 months. They must meet the goals set forth in the Trainee/Intern Participation Plan which you and your intern will complete together, and they must be evaluated at regular intervals. You will work closely with the intern and with the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA) throughout the internship. It is also important to note that all exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program in order to share their exchange experiences.

Interns come in J-1 status under the Department of State to foster global understanting.  They are expected to participate in social and cultural activities to learn about Americans and the U.S. as well as teach Americans about their countries and culture, with the hope they establish long-lasting relationships.

Only requests for interns made by an academic department will be considered. Please email DISSA-Adviser@psu.edu for more information.