Co-op Requirements for International Students
Steinbright partners with International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) to help students on F-1 and J-1 visas secure work authorization for co-op. International students on an F-1 visa are required to obtain work authorization, known as Curricular Practical Training (CPT), in order to participate in co-op. CPT allows students on an F-1 visa to engage in employment in the United States as long as it is an integral part of their curriculum. CPT must be secured for each co-op experience in the United States. When a co-op is secured, students must first work with their co-op advisor at Steinbright to begin the CPT work authorization paperwork. Once approved by Steinbright, co-op advisors will send the paperwork to International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) for processing. If they do not already possess a social security number (SSN) and they are going to work in a paid co-op position, they must apply for a social security card with the Social Security Office. (Please note: some jobs also require social security cards for background check purposes.) Students cannot apply for a social security card until they have secured CPT and it is within 30 days of their co-op start date.
Eligibility to work needs to be established by the ISSS office prior to being assigned a co-op cycle and advisor. Resident Aliens (green card holders) have no special work authorization requirements. International students on a visa that is not F-1 need to contact the Office of International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) at 215.895.2502 to verify their eligibility to participate in co-op.
Consequences for Working without Authorization
Failure to obtain work authorization prior to beginning each co-op can jeopardize the student's visa status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and may result in co-op termination and co-op failure. Without proper work authorization, students will be "out of status" with the University, making their visa invalid. Students must apply for reinstatement, which can take time, and, as a result, they may be required to leave the United States. If found to be "out of status," the student is not permitted to work at all during this time.
Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training
Undergraduate students who exceed 364 days of full-time CPT in the United States are not eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) upon graduation. International students in a five-year program with three co-op cycles may want to consider completing one co-op outside of the United States or working one part-time co-op in the United States. Both of these options will not count towards the 364 full-time day limit and therefore will not impact OPT eligibility.
In some cases, students may be approved to switch to part-time hours for a duration of their co-op in order to stay under the 364-day limit. It is the student’s responsibility to keep track of CPT days in order to not exceed 364. Students planning on applying for OPT in the future should follow the required steps below prior to each co-op experience:
- Consult the second page of your I-20 to calculate the amount of full-time CPT days you have already used. If this is your first co-op, you may not have acquired any full-time CPT days. All days between the start and end date of CPT listed on your I-20, including holidays, weekends, and vacation/sick days, count as days worked. Calculate the amount of full-time CPT days you have used before completing the International Student Co-op Registration Agreement form. Neither ISSS nor Steinbright can confirm or calculate this information.
- Students are expected to work the full length of their co-op cycle. If they wish to alter their work schedule in order to maintain their OPT eligibility, two levels of approval are required.
- First: Students must contact their co-op advisor with notification of the exact date they need to switch to part-time CPT.
- Second: Students must contact their employer to request permission to switch to a part-time schedule for the days required in order to maintain their OPT eligibility.
- Please note that employers expect students to work as originally planned until the last official day of the co-op cycle and the supervisor can approve or deny the request.
- Once approved, students need to ask their employer to send an email confirmation of the approved modified work schedule to their co-op advisor.
- Students need to complete the International Student Co-op Registration Agreement form and connect with their co-op advisor to start the work authorization process.
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