This page provides international students (F-1 or J-1 visas) with important information pertaining to cooperative education (co-op) and searching for job opportunities post-graduation. Here you will learn about work authorization and co-op policies, access useful resources and forms, and more.
Curricular Practical Training, also known as CPT, allows F-1 students to engage in off-campus employment as long as it is an integral part of their curriculum.
The types of employment available include: alternate work/study internship, cooperative education (co-op), or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.
For a complete description of CPT, please visit International Student and Scholars Services (ISSS).
Pre-requisites and Requirements
- CPT must be an integral part of your curriculum and must be required by your academic program.
- You must be receiving course credit throughout the CPT period (DCUs count as course credit).
- You must secure relevant co-op employment.
- Co-ops cannot occur on your last term of studies (exception for transfers from another institution).
How to Obtain CPT
You are responsible for obtaining CPT work authorization prior to each co-op.
- Successfully secure co-op employment through: SCDCOnline or a self-directed job search.
- Communicate with your co-op coordinator to obtain the Student Co-op Registration Agreement for International Students and the Supplemental Co-op Agreement for International Students [PDF].
- Print and complete the forms. Schedule an appointment with your co-op coordinator before your co-op begins.
- After your co-op coordinator signs the forms to approve the co-op, you will proceed to the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) office to continue the work authorization process.
- All paperwork must be submitted to ISSS prior to employment start date.
- ISSS will process your employment paperwork and update your I-20. Paperwork may take up to 72 hours to be processed by ISSS, so plan accordingly.
- You will be notified by ISSS when your I-20 is available for pick up.
- You must collect your I-20 from ISSS before beginning your co-op.
- If a social security number is needed for your co-op, first verify with ISSS. If they instruct you to apply for a social security number, please do so by visiting a social security office. ISSS will provide you with complete instructions on how to obtain a social security number. Please note that it can take 3 weeks for you to receive your social security card via mail. Be sure to plan accordingly.
Duration of CPT
- CPT will be issued to you for the length of your co-op.
- Employment dates and company information listed on the Student Co-op Registration Agreement – International Students form are exactly what appears on your I-20.
- It is your responsibility to track the number of CPT days used while on co-op and calculate how many CPT days are remaining. You may also consult with ISSS to acquire this information.
- You are responsible for obtaining CPT (work authorization) prior to each co-op.
- CPT can be approved for part-time co-ops (20 hours per week) or full-time co-ops (21-40 hours per week), depending on the type of CPT.
Changes to CPT
- Any work interruptions or date changes while on authorized CPT must be reported to a student's co-op coordinator and ISSS BEFORE the change(s) occur(s).
- Your co-op coordinator may require written approval from your co-op employer, should your dates of employment change.
- To implement any CPT employment changes, ISSS requires an email from your co-op coordinator or a member of Steinbright.
F-1 students may qualify for Optional Practical Training (OPT). This allows you to engage in temporary off-campus employment to gain practical experience in your field of study.
To be eligible for OPT, you must have been lawfully enrolled, on a full-time basis, at a Department of Homeland Security-approved school in the U.S. for one full academic year.
OPT is available both before and after completion of your educational objective, but different rules apply to pre- and post- completion OPT.
OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study.
Please be advised that all co-op employment is Curricular Practical Training (CPT), not Optional Practical Training (OPT). Should you have any questions, please contact the International Student and Scholars Services Office.
How to Preserve OPT Eligibility
- To maintain OPT eligibility, full-time CPT cannot exceed 364 days. Please understand that holidays and weekends count toward CPT.
- If you work more than 364 days in the U.S., you forfeit OPT eligibility.
- Use of part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.
- International co-op does not count towards the 364 CPT days.
International Co-op Reminders and Information
- Notify ISSS of your co-op abroad before your departure.
- Full-time registration is maintained while abroad.
- Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) will remain active.
- No CPT work authorization required.
1. Am I eligible to work legally in the United States?
Yes! Federal regulations permit the employment of international students on F-1 and exchange visitor students on J-1 visas, with certain limits.
If you are on an F-1 visa, you have the ability to work legally in the U.S., while on co-op, using Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
- CPT is a type of employment authorization that allows F-1 students to work in the U.S. while on co-op. Co-op employment must be related to the F-1 student’s major and provide practical training. Co-op is permitted under CPT work authorization, as it is a program requirement.
- All F-1 students must obtain CPT work authorization from the International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) office prior to starting co-op employment.
Students on J-1 visas are eligible to work legally in the U.S., while on co-op, using Academic Training (A.T.).
Academic Training is designed to allow J-1 students the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off-campus. All J-1 students must obtain work authorization from the International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) office prior to starting co-op employment.
If you possess a visa other than F-1 or J-1, please contact the International Students and Scholars Services office.
2. Will I now or in the future require sponsorship?
Often, when completing employment applications you will see the question, “Will you now or in the future require sponsorship?”
While working on co-op, students on F-1 visas will be using Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Students on J-1 visas will be using Academic Training (A.T.) in order to work on co-op. When you are working on co-op (using either CPT or A.T.), the employer is NOT sponsoring you.
After you graduate from Drexel University and are seeking permanent employment, you will eventually require sponsorship to work in the United States. However, if you apply for and are approved to use Optional Practical Training (OPT), a type of work authorization that international students may access following graduation, you are permitted to work in the U.S. for a dedicated period of time, without an employer having to provide employment sponsorship.
For more information, please contact International Students and Scholars Services.
3. If I work on co-op in the U.S, what taxes do I pay?
Federal Income Tax: F-1 and J-1 students must pay federal income tax.
State Income Tax: Depending on where students live and work, F-1 and J-1 students may have to pay state taxes.
City Wage Tax: Depending on where students live and work, F-1 and J-1 students may have to pay city taxes.
Exemption from Social Security and Medicare Taxes (FICA): Students present in the U.S. on an F-1 or J-1 visa are generally considered non-resident aliens under U.S. tax law. As a non-resident alien, you are exempt from Social Security taxes under section 3121 (b) (19) of the Internal Revenue Code for wages you receive while on Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
You should inform your employer about your Social Security and Medicare tax (FICA) exemption. If your employer is unable to exclude your wages from Social Security tax, you may be entitled to a refund from the IRS (IRS Publication 519, Chapter 8, pg. 46 (U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, 2006).
Please refer to the following for more detailed information:
4. What resources can I use to search for employers willing to hire international citizens?
- Going Global is the leading provider of country-specific and American city-specific career and employment information, including 43 USA City Career Guides, corporate profiles, and more than 600,000 internship and job listings within the United States and around the world. More than 600,000 worldwide internship and job listings are featured within Going Global.
- Login to Going Global:
- Login to Drexel One.
- Click on "Student" tab.
- Choose "More BannerWeb SCDC Services” to see the full menu of services
- Click on “Going Global - Comprehensive World-Wide Employment Portal”
- Click on the “Jobs/Internships” to search positions
5. I want to improve my English-language abilities. What resources are available?
6. How do I apply for a Social Security Number?
International students may need to obtain a Social Security Number. Learn more.
7. How can I locate my I-94 admission number?
The primary way to retrieve your I-94 admission number is by visiting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website. This number may be necessary when filling out your employment paperwork; specifically, your employer may need this number to complete your I-9 form.
Additional ways to retrieve your I-94 admission number include contacting the U.S. Customs and Border Protection department via phone at 215-594-4100. Should you need their reporting and mailing address, it is:
Philadelphia International Airport,
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Terminal A West,
Philadelphia, PA 19153
Monday – Friday from 9:00am – 12:00pm (noon)
View frequently asked questions and answers pertaining to the I-94.
8. What does it mean if my visa has expired? Do I need to renew it?
Students can remain, and work, in the USA even if their visa date has expired. You are still in the USA on a valid visa and will only need to renew your visa if you leave the country. Please be aware that, if you return home (even for a vacation) when your visa is expired, it can take 3-4 weeks for the visa to be renewed. If you leave the country prior to, or during, co-op and your visa is expired, be sure to plan adequate time for visa renewal. It is your responsibility to be at work for the entire duration of co-op; if renewing your visa impacts your co-op work schedule, you may risk losing your job.
If you plan on leaving the country at any time during your degree program, you must notify ISSS. If you are leaving the country at a time that will impact your co-op work dates, please notify your both ISSS and your Co-op Coordinator.
9. Are International students able to obtain a United States driver's license?
Yes! International students are eligible to apply for a driver's license, but must fulfill the same requirements that would be expected for a U.S. citizen (provide identification documentation, complete driving exam(s), etc.). In the state of Pennsylvania, international students must reside in the United States for one year in order to be eligible.
10. What resources are available to me while I am working on co-op?
While you are working on co-op, you will encounter new people and situations, which may cause questions to arise. Always remember that your Steinbright partner is available to assist you. In addition, the content and resources available on our On the Job page have been developed for you.
Below are some things to keep in mind when going on interviews, as well as once you secure a job and begin working.
Basic Cultural Overview: An Adventure in American Culture and Values
Be punctual. Arriving early for appointments and arriving to work on time, every day, is extremely important to employers. If you are not sure how to get to work, test your route so that you are there, on time, for your first day…and every day.
Be there. You should be present for every day of work. If you need to miss work, be sure to notify your employer prior to the start of the work day (valid reasons include being sick, family emergencies, personal emergencies, etc…oversleeping or simply wanting a day off are NOT valid reasons to miss work). Notifying your employer means that you either call them directly or send them an email PRIOR to the start of the work day.
Dress appropriately. Make sure you know what is considered appropriate attire for your workplace. If you are unsure, ask your boss. Make sure you practice good hygiene; body odor is considered unacceptable and you should shower daily, as well as wear deodorant. Refrain from wearing too much cologne or perfume, as many people may find this unpleasant.
Show initiative. Once you have completed your work, ask your supervisor for additional assignments and/or seek out potential projects with which you might be able to assist.
“Time is money.” There is a strong focus on working hard and making the most of the time you spend at work. This means you should be working whenever you are at the office. Do not spend your time on your phone, texting, surfing the Internet, shopping online, etc. Falling asleep at work is also inappropriate and should be avoided.
Ask questions. If you are ever unsure about something, or instructions are unclear, do not assume…ask questions! The goal is to learn from your job, and you may need to ask questions in order to do so!
Set goals. It is important that you set goals with your supervisor at the start of your job so that you know what their expectations are for you, and they know what you expect to gain from your job.
Do not ask/answer inappropriate questions. Americans are protected under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and do not have to answer particular questions they may be asked. These include, but are not limited to, questions about: marital status, religious/political beliefs, age, ancestry/national origin/race/ethnicity, sexual orientation. If you are asked a question about one of these topics and do not wish to answer, you may simply tell the interviewer that you are not comfortable sharing that information with them at this time.