You do not need USCIS authorization to participate in an unpaid internship—one for which you receive no payment in dollars or "in kind." Examples of in-kind payment are meals, gifts or entertainment you receive in return for work. However, the internship still has to be reported to the ASC Office of International Education.
Practical training is available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled at ASC on a full-time basis for at least nine consecutive months. Paid internships must be authorized prior to the beginning of the employment. An eligible F-1 student may request authorization for practical training in a position that is directly related to her major area of study. Two types of practical training are available:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is used for required internships, co-operative education, and other work/study for which a student gets course credit. An F-1 student may be authorized by the DSO to participate in a CPT that is an integral part of an established curriculum. The work may be full or part-time. Full-time work of more than a year's duration will cause the student to lose eligibility for Post-Completion Practical Training (see below); part-time work will not. There is no limit to the amount of curricular practical training a student may have. In this instance alone, the student can receive her off-campus work authorization directly from the DSO, rather than from USCIS. The DSO reports the CPT in SEVIS and issues a new I-20 that reflects the permission to work.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides an opportunity for F-1 students to gain up to one year of experience in their field of study. OPT is permission to work in a job related to an international student's degree level and field of study. To obtain the USCIS permission to engage in OPT, students must apply up to 90 days before their program end date and up to 60 days after their program end date. The application must be properly filed with the correct USCIS Service Center. In addition, the application must be properly filed within 30 days of the date the student’s DSO recommends OPT in SEVIS. (Note: Year-Five students are not eligible for OPT following a semester or year of enrollment in Year Five.)
If you are interested in participating in a CPT or OPT, you must consult with the international student adviser before accepting employment.