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Internship and Job Search for International Students

An internship is a professional experience related to your major field of study.

What is an Internship?

An internship can be part-time or full-time, paid or unpaid. What distinguishes an internship from a part-time job or volunteer work is the intentional “learning agenda.”

It is up to you to establish a learning plan with your supervisor and faculty advisor that meets your learning goals while completing the required work for the position. All academic internships require pre-approval by your academic advisor.

What are the benefits of an Internship?

  • Gain valuable experiences that in your major while exploring your field of interest.
  • Build professional experiences that strengthen your resume.
  • Strengthen your candidacy for employment in the U.S., abroad or in your country of origin.
  • Increase your network of professional contacts.

What are the requirements to receive academic credit for an Internship?

Each college and academic program has different requirements regarding the registration for and obtaining of academic credit.  Be sure to connect with your department chair and/or program advisor for details. 

What are the requirements for Internship work authorization?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT): There are two types of CPT.  CPT can be a required part of your program.  This means your academic program requires employment in your field of study prior to graduation. CPT may also not be required for your academic program.  If CPT is not required, the practical experience is for credit and directly related to your field of study. You must be enrolled for course credit while engaging in this type of CPT.

Part-time CPT: Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered "part-time" CPT.  There is no limitation on the length of time you may participate in part-time CPT.  You must be simultaneously enrolled full-time in order to maintain lawful F-1 status unless it is your very last semester.

Full-time CPT: Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered "full-time" CPT. Please be aware that 12 months or more of full-time CPT will cancel your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

You are eligible for CPT if you are in F-1 status and have been enrolled full-time at St. John's University for at least one academic year.  While you are eligible to apply before the end of your first year of study, CPT employment cannot begin until the first academic year is complete. You must have an internship offer before applying for CPT authorization.   Processing your CPT authorization can take up to 2 weeks.  Be sure to take this into consideration when planning the start date and registration for internship classes for academic credit. You are allowed a maximum of 12 months for CPT. You cannot begin to work before you obtain CPT authorization from the International Student & Scholar Services (ISSSO).

Optional Practical Training (OPT): OPT is off-campus employment authorization that allows F-1 students to gain work experience in their major field of study.  The amount of work permitted is a maximum of 12 months of full-time employment for each higher level of study during which you are an F-1 student (Associates, Bachelor’s Master’s, Doctorate). You can use this employment during or after completion of studies in your choice of time increments. You may work for any employer, anywhere in the United States provided that the employment is related to your major field of study. If you are a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) major, you may be eligible for a 24 month extension upon your 12 month OPT. For questions about this please contact the ISSSO at iss@stjohns.edu.

Think of OPT like a bank account. There are 12 months of full-time OPT in that account for your current program of study. If you would like to work full-time for three months during the summer before you graduate with your bachelor’s degree, it would be considered as a 3 month withdrawal of full-time employment leaving you 9 months to use during or after your bachelor’s degree. OPT can take 2-3 months to process so it is important to consider this timeline when planning employment start dates.  Ideally the post-completion OPT application is received by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) prior to your graduation date so it leaves enough time for processing.  Keep in mind, there is no way for you to cancel your application for OPT if you do not find a job.  As a result, you should look for a a position prior to graduation- at least 3 months in advance.  Please keep in mind that SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) does not allow more than 90 days of unemployment throughout the one year employment period.

How do I articulate my internship authorization to an employer?  

Contact the International Student and Scholar Services or University Career Services to understand how to articulate your work authorization to a prospective employer.  An employer will need to provide you with an offer letter for an internship. 

** PLEASE BE AWARE THAT YOU CANNOT START YOUR PAID INTERNSHIP UNTIL THE ISSSO HAS AUTHORIZED YOUR EMPLOYMENT **

What steps should I take to prepare to apply for an Internship?

You will need a strong resume to apply for an internship.  The first step is to review the Resume Guide and the sample resumes for your college on the Career tab on  MySJU.   You are also strongly encouraged to make an appointment with your Career Advisor to review your resume.   If you apply for an internship through On-Campus Recruitment jobs on Career Link, most of these internship opportunities require that you have your resume reviewed and approved by your Career Advisor before you can apply for the On-Campus Recruitment position.  

You can also prepare for the interview by reviewing the Interview Guide on MySJU and scheduling a mock interview with University Career Services.  You are strongly encouraged to practice your interview skills as much as possible.

When do I search for Internships?

Begin your search for an internship several months in advance of the time you would like to start the internship. Application deadlines for many companies are 3-6 months or 1 year prior to the start date.  Research your major and industry to identify companies/opportunities.  Also be sure to apply for internships that accept applicants with an F-1 Visa status.

Develop your class schedule to include time and availability for an internship before you begin your search. Internship opportunities occasionally may last longer than one semester.

How do I apply for internships?

Develop your networking skills: In the U.S., close to 80 % of all jobs are never advertised. This hidden job market is discovered through word of mouth. Many international students focus on the 20% of jobs that are advertised on-line.  Be sure to network on-line through LinkedIn as well as in person by attending events.

Utilize Your Embassy: Often embassies maintain lists of contacts for employment.

Apply for internships on-line.  Be sure to review the internship/job posting for US citizenship requirements prior to applying.  Below is a partial list of websites for internships and full time positions.

  • Career Link: This site is located on the Career Services tab on MySJU.
  • GOINGLOBAL: This site contains state, metro and US-wide H1B records gathered directly from the US Department of Labor (DOL). Access GOINGLOBAL on the Career Services Tab on MySJU.
  • myvisajobs.com: This site provides a list of employers from top H1B sponsors. 
  • Vault: This site provides a list of the best internships by industry.  You can also apply for internships on Vault.  Access Vault on the Career Services Tab of MySJU.

Full time Job Search for International Students

It can be a daunting task for international students to find a job in the United States. You are adapting to a different hiring culture, a challenging visa front, new and potentially resistant employers and different job search techniques.

Yet, each year, many international students at St. John’s University find internships and employment. Here are some tips and strategies to help you along.

Get the most out Career Services. Career Services has a host of resources and programs designed to develop your job searching skills, whatever your final goal may be. Offerings include:

  • Assessments to assist you in developing your strengths and goals
  • Specifically tailored workshops, providing guidance on:
  • US Resumes
  • Networking
  • Interviewing
  • Personalized career coaching, with experts in your major
  • Panel and alumni networking sessions
  • Career Fairs
  • Industry events
  • Professional Development workshops
  • Branding

Be sure your resume is in US Style format

Learn how to write US Cover letters

Become fully conversant in discussing your visa status

Research International Employee friendly employers

Develop your networking skills

  • Attend events
  • Network on LinkedIn

Get Involved

  • US employers expect students to have achieved more than just good grades.  Students, who have been involved in extracurricular activities, volunteer and service activities, and internships, gain more than just experience and skills. You achieve a competitive advantage over your completion.

Understand your value as an international student

  • International students bring a wealth of different cultural, business and experiential skills to a U.S. Employers.  Develop an understanding of your unique value propositions and learn how to express  it to potential employers

Become an expert interviewer

  • US employers value the interaction of a personal interview, often more than superior grades and previous experience. Work with career services to develop the ability to ace any interview (on-line, phone, and skype, in person, group and so on).

Target international companies

  • International students are valuable to international companies due to your language skills, diversity, overseas knowledge and multicultural approach

Review these international job search resources

  • GOINGLOBAL: Access GOINGLOBAL by going to MySJU and then click on the Career Services Tab
  • My Visa Jobs: Access by going to myvisajobs.com

Be Resilient, patient positive and committed

  • This is often a long process.  Make a plan for your search and stick to it.

How do I discuss my work authorization with a potential employer

Should I include my visa status on my resume?

  • No, your educational background and previous experience will most likely identify you as an international student. Never lie about your status, but given the fact that some employers are hesitant or unsure about hiring international students, there is no need to highlight your status.

What can an employer ask?

  • Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?
  • Will you require visa sponsorship now or in the future?

What can an employer not ask?

  • Questions regarding nationality, place of birth, sex, religion, age, citizenship

What do I tell employers about my authorization while I am in F1 Status?

  • Simply state that you have legal authorization to work in the United States for up to 12 months (perhaps 24 if you hold a STEM eligible major), since your practical training is authorized. Emphasize this requires absolutely no work on the employers part, other than providing a letter of employment. Be positive and state that this work authorization can be extended for three to six years with an H1 B visa.

When should bring up my visa status?

  • This is a very sensitive topic, and really is a case by case situation. As mentioned, do not list this on a resume or cover letter, unless asked. If requested in a cover letter, articulate the value you bring as an international student. Once the interview process begins, most likely the employer will ask the question. You should strive to get past the initial prescreening interviews before initiating any conversation about your non-immigrant status. However, be sure to bring it up as the employer begins to spend significant time and/or money on you. In all cases, discuss your non-immigrant status at time of offer.

Some Guidelines for the “Visa” Conversation

  • Be sure you are clear on your status. Check with the International Student Services & Scholar Office to review.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t use the word ”sponsor” or try and explain the H1B filing process. Complexity may scare off employers.
  • Be positive. Explain to the employer that the process is doable, and thousands of international students work in the U.S. every year.
  • Don’t lie or try and dodge the question.
  • Continue to focus on the value you as an international student will bring to the company.
  • Practice the conversation with your Career Advisor

What is STEM? Am I eligible?

The STEM Extension is a 24-month extension of post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) for certain STEM gradutes. STEM extension allows students who have received their bachelor’s master’s or doctoral degrees in certain STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields eligible for a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT. To be eligible for the extension, the student’s employer must be registered in E-verify and agree to report to the DSO (Designated School Official) when the student has been terminated or leaves their employment. The student must agree to make reports (every 6 months) to the DSO on their continued employment. This provides an additional 24 months of OPT in addition to the original 12 months for a total of 36 months. Interested F-1 students must apply for and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a government document you can apply for through the International Student & Scholar Services Office.

The extension will be for an additional 24 months if ALL the following requirements are met:

• The degree that was the basis for the student’s current period of OPT is a bachelor’s master’s, or doctoral degree in one of the degree programs on the current STEM Designated Degree Program List, published on the SEVP website at https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/stem-list.pdf-CODES.

• The student’s employer is registered in the E-Verify program, as evidenced by either a valid E-verify company identification number, or if the employer is using a designated agent to perform the E-Verify queries, a valid E-Verify client company identification number, and the employer is a participant in good standing in the E-Verify program, as determined by USCIS.

• Students and their employers must complete the Form I-983 Mentoring and Training Plan in order to apply for the STEM extension or for a new job to begin during the STEM OPT extension period.

• Employment must be paid in order to qualify for the STEM extension.

• The student submits a complete application to the ISSSO.

Complete details of the STEM program can be found at: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub and https://www.nafsa.org/STEMOPTRULE.

 A complete list of all majors that qualify for the STEM extension is available at https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/stem-list.pdf-CODES .

Please contact the International Student & Scholar Services Office for information regarding the STEM application and the most up-to-date list linking St John’s majors to the U.S, Government STEM/CIP codes.