Working in the U.S.

Many international students work during their time as Penn Staters. To obtain work authorization during your time as a student, Penn State Berks' international student support staff can help you navigate both on- and off-campus employment situations.

On-Campus Employment

International students in F-1 status are allowed to work on-campus on a part-time basis, which is no more than 20 hours per week during the semester. 

You can find on-campus jobs by reviewing this list of current on-campus job opportunities. Please note that F-1 students can work any on-campus, student job that is not marked as Work-Study.

Below is a brief guide of the employment process:

  • Apply for the on-campus job that interests you. You may be required to submit a resume/cover letter and participate in a brief interview.
  • Once hired, request an offer of employment letter on letterhead from the hiring manager. The offer of employment letter must include your name (as it appears on your passport), a description of the job, employment start date, Penn State Employment Identification Number (EIN), which is 24-6000376, employer/supervisor contact information, and the hiring manager’s original signature.
  • Request a Social Security letter from your international student adviser. Log into iStart and complete the Social Security Letter Request form; be sure to upload the employer letter. You will be notified via email when this letter is ready to collect from the International Student Services office.
  • Apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). Follow these instructions to learn what steps you will need to take.
  • You should receive your SSN card in the mail within about two to four weeks. Take the SSN card to your appointment with Human Resources for assistance with completing the Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) and W-4 paperwork.

Off-Campus Employment

International students in F-1 status are not permitted to work off-campus without authorization from their international student adviser.

As an F-1 student, you have the option of working in the United States by engaging in practical training during your program or after it ends. Practical training can provide valuable work experience by sharpening and adding to the skills you are learning in school. 

There are two common types of practical training available for F-1 students: 

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

  • CPT is training that is an integral part of an established curriculum and is available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year.
  • Training must be in your field of study and a required part of your program. If the opportunity is not required, but is an important part of your program, it must be credit-bearing.
  • You can work either full-time or part-time on CPT. Full-time CPT, if not required of your program, is only authorized during vacation periods.
  • Students who accumulate 12 months of full-time CPT are ineligible for OPT, but part-time CPT will not stop you from pursuing OPT.
  • You cannot begin CPT employment until your international student adviser authorizes the training and you are issued a new I-20; you also may not work beyond the authorized dates on your I-20.
  • You must request a new I-20 with CPT authorization through iStart. There is a portion of the request form your faculty adviser will need to complete as well. For more information about completing the CPT Request Form and the application process, please schedule an appointment with your international student adviser.
  • You are encouraged to attend any workshops offered on campus or online through ISSA to learn more about the CPT process.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • Post-completion OPT is the most common type of OPT and begins after students complete their degrees.
  • OPT employment must relate to your field of study.
  • Students may apply for 12 months of OPT at each education level (i.e., you may have 12 months of OPT at the bachelor's level and another 12 months of OPT at the master's level).
  • There is a strict application timeline for Post-completion OPT. You are eligible to apply 90 days prior to your program end date (for undergraduate students, this is based on graduation) but no later than 60 days after your program end date.
  • You must request a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation through iStart. There is a portion of the request form your faculty adviser will need to complete as well. For more information about completing the OPT Request Form and the application process, please schedule an appointment with your international student adviser.
  • Within 30 days of receiving your OPT recommendation I-20, you must also file a Form I-765, "Application for Employment Authorization," with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and pay a filing fee.
  • If approved for OPT, USCIS will send you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). You may not begin working until you receive the EAD card and only within your authorized dates of employment.
  • You are encouraged to attend any workshops offered on campus or online through ISSA to learn more about the OPT process.

Please contact the International Student Services office for more information on how to apply for CPT or OPT.