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International Student Guide to Securing Summer Internships

by Lydia Paver, '17
December 15, 2015

Navigating the world of work in the U.S. can be overwhelmingly daunting for foreign students. Visa restrictions, securing OPT and the internship application process itself can turn even the most organized foreign Felsian into a ball of stress! With the search for summer internships on the horizon, here are some of my top tips to help you secure stellar work experience:

Applying for OPT

Although this is not necessarily the first stage in securing an internship, it is necessary for you to comprehend the process and to receive approval for OPT before the start of your internship.

There are two types of OPT- for work during the summer between your first and second year at Fels, you should apply for what is known as “pre-completion OPT”.

You do not need to have secured a job before you apply for OPT. In fact, students may file their OPT application with USCIS up to 90 days before being enrolled full-time for one academic year. When applying for pre-completion OPT, whether you’ve secured an internship or not, you must list the dates you actually intend to work (to be safe, your start date should be the earliest date that you could possibly begin work, and your end date should be the latest day that you could possibly work.) The first stage of applying to OPT is submitting the OPT I-20 Request Form on iPenn (https://www.ipenn.oip.upenn.edu/). After an ISSS advisor has assessed the documents you submitted to the iPenn page, an I-20 document recommending OPT will be prepared for you. This recommendation will appear on the third page of your I-20. Once this document is ready for collection, ISSS will email you with details on how/when you should pick it up from the ISSS office. You must then mail this I-20 as part of your complete OPT request to USCIS within 30 days of its issuance. A checklist of what constitutes a complete request can be found here. Remember that you are required to report any change in name, address or interruption to employment to ISSS within 10 days in order to remain in status!

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu