We at the Center for Career Education (CCE) and our colleagues at the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) work collaboratively to support international students and alumni of Columbia.  We encourage you to build relationships with people at both of our offices to learn about our services and resources and to understand how your visa status influences your career search. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a list of internships or jobs that are open to international students on LionSHARE?

  • Review positions that are posted on LionSHARE, you can filter positions by choosing “US authorization optional” under advanced options.
  • GoingGlobal offers lists of employers who have sponsored visas in the past. Use your UNI and password to log in.  Once logged in, go to the “H1B Info” tab at the top for the list of employers.
  • Uniworld provides a directory of US firms in foreign countries and foreign firms in the US

What should I take into consideration when looking for a job or internship?

As an international student, it is essential that you fully understand your eligibility to work in the location of the internship or job and the process to gain work authorization. Eligibility to work considerations include:

  • Location of the internship or job, i.e., is it in the U.S. or another country?
  • Your visa/work authorization for the location of the internship or job
  • How long you have been in full-time student status in the U.S. for positions in the U.S.
  • Requirements specified by the employer for the internship or job
  • Whether the position is paid or unpaid (Note: for off-campus positions in the US, any wages or other compensation like a stipend or housing requires authorization through Optional Practical Training (OPT). 

What is OPT (Optional Practical Training)?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 student status that allows students to gain experience in their field of study by applying for off-campus work authorization. For more information regarding OPT, please review the Columbia International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) webpage, consider attending ISSO workshops, and/or meet with a representative at the ISSO. 

When should i use my OPT?

You may use some or all of the available twelve months of OPT during your course of study, or save the full twelve months to use after you complete your studies. You are eligible to begin using OPT once you have completed two consecutive semesters in university. Students in STEM fields may find out if they are eligible for an extension by visiting the ISSO website. Students who want to stay in the U.S. after graduation may want to save their OPT for after graduation and instead supplement their experience with on-campus opportunities, volunteer activities, or find opportunities abroad, many students return home. You may also use a small portion of your OPT as students to gain off-campus experience and save the remainder of your OPT time for after graduation.

I would prefer to use all of my OPT after I graduate.  What are other ways I can develop skills or gain experience in the meantime?

How do I learn more about my visa status?

 Check with the Columbia International Students & Scholars Office to learn about your visa status before starting your job search.  

What is CPT (Curricular Practical Training)?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an employment option currently available to all F-1 SEAS students that allows you to gain credit bearing off-campus experience or experience required for your degree as a student in your field of study. Check with your academic department and ISSO to determine your eligibility. For more information regarding CPT, please review the Columbia International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) webpage.

When should I use my cpt?

You may only use CPT as a student, and you are eligible once you have completed two consecutive semesters in college. Your employment should start at the beginning of your semester and end at the end of that semester. The use of CPT does not impact eligibility for OPT unless your use more than 12 months of full-time CPT, find out more by visiting the ISSO website.

What are the rules regarding unpaid internships and volunteer activities?

Employers should meet all requirements from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) before you accept an internship. When conducting an internship search, learn about the six criteria for unpaid internships as outlined by the U.S. Department of Labor. If any of these criteria are not met, you should be paid. Unless you are working on campus, all internship experiences should use either your OPT or CPT. Please meet with ISSO before accepting any positions to ensure you maintain your legal status.

 How do I find an on-campus job?

See our On-Campus Jobs Tip Sheet and visit CCE to discuss your job search strategy with a career counselor.  Note that full time F-1 and J-1 students are eligible for “casual” employment on campus, which means you are paid by Columbia University. 

How do I find an off-campus job?

Review our resources, including the Find an Internship or Job webpage.  Connect with Columbia International Students & Scholars Office to review work authorization requirements.  

When applying to opportunities, what does “US Work Authorization is Required, but the employer is accepting opc/cpt candidates” mean?

When job and internship postings include “US work authorization is required” this typically means that the employer will not sponsor international students, but they will hire students or alumni with OPT or CPT.

When applying to opportunities, what does “will you now or in the future require sponsorship” mean?

This is another way companies can legally ask about your status, try to answer as truthfully as possible. If you are an international student on an F-1 visa and want to work in the United States after your OPT finishes then the answer is yes.

A company who accepts OPT and/or CPT means that they are willing to hire international students who have OPT and/or CPT. This does not necessarily mean they will provide sponsorship and it is up to you to talk to your employer about whether they sponsor in order for you to stay with the organization after your OPT finishes.

When should I speak to employers about my status?

We recommend that students are upfront to employers about your status to avoid wasting their time and your time if they are not able to sponsor you. Help the employer understand your status and how they can employ you. Some employers may not be knowledgeable in hiring international students, therefore it is crucial that you have complete and accurate knowledge of your status and options and it is your responsibility to clearly communicate your status to an employer.

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