Work & Employment
There are hundreds of great companies ready to provide internship or job opportunities to students at Penn. Current US immigration laws permit international students to get a job in the United States during or after our studies. Not being a US citizen adds certain obstacles to the job search for international students as companies would have to sponsor them in the future for H1B visas.
Companies sponsoring international students for internship & full-time jobs
Please make sure that the companies you are willing to work for or applying to provide sponsorship for your visa requirements for the duration of your work with them. More information and a list of companies hiring international students can be found under the Penn Career Services website. This e-resource may also be helpful in your job search, and you can check if a company sponsor work visa on GoinGlobal at the bottom of this page.
When in doubt, be sure to check with the employer directly.
What is OPT, CPT, and H1B?
Both OPT (Optional Practical Training) and CPT (Curricular Practical Training) are programs that allow international students with F-1 visas to work in the U.S. for a certain period of time, while H-1B is a temporary visa that allows American employer to employ foreign workers.
ISSS website provides extensive information on each of the program, extension, and visa.
On campus employment
During your time at Penn, you can choose to pursue an on campus job. For details and qualifications, please refer to the ISSS website or consult an ISSS advisor directly.
For information on work study check out the “International Student Work Study” section on the Student Employment Office website
How to receive your pay? Most students use a facility called Direct Deposit to receive payment or any other type of reimbursement. Students would need to have a U.S. bank account, as the paycheck is automatically deposited into the designated U.S. bank account. Check out the website on how to sign up for Direct Deposit.
Social Security Number
The social security number is assigned to anyone who works within the borders of the U.S. to keep tabs on their earnings. It also serves as a secondary form of government identification for them. Whether an international student wishes to work as a Teaching Assistant during the academic year or at a company for a paid internship over the summer, obtaining the SSN is a mandatory but easy hurdle to cross. For detailed steps of application, please refer to the ISSS website.
Q: Have you ever worked on campus? What did you do and how was the experience?
“I have worked at the Van Pelt Reserve Desk every semester since freshman fall. The experience has been great so far since you can mostly do your thing and study when no one is around.”
“I worked as a PHINS (Peers Helping Incoming New Students). Had to fill out forms and then go to the Penn Payroll Office to get my forms approved. Also did TA but that was handled via engineering and my approval process was slightly different.”
Q: If you have applied to SSN, OPT, or CPT, how did you find the process?
“I have so far only applied for a SSN which isn't difficult but is a multi step process. To my knowledge, a Social Security Number is only granted for employment purposes to F1/J1 students so international students can not apply for a SSN until they have confirmed employment. There is a single page SSN application form available on the ISSS website which has to be filled and submitted to the Social Security office in front of City Hall. The first part of the form has to be filled by the student and the next parts have to be filled by the Penn Hiring Department, hence why having a confirmed job is necessary. Once the employer has filled out their part, the form has to be taken to ISSS who then fill out the very last part of the form. This is necessary because ISSS has to confirm whether or not the student is eligible for that specific job. As a general rule, international students can only work on campus and are not eligible for off-campus work without OPT or CPT.
Once the form is filled, you then just have to take all of your documents (Passport, I-20/DS 2019 and the completed form) to the social security office and submit them. Once submitted, it takes a few weeks for the social security office to email you your SSN card and you're good to go. More details about the entire process can be found on the ISSS website here”
“I have been through all three processes, which are wildly different.
- SSN: Fill out the forms etc and then go to the SS office downtown to hand then docs in. Fairly straightforward if you follow all the instructions.
- CPT: Varies by school. For engineering it’s pretty complicated and you have to go back and forth between the Engineering Academic Office and ISSS. Also need to find a faculty advisor to sign off on the process and very very few professors (if any) know about CPT.
- OPT: Process is straightforward. There is just a lot of steps that you need to follow. The ISSS site does a good job of guiding you through it.”
Q: Where would you recommend new students to look when it comes to finding an on campus job or work study job?
“Almost all jobs available in area are listed on this page and the list is extensive. However, this page lists both on campus and off-campus jobs so some of the jobs might not apply to international students. Before accepting any jobs, international students should confirm their eligibility with ISSS. In addition to this page, there are many jobs available in College houses which are advertised on their facebook pages and hallways.”
“Never looked for one so not the best person for this. I remember hearing about a site freshman year that had a listing of all on-campus/work study jobs, but it might not have been filtered by ones international students could apply. Not entirely sure on this. On another note, one important thing international students should definitely know is a lot (bordering on most) of companies don’t offer positions to international students. I got screwed over by a company after getting an offer when they told me their HR didn’t see I was international. So international students are limited to the large firms only and if you don’t get those you are screwed.”