The following guidance has been provided to Research Administration for use in decisions regarding the execution and implementation of internship and cooperative education agreements involving students on F-1 visa status. The procedure serves to provide information regarding how to interpret whether or not an international student is eligible or capable of pursuing a certain internship or cooperative education programs. Basic considerations include determination of the visa type the international student possesses at the time of internship or cooperative education application. Of primary concern in this procedure are those international students possessing an F-1 visa type without an Optional Practical Training rider (OPT).
When an international student cannot document what they are learning on the job in their academic work plan, when that work is not part and parcel to their publishable research (in the thesis/dissertation), when the academic adviser (chair of the committee, or DGP) has no control over (or supervision over or influence on) the research, etc., the work cannot be considered “curricular” or “extended on-campus” types of employment as defined in the regulations (8 CFR 214). The international student may indeed be eligible to apply for a different type of employment (Optional Practical Training) which would require a petition (forms, fee, 2-4 months processing time, the using up of some of an allocation of 12 months total eligibility) to INS, but the intention of the regulations is clear – students should be full-time students working on their degree, and any employment must be “incidental to status.” An employer asking/requiring a student to sign a “Confidentiality Agreement” and/or treating them as other employees (or even putting them in a permanent position) constitutes an employer-employee relationship rather than a relationship which is meant to primarily benefit the student in his/her studies and to help him/her reach a specific academic goal.
“Industrial Assistantships” or “Extended On-Campus Assistantships;” where, for example, a company on the NC State’s Centennial Campus regularly employs research assistants (domestic and international) and the company pays for the student’s tuition/insurance/ stipend (through the College or C and G or a University Foundation – in whatever way may be lawful and appropriate) is acceptable, but there must be a contract between the company and the University and the other conditions must also be present (the work is integral to the student’s work plan/thesis, the academic advisor (faculty) has supervisory responsibility over the student’s research, etc. Likewise, numerous Curricular Practical Training authorizations are executed annually in conjunction with the CO-OP office wherein the adviser is keenly aware of what the student is doing and the research must be integral to the student’s academic program (in addition to other eligibility requirements).
Considering the above narrative, it is likely that international students serving on F-1 visas are ineligible to serve in an internship or cooperative education programs wherein the sponsor requires execution of confidentiality arrangements and other such contractual provisions such that the student is prohibited from using the experiences gained therein in their publishable research endeavor (thesis/dissertation).
Administrators and faculty members must use caution when seeking internship and cooperative education opportunities for international students, especially those serving on F-1 visa status.
Please direct your questions regarding this matter to either of the following individuals: