Experiential Learning at Stanford and Maintaining Compliance as an International student
There are many opportunities at Stanford for international students to participate in programs or enroll in courses that offer hands-on experience in developing products, starting companies or providing services to companies. While many of these experiences are labelled as “experiential” in accordance with the terminology of academia, U.S. immigration agencies could interpret “experiential” as “employment” and this can create problems for our international students who have regulatory restrictions placed on their employment-related activities.
Unfortunately, many of these experiential programs and courses, although they take place on campus, cannot be considered on-campus employment for immigration purposes, so participation in them by those in F-1 and J-1 status may not be compliant without appropriate work authorization (CPT, OPT, AT). These types of work authorization (which are seen as benefits of being in F-1 or J-1 status) allow for “practical training” experiences for international students and allow them to remain compliant while engaging in employment-related activities in the U.S.
International students are advised to contact the Bechtel International Center 4-5 months before planning to participate in an experiential program or course at Stanford, and our advisors will help you determine which type of authorization is appropriate for the course or program in which you intend to participate. Please come to your appointment at Bechtel with a complete written description of the program or course in which you plan to participate.
Restrictions on participating in experiential learning:
CPT vs. OPT for F-1 students:
Please remember: It is the responsibility of the international student (and not the professor, department or program coordinator) to understand and abide by the immigration regulations which affect his/her legal status and limitations placed on employment-related activities. It is also the responsibility of the student to refrain from participating in an activity which could be interpreted as employment until proper authorization has been obtained. Failure to comply with immigration regulations would be considered a violation of status, and could lead to the denial of immigration benefits, loss of status and a bar on re-entry to the U.S.