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International Students Faced Summer Work Authorization Delays

For roughly 14% of Haverford students who are international students, work authorizations are an additional challenge to securing summer work. Most international students at Haverford hold an F-1 visa, a non-immigrant student visa, which allows students to work in the United States, but only under specific restrictions that are set and monitored by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

This summer, concerns about international students losing their internships all over the United States were heightened due to delays in the federal work authorization that is required for F-1 visa holders to be employed away from Haverford, including for internships and summer jobs. F-1 students are only permitted to work off-campus under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) programs. OPT is a program that temporarily allows international students to work up to 12 months in relation to their major of study and requires submitting an application to the government. CPT is a program that temporarily allows international students to gain practical experience directly related to their major through employment, or internships. The CPT program must be part of an established curriculum and therefore sponsored by a student’s university. The OPT application fee is $410, while CPT applications are free.

Haverford College does not offer international students CPT, which has complicated the lives of some students, including Iryna Khovryak ‘22. Khovryak lost her internship at Facebook as a Software Developer in Menlo Park, California due to the late processing of her OPT application. Khovryak was constantly checking the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website and the status stated that her chance of receiving OPT on time was, in Khovryak’s words “one to ten thousand applications.” 

Khovryak was not the only incoming intern at Facebook who had the same issue with OPT. Students from Dartmouth University, Yale University, and Duke University were offered emergency CPT last-minute and were able to attend the same program at Facebook after all. Khovryak sums up her story with this statement: “If Haverford is trying to push this idea of a small and supportive community then it should be supportive for all the communities, international as well.”

These similar situations to Khovyrak’s at other universities prompted protests with viral online coverage. Dartmouth University began to offer its international students CPT after 1,000 students signed a petition addressed to Dartmouth’s President and Board of Trustees which called for CPT. It took Dartmouth about a week to make this urgent change after a post by Dartmouth undergraduate Hamza Musana, who lost his internship at Facebook due to OPT authorization delays, went viral. Such a quick response from the administration was also seen at Yale University after 169 international students signed a petition for CPT authorization. Summer internships at Haverford College would be considered outside of the CPT’s framework as students would not be actively enrolled due to Haverford not offering summer courses.

Theresa Tensuan, Associate Dean of the College, Dean for Diversity, Access and Community Engagement, Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said that the possibility of establishing CPT at Haverford came to her attention once professors have started creating innovative courses that included a lot of experiential education which was embedded in the structure of the curriculum. “Haverford has always been about theory … there was nothing in our actual distribution requirements that made practical training as part of the curriculum.”

While some of Haverford’s courses have experiential components to them, they are not necessarily considered practical to abide by the regulations of CPT. This year, the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) is opening up the question of what such major fulfillment requirements can look like for Haverford College, considering what kind of model can be developed that could be embedded within the curriculum framework, depending on how the requirement is defined for each department or by the institution itself. There are a couple of different models that the administration is looking at while trying to understand how the different models work in relation to those institutions organizing distribution requirements. Theresa stated: “My hope is that as EPC moves through this [they] can ensure that at the very least international students have full access to everything that will be supported by the institution.”

It is clear that there are many intricacies in the process of establishing the exact requirements for CPT. However, it is also important to consider the urgency of helping international students in getting the right skillsets through jobs and internships off-campus. 

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