Learn more about CPT!
If you are considering an employment opportunity that will give you experience in your field of study before you graduate, like an internship, you may be eligible for a type of work authorization called CPT or Curricular Practical Training.
CPT must be an integral part of your curriculum, therefore, it must be performed in conjunction with a credit-bearing course.
To be eligible for CPT you must meet the criteria below:
- You have been a full-time student for at least one full academic year (one fall and one spring semester) or you are a graduate student whose program requires immediate participation in curricular practical training
- You have F-1 status
- You have a letter from your prospective employer for work in your major field of study
- You have registered for an appropriate course that is concurrent with the CPT experience
Furthermore, the employment must meet the following criteria:
- The work fulfills an optional or required internship or practicum in your academic
program. You must register in the internship course before approval will be granted
CPT Request Process
Please communicate with your academic advisor regarding your plans for completion of the curricular practical training. Your advisor will need to certify that you will register in the appropriate credit-bearing course. He/she will be able to help you determine your options for a CPT-appropriate course.
Your academic advisor will confirm the course associated with your CPT request through the e-form process and explain how the proposed work experience is an integral part of your curriculum. The ISO will need this information before your request can be processed.
You must submit an offer letter on company letterhead from your prospective employer. The letter needs to include the following items:
- Specific start date and end date for employment
- The number of hours you will work per week. It is not enough for the letter to state "part-time" or "full-time."
- The physical location (street address, city, state, and zip code) where the job will be conducted. P.O. Boxes will not be accepted for this requirement.
- Supervisor's name and contact information
- A detailed description of the job duties of the offered employment
You must register for a credit-bearing course for each semester or summer session for which you seek CPT authorization. CPT will not be authorized for “incomplete” courses or other pending registrations from previous semesters.
CPT must be approved for each semester, therefore, it may not span multiple semesters based on one semester of enrollment in a course.
You must apply for CPT at least two weeks before the employment is expected to begin. Failure to apply in a timely manner will result in delays in the start of your employment.
To apply, submit the following CPT Request e-forms on iStart:
1. CPT Initial Step
2. CPT Job Offer Letter
3. CPT Academic Advisor Verification
The request will be routed to your academic advisor. Please communicate with your advisor to be sure that they complete the form when they receive the email from the iStart system. After your advisor submits the form, it will route back to ISO for processing.
Maintain F-1 Status While on CPT
Follow these rules to maintain your F-1 status:
- Do not drop the course that your CPT is based on. Dropping the course would immediately cancel your CPT authorization and make your employment illegal.
- If you are authorized for part-time CPT, work no more than 20 hours per week. If your CPT is during the Fall or Spring semester, you must still enroll full-time.
- If you are authorized for full-time CPT, you are expected to work at least 21 hours/week, and you are required to maintain full-time enrollment unless you are in your last semester and are approved for an reduced course load for last semester work or you are a graduate student enrolled in a thesis or maintain matriculation course.
Frequently Asked Questions
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is employment that is an integral part of your major curriculum and allows you to participate in an internship, practicum or cooperative education program. CPT must be required for your degree program or, if not required, you must receive course credit. CPT is employer-specific and if required for your degree, must be completed before you graduate. CPT is authorized directly by your immigration advisor/Designated School Official (DSO) who updates your SEVIS record with the authorization.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is optional for any student who meets the eligibility requirements and does not need to be part of a credit-bearing course. OPT is not employer-specific and may be done before (pre-completion) or after (post-completion) you graduate. An OPT authorization request is endorsed by your immigration advisor but processed and approved by USCIS.
You must have an offer of employment to request CPT since the authorization is employer-specific.
ISO recommends that you request CPT, even if your work is an unpaid work experience. You must be careful not to “volunteer” without pay in a position that U.S. citizens would be paid for. This rule is designed to protect you, the employer, and other workers. A student who engages in an unpaid activity that would constitute “employment” under labor laws would be seen as having been "employed”. This could risk the student’s immigration status if the activity was not covered by an authorization such as CPT or OPT.
For more information on the Fair Labor Standards Act please visit the website of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Part-time CPT does not affect your eligibility for OPT. Full-time CPT of 12 months or more can cause you to lose OPT eligibility.
CPT can only be extended if the continued employment is necessary to meet the requirements of your degree and is part of a credit-bearing course. It is not allowable in cases where the employer or the student wish for the employment to continue, but there is no academic basis for the extension.
You will need to request CPT authorization for each semester and register in the related course. You can speak with an ISSS advisor if you have more questions about extension of your CPT authorization.