Curricular Practical Training
As an F-1 student, you can use CPT to gain work experience while earning credit towards your degree program.
If you have an employment opportunity that will give you experience in your field of study before you graduate, such as an internship, you may be eligible for a type of work authorization called Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
CPT work must be an integral part of your curriculum; therefore, it must be done for credit that counts towards your degree requirements.
Your CPT authorization must be issued by the Office of International Affairs before you start working, and you may not work before or after your CPT authorized dates. Working without authorization is a violation of your legal status in the U.S. Additionally, you may not “volunteer” at the workplace before your CPT is approved. This would still be considered a violation of your F-1 status.
To be eligible for CPT, you must meet the following criteria:
- You have been a full-time student for at least one full academic year (one fall and one spring semester).
- 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 employment you have been offered.
To be eligible for CPT, the employment must meet the following criteria:
- The work fulfills an optional or required internship or practicum in your academic program. Registration in an internship or practicum course is required, and that course must count towards your degree requirements.
- The work fulfills the course requirements of a regular course or independent study course in your academic program. Registration in the course is required, and that course must count towards your degree requirements.
- Graduate students only: The work benefits your thesis/dissertation/final project in a material and substantial way. Registration for thesis/dissertation/final project credit(s) is required.
CPT Application Process
Contact your Academic Advisor in Your Department
Your advisor must certify that you will register in an appropriate course/independent study, internship credit(s), or research credit(s) as part of your CPT process. Speak with your academic advisor to determine your options for a CPT-appropriate course. Your advisor should consult directly with the OIA on any questions.
Your academic advisor must confirm the course associated with your CPT request through the e-form process and explain how the proposed work experience will be integral to your curriculum and fulfill requirements of your program of study. This information is required before the OIA can process your CPT request. Your advisor will receive an e-form seeking this information after you submit your e-form application to OIA.
Get a Job Offer Letter
You must submit an offer letter on company letterhead from your prospective employer. Please share a copy of the offer letter with your academic advisor, because he or she will need to verify that the employment will fulfill the requirements of your CPT course. The letter should include:
- The specific start date and specific end date for employment
- The number of hours you will work per week. It is not sufficient 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 are not accepted for this requirement.
- A detailed description of the job duties of the offered employment
Register for the Appropriate Course
You must register for a CPT-appropriate course for each semester or summer session for which you seek authorization. CPT authorization cannot be based upon "incompletes" or other registrations from previous semesters.
CPT may not span multiple semesters based on one semester of course enrollment.
Submit your CPT Application to OIA through iStart
You must apply for CPT at least two weeks before the employment is expected to begin. Failure to apply timely may result in delays in the start of your employment.
To apply, submit the iStart e-form for CPT. The application will be routed to your academic advisor. Be sure to prompt your advisor to watch for an email notification from iStart to complete the form. After your advisor submits the form, it will route back to OIA for processing.
Maintain Your 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. Doing so would immediately cancel your CPT, making your employment illegal.
- If you are authorized for part-time CPT, work no more than 20 hours/week. If your CPT is during a 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 only required to enroll in your CPT course. Additional registration is optional.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need CPT for an unpaid internship?
OIA highly recommends that you apply for CPT, even for an unpaid work experience. You must be careful not to "volunteer" without pay in positions that U.S. citizens would be paid for. This rule is designed to protect you, the employer, and other workers. The U.S. Department of Labor provides information on the Fair Labor Standards Act on its website.
Will my CPT affect my eligibility for Optional Practical Training upon graduation?
Part-time CPT never affects your eligibility for OPT. However, full-time CPT of 12 months or more causes you to lose your OPT eligibility entirely.
Can I qualify for an extension of my CPT?
CPT can only be extended if the continued employment is necessary to meet the requirements of your CPT-related 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.
In most cases, you will be asked to apply for CPT again, and register for an additional course during the CPT extension period. Consult with an OIA advisor if you have questions regarding CPT extensions.
Can I qualify for CPT in my first semester?
Normally you must complete an entire academic year of full-time study before you can qualify. However, there is an exception for graduate students in cases where an internship or practicum experience is required in the first semester. This situation is extremely rare.
OIA does not consider CPT applications for new students who wish to continue their employment after their Optional Practical Training or other employment authorization has expired. CPT is available only when the employment opportunity is academically driven and an integral part of your degree program.