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 a paid or unpaid 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 apply for CPT, F-1 students must meet all of the requirements below.
1. Be Eligible for CPT
To be eligible for CPT, you must be in F-1 status and have been a full-time student for at least one full academic year (one fall and one spring semester). Talk to an international student advisor if you have questions regarding this requirement.
2. Enroll in a CPT-Appropriate Course
You must register in an appropriate course during the semester in which your internship will take place as part of the CPT process. This course must count towards degree requirements for your major field of study and work authorization must be necessary to complete course objectives. 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. You must be registered for an appropriate course before you may complete a CPT request.
CPT eligible course options will be in one of three categories:
- an optional or required internship or practicum course in your academic program. Registration in an internship or practicum course is required, and that course must count towards your degree requirements.
- a regular course or independent study course in your academic program that would require work authorization to complete course objectives. 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.
3. Have an Offer of Employment
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 must 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
Your request cannot be approved if your offer letter does not include all items above.
CPT Application Process
To apply for CPT, complete the e-form request in Atlas under F-1 Practical Training. In the e-form, you will provide the following documentation.
- Proof of course enrollment (recommend this be a copy of your unofficial transcript)
- Job Offer letter that meets all requirements above (your request cannot be approved if any items are missing)
- Your academic advisors name and contact information
- Details of the proposed internship
Maintain Your F-1 Status While on CPT
Follow these rules to maintain your F-1 status:
- Make good academic progress! Remember that CPT usage may not delay graduation.
- 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 more than 20 hours/week, and you are only required to enroll in your CPT course. Additional registration is optional, however students must continue to make good academic progress.
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. Remember that students must continue to make good academic progress; a desire to participate in multiple instances of CPT would not be a valid reason to extend ones program. 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.