Curricular practical training (CPT)

CPT Video Tutorial

Watch the CPT Tutorial video to learn about the CPT application process.

If you are unable to view the presentation, a PDF version is available to download.

What is CPT?

Curricular practical training (CPT) may be authorized under certain circumstances to allow F-1 students temporary off-campus employment.  Such employment must be directly related to a student's major field of study and an integral or important part of the program of study.  Training which is required by the degree program always meets the requirements for CPT, regardless of whether or not academic credit is received for the work.  Training which is not required by the degree program may meet the requirements if the student registers for a class with a formal work component as listed in the Programs of Study catalogue, or for thesis if the employment is directly related to the thesis topic or area or research. CPT is authorized by ISSS upon receipt of the proper application materials, outlined below.

Who is eligible for CPT?

  • F-1 students who have completed one full academic year (both Fall and Spring) of full time study immediately prior to the semester of their requested CPT work authorization. This requirement is waived for graduate students in a program that requires immediate internship participation.
  • CPT occurs during the course of the student's program of study.

Full-time vs. Part-time CPT

  • Part-time CPT is 20 hours a week or less, while full-time CPT is more than 20 hours per week.
  • Full-time CPT can be authorized in three situations: during summer semester for students registered in spring and continuing in fall; pursuant to registration in a formal internship class; or if you are in a graduate program that requires internship participation to graduate. Otherwise, you will be limited to 20 hours per week of work authorization, including any on campus employment.
  • If you participate in twelve months or more of full time CPT, you lose eligibility to apply for twelve months of optional practical training (OPT) after you complete your studies.  Participation in part time CPT does not affect your eligibility for post-completion OPT.

UNPAID INTERNSHIPS

Charitable Work that DOES NOT need CPT:

  • Non-profit work.
  • Work for a volunteer food bank.

Civic Purpose that DOES NOT need CPT:

  • Work for state or local government agencies must have a civic purpose.

“For-profit” private employers must meet the Department of Labor’s “Six Factor Test” in order for internship to be unpaid*:

  1. Similar to training that would be given in an educational environment, rather than the work of regular employees.
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and on occasion, its operations may actually be impeded.  (The “pest test”).
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

*ISSS recommends CPT/OPT for all internships – paid and unpaid.

Other Information

  • CPT requires course registration as indicated in the CPT application form for the semester in which CPT occurs (summer included). Independent Study courses are not appropriate for CPT registration.
  • CPT authorization cannot be backdated. Please make sure your CPT work dates are in the future.
  • You are only authorized to work on CPT for the dates listed on your new I-20 (3rd page). You cannot start your CPT employment without having the I-20 in hand. The employment must also end on the date specified on your CPT I-20.
  • CPT authorization can only be given for 1 year at a time.
  • If you wish to change employers or dates of employment while on CPT you must turn in a new CPT application form.
  • If you are a Graduate student registering for thesis credits for CPT please make sure your thesis topic and/or title is given on the CPT application form along with an explanation why the CPT authorization is necessary for your thesis research.

  • CPT in a student's final semester:

    PART-TIME OR FULL-TIME CPT FOR THESIS TRACK STUDENTS IN FINAL SEMESTER: Allowed

    PART-TIME OR FULL-TIME CPT FOR UNDERGRADUATES AND NON-THESIS TRACK GRADUATE STUDENTS IN THE FINAL SEMESTER: Allowed only if they will also be completing other credits needed for graduation. Will not be allowed for students who have already met their credit requirements for graduation.

How do I apply for CPT?

  • If you believe you have an employment opportunity that qualifies for CPT, please meet with your academic/thesis advisor to discuss. If your advisor believes the employment is an integral and/or important part of your program of study, the next step will be for you to complete the CPT application form. Once you complete the form, a notification will be sent to your academic advisor by email with instructions and a link to the approval form.
  • Make sure all sections of the CPT application form are completed correctly before submitting to ISSS. ISSS will not accept incomplete/incorrect application forms. After you have submitted the form and it has been approved by your advisor, it will take ISSS 5 business days to approve the CPT and create the new I-20. Please make sure you give yourself plenty of time before employment begins to submit the application.
  •  CPT approval is not guaranteed. Each application is evaluated based on its own merits, and even if you believe your application includes all the requested information, ISSS could still deny your application or request further clarification.

Access the CPT Application Form (iStart e-form)

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