Curricular Practical Training

Overview of CPT
Who is eligible?
Undergrad & MArch Application Process
Graduate Application Process
CPT or Pre-Completion OPT?

Overview of CPT

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a type of work authorization that allows students to gain practical experience in their field of study as long as the practical training is “an integral part of an established curriculum” [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)].

Note: You do not have work authorization until you have received an updated I-20 from ISAP with CPT authorization on the second page.

You must obtain work authorization before starting any employment.

Important Information About CPT

CPT is employer-specific

This means that you are only authorized to work for the specific employer named on page 2 of your I-20, and you are only authorized to work for that employer between the start and end dates listed on the second page of your I-20.

CPT work authorization is not transferable between employers and is only valid between the dates listed on the second page of your I-20.

If you wish to request an additional CPT authorization or to extend CPT at the same employer, you must go through the approval process again and have that second request approved before beginning work (or continuing work after the end of your first CPT).

The work must be directly related to your field of study

The purpose of CPT is to allow students to participate in a co-curricular experience that directly complements and enhances the skills and knowledge learned during their coursework and studio work.

Therefore, the employment or internship must be directly related to your major and must provide you with the opportunity to gain practical experience using skills related to your coursework.

Plan ahead and apply early

The CPT application process involves multiple steps. In order to ensure adequate time to process your request, we advise that you start the process of gathering your documents for CPT authorization at least two weeks before the proposed start date of your internship.

CPT is authorized by term

This means that if your internship will extend over more than one term, you will need to obtain a second CPT authorization in order to continue your internship. For CPT purposes, there are four terms:

  • Fall: first day of fall semester classes until the last day of fall classes
  • Winter: the day after fall classes end until the day before spring classes start
  • Spring: the day spring classes start until the last day of spring classes
  • Summer: the day after spring classes end until the day before fall classes start

Remember, you cannot work until you have your CPT I-20.

Full-time CPT can affect your eligibility for OPT

If you do 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will become ineligible for OPT after graduation. Part-time CPT authorization does not impact eligibility for OPT.

Part time = working less than 20 hours per week
Full time = working 20 hours per week or more

Who is eligible?

In order to be eligible for CPT, you must have been in F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters immediately prior to when you apply.

Graduate students may be eligible for CPT authorization prior to completing their first academic year in F-1 status if their program requires an internship during the first year. This applies to very few programs at CCA; please check with the ISAP office if you have questions.

Additionally, in all cases, the practical training you wish to do must be considered an integral part of your curriculum.

Undergraduate and MArch Application Process

Please read through the internship guidelines for your major to ensure that you understand the steps and requirements for CCA internships. There is program-specific information as well as an overview of the general process.

Step 1: Undergraduates: meet with your academic advisor to initiate the internship process

Your academic advisor will initiate an internship record for you.

MArch students: skip this step.

step 2: Obtain required signatures on CPT form and learning contract

If this internship is part of an internship course you are registered for, your internship coordinator will sign both forms.

If your internship is not part of an internship course, your program chair will sign both forms.

Bring the following items to this meeting:

1. Job offer letter - The letter needs to be written on company letterhead and must include the following information:

  • Name and address of the company
  • Start and end dates of employment
  • Number of hours per week
  • Description of the work you will be doing

2. Learning contract - This should be complete, meaning that all questions are answered fully and your site supervisor has signed it. The contract must be ready for your internship coordinator or program chair to sign. 

3. CPT Form - This form also needs to be completed and ready for your internship coordinator or program chair to sign. You must fill out sections 1 and 2 before this meeting. In section 3, your internship coordinator or program chair must circle YES or NO and sign the form for it to be considered complete. ISAP will not accept forms that are missing information.

A note about your learning contract:

  • If you are registered for an internship course, turn in your completed learning contract to your internship coordinator. Keep your offer letter and completed CPT form to bring to your appointment with ISAP. Please allow at least five business days between your meeting with your internship coordinator or program chair and your appointment with ISAP so that your learning contract can be processed.

  • If your internship is not part of an internship course, keep your learning contract and bring it, along with your CPT form and job offer letter, to your appointment with ISAP. While your program chair will sign your learning contract, do not turn in your learning contract to your program chair.

Step 3: Meet with ISAP to get CPT work authorization

Schedule an appointment with an ISAP advisor.

Bring the following items to this appointment:

  1. Offer letter
  2. Completed CPT form
  3. Completed learning contract (if your internship is not part of an internship course)

Make sure your documents are complete! If you are missing one or more of the documents listed above when you come to your appointment, or the documents are incomplete or missing signatures, ISAP will not be able to process your CPT request.

Remember that CPT is authorized by term. This means that if your internship will extend over more than one term, you will need to obtain a second CPT authorization in order to continue your internship.

You cannot begin working before CPT has been authorized by ISAP and you have picked up your I-20 with CPT authorization.

Graduate Application Process

Please read through the internship guidelines for your major to ensure that you understand the steps and requirements for CCA internships. There is program-specific information as well as an overview of the general process.

Step 1: Meet with your program representative* to have CPT form and learning contract signed

*Program representative includes program chair, divisional director or assistant director

Bring the following items to this meeting:

1. Job offer letter - The letter needs to be written on company letterhead and must include the following information:

  • Name and address of the company
  • Start and end dates of employment
  • Number of hours per week
  • Description of the work you will be doing

2. Learning contract - This should be complete, meaning that all questions are answered fully and your site supervisor has signed it. The contract must be ready for your department representative to sign. 

3. CPT Form - This form also needs to be completed and ready for your department representative to sign. You must fill out sections 1 and 2 before this meeting. In section 3, your department representative must circle YES or NO and sign the form for it to be considered complete. ISAP will not accept forms that are missing information.

Keep all three documents to turn into ISAP at your appointment.

Step 2: Meet with ISAP to get CPT work authorization

Schedule an appointment with an ISAP advisor

Bring the following items to this appointment:

  1. Offer letter
  2. Completed CPT form
  3. Completed learning contract

Make sure your documents are complete! If you are missing one or more of the documents listed above when you come to your appointment, or the documents are incomplete or missing signatures, ISAP will not be able to process your CPT request.

Remember that CPT is authorized by term. This means that if your internship will extend over more than one term, you will need to obtain a second CPT authorization in order to continue your internship.

You cannot begin working before CPT has been authorized by ISAP and you have picked up your I-20 with CPT authorization.

Pre-Completion OPT or CPT?

If you are interested in gaining practical experience related to your field of study, but the practical experience will not qualify for CPT, or you want more flexibility in working for more than one employer, another option to consider is pre-completion Optional Practical Training.

Depending on your specific situation, pre-completion OPT might be a better option for you.

For more information on the differences between pre-completion OPT and CPT, please read the Pre-Completion OPT info sheet.