Overview of CPT
Who is eligible?
How do I apply?
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)].

You must obtain work authorization before starting any paid 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 3 of your I-20, and you are only authorized to work for that employer between the start and end dates listed on the third page of your I-20.

CPT work authorization is not transferable between employers and is only valid between the dates listed on the third 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 ISAP Office approves CPT and reports your employment by updating your SEVIS record. In order to ensure adequate time to process your request, allow at least one week between your appointment with ISAP and your requested CPT start date.

Remember, you may not 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 20 hours or less per week
Full time = working more than 20 hours per week

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.

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

How do I apply?

Step 1: Get Both Required Documents

CPT Form:

  • Undergraduate Students: Your academic advisor must fill out section 2 of the Undergraduate CPT Form. They will then refer you to either the program expert or internship coordinator so they can fill in section 3. You must have both section 2 and 3 of the form completed and signed before meeting with ISAP.

  • Graduate Students: Your internship coordinator or program chair must fill out section 2 of the Graduate CPT Form. Your divisional assistant director or director can also fill out this section. Section 2 must be completed and signed before you meet with ISAP.

Job Offer Letter: You will need to provide ISAP with a job offer letter from your employer. Your academic department will likely want to see the letter as well, to ensure that your job duties are directly related to your degree. The letter needs to be written on company letterhead and must include the following information:

  • Name and address of the company
  • Supervisor’s name and phone number
  • Start and end dates of employment
  • Number of hours per week
  • Brief description of the work you will be doing

Step 2: Make an Appointment with an ISAP Advisor

In order to ensure adequate time to process your request, allow at least one week between your appointment with ISAP and your requested CPT start date.

Schedule an appointment with an ISAP advisor in:

You must bring both your completed CPT form and job offer letter to your appointment.

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.

You cannot begin working before CPT has been authorized 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.