Curricular Practical Training

Overview of CPT
Who is eligible?
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 a benefit of your F-1 status

In addition to the eligibility criteria mentioned below, you must also be maintaining your F-1 status to be eligible for CPT. This includes being registered full-time.

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 three terms:

  • Fall authorization: first day of fall semester classes until the day before spring classes begin
  • Spring authorization: the day after fall classes end until the last day of spring classes
  • Summer authorization: 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 to apply for CPT, you must have been in F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters immediately prior to when you apply. You must also be maintaining your F-1 status (including being registered full-time) at the time 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.

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. The Internship Learning Agreement (ILA) form is used for CPT authorization in addition to getting credit for your internship. International students must ALWAYS turn in a completed ILA form and get CPT authorization before beginning an internship.

step 1: complete section i of the internship learning agreement (ILA)

You will need to complete this section of the form and either have your employer sign it, or get an offer letter on company letterhead that contains ALL of the following information:

  • Name and address of the company
  • Name, phone number, and email of the site supervisor
  • Start and end dates of employment
  • Number of hours per week you will be working
  • Description of the work you will be doing

step 2: complete section ii of the ILA and obtain required signature

Please note, the faculty or department representative MUST circle YES or NO in the Faculty or Department Representative Approval section (on page 5), in addition to signing it. Incomplete forms will not be accepted.

Step 3: Meet with ISAP to get CPT work authorization

Schedule an appointment with an ISAP advisor.

Bring your completed Internship Learning Agreement (ILA) form to your appointment.

  • Make sure your documents are complete! If your ILA is incomplete or missing signatures, ISAP will not be able to process your CPT request.
  • Remember that CPT is authorized by term. This means 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 your I-20 with CPT authorization on the second page.

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.