CPT/OPT Information for International Students

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)/ Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Working On-Campus

F-1 students may be employed on-campus part-time (20 hours or less per week) during the fall and spring semesters and full-time during the summer and other official school breaks. You must maintain full-time enrollment each consecutive semester to remain eligible for this benefit.

Working Off-Campus

International students have two options for off-campus work: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
CPT is available to F-1 students who have had F-1 Student Status for 9 consecutive months at a U.S. university but have not yet completed the minimum requirements for graduation. CPT allows international students to be paid for work experience off-campus (e.g. an internship) if it is integral to the student’s established curriculum and done for credit. Students must provide CPT paperwork: CPT Request Form and a letter from their CPT employer. International students must not begin work until the appropriate forms have been completed. If you are NOT being paid for your CPT, you do not require a Social Security Card.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT is temporary employment for practical training that is “directly related to the student’s area of study and commensurate with the student’s educational level.” F-1 students may participate for up to 12 months of OPT, usually post-graduation. There are eligibility requirements, and an application to the USCIS is required.

What is the difference between Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

  • CPT is authorized for off-campus work performed before completion of your academic program. OPT can be authorized for off-campus work before or after completion of your academic program.
  • F-1 visa holders have a maximum of 12 months of OPT available to them during any uninterrupted stay in F-1 status. The amount of CPT is not limited by the immigration regulations.
  • CPT is authorized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  • Students who have received one year or more of full-time CPT are NOT eligible for OPT. Part-time curricular practical training (20 hours or less a week) is not counted toward the one-year threshold at which the student loses eligibility for Optional Practical Training.

FAQs about CPT

Most likely not. You need to be in F-1 status and enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year before becoming eligible for practical training. Only those graduate students are eligible to start CPT in their first semester if the CPT is required of all students in their academic program.

You will be eligible once you have been enrolled in F-1 status for at least one full academic year; this may be cumulative at both institutions.

No. You must first have authorization before you begin paid or unpaid internship or any other form of Curricular Practical Training.

CPT can be approved for part-time (20 hours or less) or full-time (over 20 hours). There is no regulatory limit on either the number of times or length of time a student may engage in either part or full-time Curricular Practical Training. This will be governed by the nature of the training and the requirement of the student’s program. The regulations do not prohibit multiple, concurrent CPT employers.

Students who complete 12 or more months of full-time CPT become ineligible for OPT. Use of part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for OPT. To continue to be eligible for OPT, you will want to make sure to complete 364 days or less of full-time CPT.

This depends on the specific period granted by the international student advisor. It may be granted by the international student advisor in increments of no more than one year, or until expected date of employment completion, whichever is shorter. There is no cumulative maximum, except that it can only be approved before completion of the academic objective. Please see question and answer above for additional information.

Students may engage in CPT only for the specific employer, location, and period approved and recorded in SEVIS.

No. USCIS defines CPT as an employment that is an integral part of an established curriculum. It includes alternative work/study, internship, or cooperative education arranged with the approval of your academic program, or any type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements. CPT may take place during the academic year and/or in the summer/winter and MUST be undertaken and completed prior to the completion of the course of study.

USCIS interprets CPT in two ways. CPT may be required or recommended. This is decided by the stated requirements of an academic degree. CPT is required when it is a required part of the curriculum; it should be mentioned in the University catalog in the description of the department’s requirements for all students. CPT is recommended when it is beneficial for the student to engage in the employment experience, but that experience is NOT necessary for the completion of the degree.

FAQ about OPTs

For pre-completion OPT, after you have maintained F-1 status for one academic year; for post-completion OPT up to 90 days before the program end-date and up to 60 days after the program end-date, provided that it is filed within 30 days of the date the Designate School Officer (DSO) enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.

The DHS (Department of Homeland Security) must receive your application 60 days after the program end-date, provided that it is filed within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.

Your completion of studies (program end) date is the date when you completed you last requirement for your degree. It is NOT a graduation date.

Optional Practical Training can be authorized for a total of 12 months at a full-time rate per each educational level. For example, if a student used 3 months of full-time OPT during a summer vacation (pre-completion), she or he would only have 9 months eligibility remaining after completion of a degree (post-completion).

Probably not, and therefore you need to be really careful when deciding on dates.

Yes, as long as each position is directly related to your field of study and corresponding with your educational level.

Usually, DHS will send you a Notice of Action a couple of weeks after they received your application. This notice will either confirm that everything is in order, and will give you an estimated time for receipt of the EAD card (usually up to 90 days) or it will contain a Request for Evidence. In the second case, we will have to submit whatever additional documentation is requested, which will extend your waiting time.

The International Student Services Office will mail the application for you as a “Return Receipt” service. Once the DHS receives it, they will sign for it, date it, and return to us. That signed receipt is your verification.

Once you receive the Notice of Action, check the EAC number in the upper left corner. Then, visit the USCIS Case Status Online page.

ABSOLUTELY NOT! You must receive the actual EAD card before you begin working. You may only work during dates specified on that card.

Probably not. DHS does not allow the US Postal Service to forward this type of mail. Additionally, the address in the SEVIS system must be the same as on the I-765 application. Please discuss mailing options with the International Student Advisor.

Yes, you may reenter to search for employment

This may be a very problematic question. Different ports of entry address such situations in a variety of ways. Please discuss other options with the International Student Advisor.

If your OPT has been approved and you depart before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot reenter unless you have a written job offer. If you have a job, you may travel and reenter to resume work at the same job or you have a written offer for another job.

You will have to apply for a replacement card.

No. Once you have been issued the EAD card, it may not be rescinded, cancelled, or deferred.

Yes. You may stay in the U.S. for up to 60 days after the completion date on your EAD card. You may not work during that time.