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Everything You Need to Know About Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

If you are an F-1 student, you have the option of training in the United States by engaging in practical training during your program or after it ends. Practical training can provide a valuable work experience by sharpening and adding to the skills you are learning in school. There are two types of practical training available for F-1 students: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

What is CPT?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a work authorization that allows F-1 students to work off-campus in jobs directly related to their major area of study and be an integral part of the school’s established curriculum. Meaning, if your program of study requires you to have some form of practical experience to graduate,you can satisfy that requirement through CPT. Specifically, CPT is an alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or other type of required internship or practicum that a sponsoring employer offers through agreements with a student’s school. 

The following opportunities require CPT authorization, regardless of whether they are paid or unpaid:

  • Internships 
  • Cooperative (co-op) education experiences
  • Practicum participation 
  • Other training and/or employment opportunities as required by your program of study  

The position can be either full-time (more than 20 hours per week) or part-time.

How to Apply for CPT

When you enroll at the graduate level, your designated school official (DSO) may authorize CPT in the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) during your first semester if your program requires this type of experience. Ask your DSO for details. You must secure the training opportunity with the employer before CPT can be authorized. CPT also requires a signed cooperative agreement or a letter from your employer. 

Note that this training must be completed before your program end date on the Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status). Once your CPT has been authorized, your DSO will provide you a new Form I-20 that shows that the DSO has approved you for this employment. You may begin the training only after receiving your new Form I-120 with the DSO endorsement and not before the CPT start date indicated on the form.

Students can have more than one CPT authorization at the same time. However, a separate CPT authorization is needed for each employer and each CPT segment. Additionally, if you are looking to also participate in OPT, be mindful that one year of full-time CPT eliminates your eligibility for OPT.

If you are interested in learning more about the CPT program, be sure to contact our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys!