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FAQ: Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)

If you are an F-1 visa student, CPT is a program opportunity that allows you to gain practical experience directly related to your major area of study. The training opportunity must be an integral part of your school’s established curriculum, meaning it is not a supplemental training experience but rather a required part of your major program of study. Additionally, you must complete CPT before your program end date on your Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status). The training opportunity can be paid or unpaid, and you may work on CPT either part-time (20 hours or less per week) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week), but note that one year or more of full-time CPT will eliminate your Optional Program Training (OPT) eligibility at the same education level.

How do I apply for CPT?

When you enroll at the graduate level, your designated school official (DSO) can authorize CPT in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS), and your DSO will provide you with a new Form I-20 — it is your proof to show that you are eligible for CPT employment. Ask your DSO for details. However, you must secure the training opportunity before your DSO authorizes your CPT.

Can I have more than one CPT authorization at the same time?

Yes. However, a separate CPT authorization is needed for each employer and each CPT segment.

Do I need to receive authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to participate in CPT?

No. However, your DSO must authorize CPT in SEVIS. It is important to note that SEVIS will not allow your DSO to backdate the authorization.

Can I begin participating in CPT while waiting on my DSO to authorize the training in SEVIS?

No. Your DSO mustauthorize your CPT in SEVIS before you can participate in the program. Participating in CPT without the necessary authorization could violate your F-1 student visa status. 

Can I participate in CPT related to my minor or general graduation requirements?

No. CPT must be directly related to your major area of study. Therefore CPT cannot be authorized based on your minor or general graduation credits.

Can my school authorize me to participate in CPT instead of OPT?

No, CPT and OPT are not interchangeable. CPT accommodates individuals enrolled in a program of study that requires participation in an internship or practicum. Thus, CPT must be completed before graduation. In contrast, OPT accommodates students who have fulfilled the requirements of an academic or vocational program and provides an opportunity to augment the student’s learning with real-world experience. Thus, OPT may be completed before or after graduation. 

If you have any other questions about CPT, we would be more than happy to answer them for you. Contact our office today! We are just a couple clicks or a phone call away.