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Frequently Asked Questions: CPT Employment

The F-1 visa enables an individual to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. The student must be enrolled in a program that culminates in a degree, diploma or certificate and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.

Q: Can I work on-campus while in F-1 status?

A: F-1 students are permitted to work on campus. Approval by a Designated School Official (DSO) or USCIS is NOT required, and students may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time during official school vacation periods. On-campus employment includes work performed on school premises or at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school.

Q: Can I work off-campus while in F-1 status?

A: Yes, but only after completing an entire academic year of full-time study. After the first year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment: (1) Curricular Practical Training (CPT); Optional Practical Training (OPT); or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT).

Q: What is Curricular Practical Training?

A: Curricular Practical Training allows F-1 students to work off-campus in any alternate work/study, internship or cooperative education program that is directly related to the student’s major field of study. CPT is generally part-time, but may be full-time in three specific situations: (1) during summer semester for students registered in the spring and continuing in the fall; (2) pursuant to registration in a formal internship class; or (3) if you are in a graduate program that requires internship participation to graduate.

Q: How do I apply for Curricular Practical Training?

A: Before considering CPT, a student must first receive a job offer. Once an offer is received, the student can then request CPT with a DSO. The DSO can either approve or deny the student’s request. If approved, the student needs to establish identity and employment authorization by providing USCIS with an unexpired passport, Form I-20 with the DSO’s endorsement for employment, and Form I-94 or Form I-94A indicating F-1 status.

Q: Does CPT affect my OPT eligibility?

A: It depends. If an F-1 student completes 12 months of full-time CPT, they will be ineligible for post-completion OPT. However, part-time CPT has no impact on post-completion OPT.

Q: What if I wish to change employers or dates of employment during CPT?

A: If an F-1 student currently in CPT wishes to change employers or the dates of employment, a new CPT application must be completed.

If you are interested in applying for F-1 status and have questions about the category, please contact our office to schedule a call with one of our attorneys today!