Curricular practical training (CPT) is training available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled full-time for one full academic year. CPT must be an integral part of the student’s curriculum, as well as directly related to the student’s major, or field of study. This is the equivalent of an internship done prior to graduation. Unlike OPT, CPT is approved by the DSO, which is your ISS advisor.
We ask that you apply at least 30 days prior to the start date of your internship. The timeline is similar to that of pre-completion academic training. Because the approval is done by the ISS advisor, you must allow sufficient time to process your application.
- Coordinate with your academic advisor to map out how and if you would be able to fit an internship within the time you have left prior to graduation.
- Then, you can work directly with your internship coordinator and Career Services to find an experience or opportunity that relates directly to your major. You may also find an opportunity on your own, but please note that you will have to work with Career Services to initiate the application in Handshake.
- Your curricular practical training application should contain the following items: offer letter, memorandum of understanding, and learning objectives.
NOTE: This application will go through a series of approvals, of which ISS is the last. Because CPT must be an integral part of your curriculum, the internship must either be required or done for credit.
Your application for CPT will go through a series of approvals prior to coming to ISS. You will be able to view in the Handshake application whether or not your internship has been approved; However, you will need to receive notice and an updated I-20 that reflects your authorization for CPT.
Once you have approval from the ISS office and the updated hard copy of your signed I-20, you may start your curricular practical training. Note that because you are doing it prior to graduation, the last day of your internship MUST end prior to the program end date on your I-20.
There is no federal limit on the length of time a student can engage in either part-time or full-time CPT. However, the limit depends on the type of training and the requirements within the student’s curriculum. If it is not a necessary part of your program, then an extension will not be approved. Any F-1 student engaged in full-time CPT for a total of 12 months are more automatically become ineligible for OPT at the same educational level.
F-1 students may qualify for optional practical training (OPT), which is training that allows the student to engage in temporary authorized employment in order to obtain practical experience directly related to his or her major.
There are two kinds of OPT:
- Pre-completion OPT, which is OPT available prior to the student’s program end date; and
- Post-completion OPT, which is OPT available after the student’s program end date
Post-completion OPT has three different kinds: Standard post-completion OPT, STEM extension OPT, and H-1B cap-gap extension OPT. For further information on the STEM extension OPT and H-1B cap-gap extension OPT, please see the USCIS websites. The information we provide below will focus on standard post-completion OPT.
For standard post-completion OPT, the application should be mailed or submitted online to USCIS as early as 90 days before graduation up to the end of the 60-day grace period.
For pre and post-completion OPT, the process is as follows:
- First, you must fill out the ISS F-1 OPT application. Note that this is only for our office records. You will also need to submit the USCIS application I-765 with required documents and fee. Detailed instructions about this process are also on the ISS F-1 OPT application.
- Set up an appointment with your advisor in order to request an OPT recommendation. This is a necessary part of the application process and needs to be done in SEVIS by an advisor. Once the OPT recommendation is submitted by the advisor, you have 30 days to submit the I-765 application to USCIS.
- Fill out the I-765 as best you can and email the application so that your advisor can review it prior to your appointment. For instructions on how to fill out the I-765, please see the official instructions from the USCIS website.
- Gather the necessary supporting documentation. You will need the following included as part of the application:
- Two passport-size photos (with your full name and I-94 number on the back).
- Check/Money order/cashier’s check of $410 paid to the order of the Department of Homeland Security.
- Fully completed original Form I-765
- Form I-20 requesting OPT, endorsed by your advisor on page 2.
- Copt of most recent I-94 available here.
- Copy of F-1 visa stamp.
- Copy of information page of your valid passport.
- Copies of any and all Form I-20s previously issued to you.
- If you have had OPT prior to this one, you must also include a copy of the front and back of your prior EAD as well as the associated I-20 with the endorsement.
- Meet with your ISS advisor for final review and any further questions.
You will first receive an I-797 receipt notice from USCIS. If you mailed in your application, you will receive an I-797 Approval Notice. If you applied online, you will also wait for the I-797 Approval Notice, but you can check online if your case status reflects “Approved”. Make sure to watch the mail for you EAD card. You may not engage in employment while waiting for your EAD card. Doing so is classified as unauthorized employment and is in violation of your status as an F-1 visa holder. If your OPT is denied, you are required to leave the country immediately, as you are no longer in lawful status.
After USCIS approval and receiving your EAD card you must start training within 60 days after your graduation date. Do not engage in employment while waiting for your EAD card. Doing so is unauthorized employment.
You can do standard post-completion optional practical training for up to 12 months. This amount is reduced contingent upon if you completed full-time curricular practical training prior to graduation. If you completed more than 12 months of full-time CPT, you are automatically ineligible for OPT. Post-completion optional practical training should not go longer than 14 months following the original program end date on your I-20.