Curricular Practical Training (CPT) – Off-Campus Employment in the US

October 25th, 2006 by IEFA

Today’s post covers Curricular Practical Training (CPT), a category of off-campus employment allowed for F1 students in the US. This post is part of our series covering employment rules for international students in English-speaking countries. You can see the earlier posts here:

Off-Campus Employment Now Permitted in Canada
On-Campus Employment in the US
Off-Campus Employment in the US – Severe Economic Hardship
Off-Campus Employment in the US – Optional Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training

Curriculur Practical Training (CPT) is an off-campus employment option for F1 students when the practical training is an integral part of the established curriculum or academic program. CPT employment is defined as “alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” To qualify, the work experience must be required for your degree, or academic credit must awarded. And yes, you can get paid for CPT employment. Prior authorization by your school’s international student office and notification to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is required.

To be eligible for CPT employment:

*You must have been enrolled in school full-time for one year on valid F1 status (except for graduate students where the program requires immediate CPT)
*The CPT employment must be an integral part of your degree program or requirement for a course for which you receive academic credit
*You must have received a job offer that qualifies before you submit your CPT authorization request
*Your job offer must be in your major or field of study

Your International Student Office must authorize you for CPT. Once you receive CPT authorization, you can only work for the specific employer and for the specific dates authorized (unlike with OPT or severe economic hardship off-campus employment, where you can work anywhere in the US). Your CPT authorization will also specify whether you are approved for part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week) CPT employment. While in school, you can only be approved for part-time CPT.

Regardless of whether you are approved for full or part-time on CPT, there is no limit to how long you can work. However, if you work full-time on CPT for 12 months or more, you are not eligible for OPT. If you work part-time on CPT, or full-time on CPT for less than 12 months, you are still eligible for all of your allowable OPT. So make sure you watch the dates and hours closely – don’t jeopardize your OPT!

As with all employment, you should work closely with your international student office. The general rules will apply somewhat differently to undergraduates, graduate students and PhD candidates, and the advisors in your international student office can guide you. They can help you determine your eligibility for CPT, make sure your job offer qualifies, and make sure you follow all necessary steps in applying to USCIS. They also have to authorize your CPT, so you have no choice – you have to work with them. But they are pros, especially when it comes to USCIS regulations, so use them – they are there to help you.

To see the text of the entire rules governing Curricular Practical Training by F1 students, click here and scroll down to paragraph (10)(i).

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  1. Hanna says:

    If you are interested in CPT and looking for a school which is providing Curricular Practical Traning to master level students check out University of Northern Virginia (UNVA)

    You can also contact me at

  2. Guanxian says:

    I've got a question regarding CPT:
    I've been doing an internship over this summer, my first paycheck covers from July 17th to July 31st, however, my CPT approving period is from July 27th to August 27th (the reason is I started at this company as a volunteer, and I went thru some hassle while applying for CPT) Is this gonna be a problem?

  3. Liz says:

    Which are the programs that require immediate cpt?

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