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Procedures for Participation in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for Students in F-1 Status

Definition of Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

The Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) requires any practical training to be directly related to student’s major area of study.   To be authorized to engage in Curricular Practical Training (CPT), you must have been a full-time student for at least one academic year (unless you are in a graduate degree program which requires you to start sooner), and the employment has to be an integral part of your curriculum of study.  USCIS further defines CPT to be “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.”

Categories of Curricular Practical Training at NDNU

  • Off-campus internship or practicum required by the curriculum of the program in which you are enrolled.
  • Off-campus internship or practicum required by an internship course listed in the catalog.  To be eligible, you must earn academic credits applicable to your program, and the period of authorization must be within the period of the internship course.

CPT Application Procedure

Frequently asked questions and related information about CPT

What are the benefits of Curricular Practical Training?
CPT is a wonderful opportunity to work off-campus, earn credit/units, gain experience in the student's field of study and get paid legally. In most cases, off-campus employment pays more than on-campus employment.

Does a voluntary position require CPT authorization?
No, CPT authorization is required for compensated employment.

What are required of a student before CPT can be authorized?
F-1 students are not permitted to begin off-campus employment until the International Student Coordinator has authorized CPT on page 3 of the student's I-20. Furthermore, students should work only within the dates and for the employer stated on page 3 of the I-20.
An F-1 status student is eligible for CPT if s/he:

  • Has enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one academic year (2 semesters).
  • Has complied with immigration transfer procedures if s/he has changed schools in the United States.
  • Has complied with all immigration regulations regarding employment if s/he has been employed in the United States.
  • Has cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 and is not on academic probation.
  • Has enrolled in an internship class which requires off-campus employment (if the off-campus internship or practicum is not a program requirement).
  • Has met with the academic advisor regarding program requirements.
  • Has obtained an offer of employment in writing that meets immigration requirements.

What if the employment is required by my program?
As long as you have maintained lawful F-1 status for one academic year, you may apply for permission to engage in Curricular Practical Training (CPT).  If you are a graduate student and your program requires you to start CPT sooner, you may be exempt from the one year requirement.

What if the employment is not required by my program?
You must (1) be in lawful F-1 status, (2) have been a full-time student for at least one academic year or 2 semesters, (3) are enrolled in an internship course which requires off-campus employment, and (4) the credits you earn from the internship course are applicable toward your degree program.

How are the beginning and ending dates of CPT employment determined?
If the CPT is based upon enrollment in an internship course, the period of authorization is confined by the schedule of an academic semester, that is, CPT employment may begin no earlier than the first day of class and must end no later than the last day of the same semester.

Can I request extension of CPT beyond current semester?
No, you need to get CPT authorization on a semester-by-semester basis.

Do I have to be enrolled full-time?
You need to be enrolled in a full-time status during Fall or Spring semester.  During the summer vacation period you only need to enroll in the internship class and do not have to be enrolled full-time.

What is considered part-time CPT?
Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time.

What is considered full-time CPT?
Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time.  If you participate for twelve (12) months or more, you will not be eligible for the post-completion practical training (OPT).

What is the limit on CPT?
If it is required by your program or if the internship course is repeatable, there is no limit.  During fall and spring semesters, you may only work up to 20 hours per week, including on-campus jobs.  During summer sessions, you may engage in full-time CPT.

Will CPT affect my eligibility for OPT?
If you have participated in twelve (12) months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT), you lose eligibility to apply for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) upon completion of your studies. Participation in part-time CPT does not affect your eligibility for OPT.

When should I begin to look for jobs?
If CPT is required for your program, you need to discuss with your advisor: 1) when you can participate in the internship or practicum, and 2) the process of applying for a position.  If CPT is not required by your program and you plan to enroll in an internship course, you should discuss with the instructor before the course begins and you may start looking for employment that will satisfy the course requirement.

Do I need approval from USCIS?
Unlike OPT, students do not need to submit applications to USCIS for CPT. The International Student Coordinator can authorize CPT in SEVIS.

What is the I-9 form?
When you begin work, your employer will ask you to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9), which the employer retains.  The I-9 form is required for each of your employers.  Your employer may also request a copy of your I-20 with CPT endorsement, your passport, and I-94.

Do I need to pay social security and other taxes?
In general, F-1 students who have been in the U. S. less than five years are exempt from the Social Security and Medicare taxes (FICA Tax). However, your earnings are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. Students must file a tax return on or before April 15 each year, which will determine if any of the withheld taxes can be returned to you.

May I change employers during the authorized CPT?
CPT is authorized for a specific employer. Students may not change employers during the authorized period unless they complete the entire application and authorization process again, including authorization of the new employer on page 3 of your I-20.

Are there other opportunities for authorized employment?
Yes, the pre-completion and post-completion optional practical training (OPT).  The pre-completion optional practical training has to be part-time, and the post-completion optional practical training has to be full-time.  The combined trainings cannot exceed 12 months.  Each type of OPT training requires application to the USCIS.  You may not engage in employment until you have received authorization from USCIS.  See the OPT section for details.

What else do I need to know?
While USCIS regulations provide a variety of opportunities for you to be employed during your time in F-1 status, working without authorization is a serious violation of your status. You should therefore consult with your International Student Coordinator before taking up any employment. It is your responsibility to comply with all USCIS regulations. If you fail to comply, you will not be eligible for benefits normally granted to F-1 students.  If you have any questions, you should ask the International Student Coordinator.