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International Studies Education

International Students

FAQs About CPT

What is CPT?

  • CPT stands for Curricular Practical Training.  It is an off-campus work authorization for a position which enhances your studies. Federal immigration regulations state the work or internship experience must be integral to and part of your academic studies.

When do I need to seek CPT authorization?

  • You must apply for and receive CPT authorization from the ISE Office before you begin any type of off-campus work or internship.   Paid or unpaid off-campus work or internship requires CPT authorization.  CPT is authorized with a specific employer for a specific amount of time. CPT can only be used prior to completion of studies, while you are enrolled as a student. 

Am I eligible to apply for CPT?

  • Are you in valid visa status?

  • Are you registered as a full-time student?

  • Have you been a student in the United States for at least two consecutive academic semesters?

 If you answered "yes" to all three questions, then you can submit an application for CPT. However, final authorization is dependent upon review of your application by ISE.


When should I apply for CPT?

  • When you have a job offer from an off-campus employer. This job must be directly related to your field of study.

  • Before you have finished all of your coursework towards your degree.

  • At least 2 weeks before you want to begin work. It takes 1-2 business days for ISE to process work authorizations.

  •  After you have registered for the semester, including the CPT course credit.

What if my employer wants me to start working right-away?

  • You must tell your employer that you cannot begin work until you are authorized by the ISE office. You will need to explain to your employer that it takes 1-2 business days to process CPT paperwork.

When can I start working at this job?

  • After you have received a new I-20 for this period of CPT, the start date of the CPT is the first day you can work.  NOTE: Submitting paperwork to the ISE office does not mean you can automatically begin working. You must wait until you receive the new I-20 for CPT.

Can I begin training or volunteering in the position before the CPT I-20 is ready?

  • No. This puts your valid visa status at risk and your employer in jeopardy with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.You cannot begin job training until you receive the new I-20 for CPT from ISE and the start-date has occurred.

I'm a new student here. Can I apply for CPT?

  • Only after you have completed two continuous academic semesters as a student, will you be eligible to apply for CPT.  This means that if you arrived in the United States as a new F-1 student in the Fall semester, you can begin working on CPT after the last day of classes in May. If you arrived as a new student in January (Spring semester), then you can begin work under CPT after Fall semester classes end.

CPT and Course Registration:

What is this CPT credit? Do I have to register for a course?

  • Almost all students who do CPT must arrange for the necessary one credit for CPT.  Some academic majors require all students, US citizen and international students, to complete an internship (sometimes called a practicum) as part of their degree requirements. Students in these programs do not need to register for the 1 credit related to their CPT because internship is required for graduation.  All other students must register for a minimum of one credit related to the CPT. That one credit is part of the full-time course registration for the semester(s) involved with the CPT.

What happens if I do not register?

  • The course registration is required by Federal immigration regulations. Immigration regulations are US federal law. There is no way around it. If you do not register for the required credit, as part of your necessary full-time course registration, then you place your immigration status at risk. This is a serious violation of federal immigration regulations.

What course should I register for?

  • You and your academic advisor decide which course you should register for the CPT.  The course credit should reflect the work you are doing for the CPT employment. For example, you could register for an internship credit, an independent study credit, or for a specific course in which the job experience is used towards your class work (For example: in the form of a project, research paper or journal writing).

Do I have to be registered full-time to apply for CPT?

  • Yes. To be eligible for CPT you must be registered as a full-time student. This is part of your SEVIS responsibilities to maintain valid visa status. You cannot be authorized for CPT unless you are in valid visa status.

Is CPT only available during the academic breaks?

  • No. You can apply and work under CPT during any time during the year, as long as you meet the eligibility guidelines.

How much CPT can I have?

  • CPT is authorized in increments of no more than one year. Continued semesters will require additional CPT applications and authorizations. While classes are in session, CPT can only be part-time. During school breaks it may be full-time. Part-time CPT is 20 hour/week or less. Full-time CPT is more than 20 hours/ week. If you accrue more than 365 days of Full-Time CPT, then you become ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). This means that you forfeit OPT. Note: The "365-Day Rule" only applies to Full-Time CPT. You can accrue more than 365 days of Part-Time CPT without affecting your eligibility for Optional Practical Training.

The Application Process:

How do I apply for CPT? What kind of paperwork is needed?

  • Two pieces of paper: an Advisor's Recommendation Form for CPT and an offer letter from the employer.

  • The required form, as well as a brief application checklist, is available from the ISE Office.  The completed paperwork can be handed in to the ISE Office directly, or faxed or emailed to us if you are out of the area.

What does my employer need to do?

  • Provide a letter on their official business stationery containing very specific information:

    • Number of hours per week you will be working (Is the work full-time or part-time?)

    • A starting date and an ending date (CPT is time-period specific)

    • A brief description of job duties (a general statement or list of your responsibilities is sufficient)

How long does it take to get the new I-20 with the CPT authorization on it?

  • It will take 1-2 business days. Do not forget  that you cannot begin work without the
    new I-20.

CPT and Other Employment Authorizations:

Can I apply for OPT and CPT at the same time?

  • Yes, but CPT cannot be used to start your OPT employment early. CPT cannot be a "bridge" to OPT.

Can I be an RA, TA, or GA and apply for CPT?

  • Yes, but this can be add up to a lot of work hours, and the job could get in the way of your studies. As an F-1 visa holder, your main purpose is to be a student. You must always be making "satisfactory progress" towards your degree. Discuss the employment with your advisor to be sure the job does not interfere with your studies.

Can I have a job on-campus and apply for CPT?

  • Yes. The employment rules governing on-campus work and off-campus work are separate. Again, this can add up to a lot of work hours. We recommend that you discuss the employment with your academic advisor. We want you to be a successful student.

Can I do a CPT in another country?

  • No. CPT authorization is only necessary to work here in the United States. You would need to follow the labor laws of the other country to be employed legally there.

Remember, the staff of the International Studies Education is here to help you with this process. E-mail Jen MIntzer or call 610.358.4547.

One Neumann Drive Aston, PA 19014-1298 Phone: 610-459-0905 or 800.9.NEUMANN

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