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Applying for Curricular Practical Training

I. Explanation

As an F-1 student, you may only work off campus in the U.S. if you have received special written work authorization approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The following information will explain one type of USCIS off-campus work authorization that can only be taken BEFORE COMPLETION OF STUDIES called, “curricular practical training,” or “CPT.”

USCIS defines “curricular practical training” as employment that is an integral or important part of your curriculum, including: alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required employment, internship or practicum. To be considered curricular practical training, the work must be related to your major field of study, and must also be an integral or important part of your studies. Training which is REQUIRED by your degree program always meets the requirements for curricular practical training, regardless of whether or not you receive academic credit for your work. If the internship, work or or volunteer opportunity is related to your major field of study, you should still apply for CPT authorization even if you will not receive payment. The definition of "employment" in immigration terms does not necessarily equate with being paid, and Homeland Security expects international students engaged in unpaid internships to be authorized for CPT. This includes students who may be registering for internship credit through their academic department.

Training which is NOT REQUIRED by your degree program may meet the requirements for curricular practical training if you receive academic credit for the employment experience. If you have a training opportunity, which involves employment, check with the international student coordinator to determine if it qualifies as CPT. You must have a job to be authorized for this type of practical training.

II. Highlights

  • A job offer is REQUIRED to be authorized for CPT.
  • The employment must be an integral or important part of your curriculum, but can occur anywhere in the U.S.
  • Students must be enrolled an official practicum/internship course, or the work must be a requirement for everyone in the degree program.
  • Changing employers is allowed only AFTER receiving additional approval and authorization for the new employer.
  • CPT authorization is granted by the Office of International Student Services (ISS).
  • During the period of CPT, students are in F-1 visa status since CPT is considered to be part of the program of study.

III. Conditions and Limitations

  1. You must have a specific position that is directly related to your major field of study and it must be appropriate for someone having your level of education.
  2. You must have been enrolled as a full-time student in legal non-immigrant status for at least 9 months before CPT begins. The training/work/internship must either be REQUIRED for completion of your degree program (i.e., ALL STUDENTS IN THE PROGRAM MUST COMPLETE AN INTERNSHIP TO RECEIVE THE DEGREE) or you must be officially enrolled in an official internship or practicum course AND be receiving academic credit for the internship/practicum at the time of the training. NOTE: Failure to enroll in and complete the class will result in immediate violation of your legal status. It is the student’s responsibility to fulfill all requirements of CPT.
  3. There are restrictions on when students may apply for part or full-time CPT. Students can take CPT:
    1. Part-time (20 hours or less) or Full-time (more than 20 hours): during the summer vacation or between semesters.
    2. Part-time: during the course of study provided the training does not exceed 20 hours per week total. Note: You cannot apply for CPT at all once you have completed your program of study.
  4. Students authorized for part-time CPT cannot work more than 20 hours per week.
  5. There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in full-time CPT, but if you participate for 12 months or more, you will not be eligible for optional practical training (see below)
  6. You cannot work off-campus under any circumstances until you have been authorized by the coordinator of international student services.

IV. Other Important Information

A. Curricular Practical Training and Eligibility for Optional Practical Training

If you participate in 12 months or more of “full-time” CPT, you are not eligible to apply for optional practical training. However, if you participate in less than 12 months of full-time CPT, you will still get all 12 months of optional practical training. Participation in authorized “part-time” CPT does not “add up” and therefore, does not affect your eligibility for optional practical training.

B. Employment Eligibility Verification

  • When you begin work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled “Employment Eligibility Verification” (USCIS Form I-9), which the employer retains. The I-9 is provided by your employer and must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission. This form requires you to document your identity and work authorization according to directions on the back of the form. The most convenient combinations of the various items acceptable as documentation include: your I-20 with the Curricular Practical Training work authorization, a valid passport, and an I-94 card marked for F-1 student status. Your employer, who keeps Form I-9, may make copies of the documents you submit, and return the originals to you.
  • You will also need a Social Security card. If you do not already have a Social Security card, or if you have a card which is marked “not valid for employment” take your passport, I-94 Departure Record (can be obtained at, form I-20, and letter from the office of International Student Services to the office of Social Security Administration, and letter from your employer stating the beginning date of employment and apply for a new Social Security card. Note that your number will remain the same if you already had one, but the notation on the card should change to indicate that employment is valid with authorization. Contact the ISS Office for assistance.

C. Social Security and Other Taxes

In general, F-1 students who have been in the US less than five years are “non-residents for tax purposes” and are exempt from Social Security (FICA) and Medicare taxes (see Internal Revenue Service Publication 519, “U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens”). However, your earnings are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. Tax returns must be filed on or before April 15 each year for the previous calendar year, which will determine if any of the withheld taxes can be refunded.

V. Application Process

Provided you meet all the requirements, the Office of International Student Services will authorize the CPT. To ensure all requirements are met, follow the following steps:

Step 1

Be Informed! Pick up the CPT application packet at the Office of International Student Services and read the instructions as well as this entire handout thoroughly and carefully.

Step 2

Complete the application

Step 3

Prepare a cover letter describing the type of training employment you propose to do and the specific curricular course in which you will register. Describe how the proposed employment is directly related to your field of study.

Step 4

Request a letter from your employer (on their letterhead) addressed to the College clearly indicating that the employer understand that your employment is to be under the terms of Curricular Practical Training as described in this document. The employer should include the following information:

  1. Name of employer issuing the paycheck and the location of the employment. The entity issuing the paycheck should be clearly identified (Note: If the location involves a second employer, identify that employer by name.)
  2. Your proposed occupation including the title of your position, a detailed description of your duties, the number of hours you will be working per week.
  3. The exact dates when your employment is expected to begin and end.

Step 5

Request a letter of certification (on letterhead from your academic advisor). Please show your proposed letter and employer’s letter to your academic department as a basis for their letter. The following information should be included:

  1. Indication that your proposal letter and employment letter have been reviewed.
  2. A brief description of your degree program and how the proposed practical training is directly related to your academic program.
  3. An explanation of how the proposed CPT experience is an integral part of your curriculum of study. This explanation should also include the curricular course in which the student will be enrolled.
  4. Estimated date of graduation, indication that you are making normal progress toward completing your degree, and that participation in practical training will not interfere with continued satisfactory progress toward graduation by the deadline indicated on your I-20.

Step 6

Obtain evidence of enrollment in the appropriate curricular course.

Step 7

Bring the completed documentation to the International Student Coordinator. You will need to bring:

  1. F-1 Student Application for F-1 Curricular Practical Training;
  2. A cover letter from you describing the type of training employment you propose to do and specific curricular course in which you will register and how the proposed employment is directly related to your field of study; (See Step 3)
  3. A letter from your employer; (see Step 4)
  4. Academic Advisor’s Recommendation for CPT; (see Step 5)
  5. Evidence of enrollment in the appropriate curricular course from Registrar.

The international student coordinator will review the paperwork, and if everything is in order, authorize the training in SEVIS and provide you with your new I-20 with your CPT recorded on page 2.

Step 8

Work Start and End Dates Once you have received the authorization from the International Student Advisor, you can work between the dates specified in the authorization and for the number of hours authorized. You must be careful not to continue employment beyond the completion date authorized on p. 2 of your I-20 unless you apply for and are granted another period of work permission. You must reapply EACH semester if you want to continue your internship.

Step 9

Complete internship/practicum work phase and receive credit for the class.

Remember: As an F-1 student, you cannot work off-campus under any circumstances until you have been authorized to do so by the international coordinator. Working improperly or without authorization is a serious violation of your status and could lead to deportation from the US.