How to Apply for CPT

Curricular Practical Training, or CPT for short, is a work authorization program that international students should take full advantage of during the academic program. It can help you gain valuable experiences in your chosen field of study and work or earn some money on the side. Here, we will cover everything you need to know about CPT.

What is CPT?

CPT is a work authorization program that allows international students to work full-time in the U.S. for up to 12 months. However, you can work an unlimited amount on CPT if it’s part-time. It's different from OPT because it's not an extension of your F-1 student visa; rather, it's a work permit and visa combination that allows you to work off-campus, on a job that is related to your field of study and maintain your F-1 student visa status.

What are the benefits of CPT?

CPT offers the following benefits:

  • It allows you to work full-time in the US for 12 months (unlimited if the job is part-time) before you graduate from your academic program.
  • It allows you to gain work experience, which can be useful for your career development.
  • It enables you to earn money while studying in the country. This is especially important if you need money because of your living expenses or other reasons.

Who is eligible for CPT?

To be eligible for CPT, you must be an F-1 visa holder, enrolled in a full-time course of study at a university or other accredited institution of higher education in the United States, and have successfully completed at least one year of the academic program at the institution.

What are the restrictions for CPT?

Each school has their own specific requirements, so it may be best to contact your designated school official or international students office. However, the most common CPT restrictions that we have found include:

  • The earliest that you can apply for CPT is 90 days before the end of your first academic year.
  • You can only use CPT for 12 months worth of work, and if you exceed this number then you automatically forfeit your eligibility for OPT. However, if the work is part-time then you can use the CPT for as long as you want.
  • The work must be related to your field of study.
  • You must be enrolled in a course at your university that will allow you to work an internship and get credit for it.

What kind of work can you do with CPT?

While CPT is only a work permit, not a work visa, it does allow you to work full-time as well as part-time, depending on the circumstances. You can choose to work for a private-sector employer (including on your own), on-campus employer, foreign employer, for-profit sector, not-for-profit sector, public entity, or religious organization.

When can you apply for CPT?

Commonly, the earliest that you can apply for CPT is 90 days before the end of your first year. However, some academic programs may have special permission to allow you to work during your first year; in this case, you should consult with your school’s international student office.

Keep in mind that CPT is only available for use during your academic program and not after. You will have to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) if you want to work after your program’s end date.

How can you apply for CPT?

To apply for CPT you must apply with your university's International Student Services office (this process varies from school to school). You cannot apply directly to the immigration service. You will need to provide your school’s office with a proof of employment offer, which is usually a letter from your employer. This must be written in English or have an official translation attached. The letter should include details about the position, how long it will last, who is paying you, and information on what work experience you have had at this company before coming here on CPT (if applicable).

What does the CPT approval process look like?

Once you have a job offer that you want to pursue, you must submit a CPT authorization through your university's office of international students' established processes. After that, the designated school official will review your request to see whether or not it complies with the school and country's CPT laws. If you are eligible for CPT then the official will authorize the CPT in SEVIS for the employer, sign a new Form I-20 with your CPT employment details, and send it back to you. As soon as you receive your new Form I-20, you will be able to start your work according to the written start-date.

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