Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is work authorization that allows F-1 international students to participate in paid off-campus employment/internships related to their degree program. CPT can only be authorized during an F-1 student’s degree program. The purpose of CPT is academic, not just for employment purposes, and the employment/internship must be considered an integral part of an F-1 student’s program of study. Students must have a specific job/internship offer to apply for CPT authorization. If your internship is an unpaid or a volunteer position, CPT authorization is not required, but students CANNOT accept any kind of compensation for work performed. Compensation includes not only monetary payments but also studio space, vouchers for travel or lunch, etc.
Please note that SFAI International Exchange students are not eligible for CPT.
F-1 Student Status Requirement
In order to apply for CPT, you must have been in a valid F-1 status for at least one academic year before applying and you must have properly maintained your F-1 status each semester. The only exception to this rule applies to those students who are in degree programs that require an internship or practicum hours to fulfill degree requirements.
Hours of Employment
Work hours are limited to a maximum of 20 hours per week (part-time) during fall and spring semesters. You may work full-time during the summer break; however, you still must be enrolled in the appropriate academic course during this time to gain authorization.
Duration of Authorization
CPT authorization is given on a semester basis. You must apply separately for each semester if you wish to engage in CPT for longer than one semester. CPT can be authorized only from the first day to the last day of the semester and will be noted on your I-20.
Registration for Academic Credit: In order to receive CPT authorization, students must be registered for an academic course that relates to the off-campus employment.
Once you have enrolled in the appropriate course, complete the CPT Application Form with appropriate signatures and proof of enrollment in the corresponding course, and submit it to the Global Programs Office.
Processing Time: Once all documents are submitted, the Global Education Office will update your SEVIS record and create a new I-20 that lists the location of your employment/internship, and that notes whether the CPT is part- or full-time and the start and end dates of employment. It is not possible to backdate CPT authorization; therefore, CPT start dates will be listed either as the requested start date or the approval date, whichever is later.
Processing time for CPT applications is three business days. You cannot begin working until you receive your new I-20 with the CPT authorization.
CPT and OPT
CPT does not interfere with your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation unless you have completed a total of 12 months of full-time CPT during your degree program. In this very rare case, you would then lose the option of applying for OPT.