Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an opportunity for F-1 students to work/train in a position that is directly related to their major field of study.  The work/training must be required for all students in the major (example – nursing) or fulfill an elective requirement for the student’s degree (example – most business majors).  This work/training may be an internship, clinical, practicumvolunteeringworktraining or any other practical experience.  

Complex rules apply to CPT because the training opportunity must comply with both:

  • Federal regulations
  • School policies regarding internships, experiential learning, etc.

Requirements for CPT Authorization

CPT work/training must be:  

  • directly related to the student’s major(s) (not minor; not to the degree in general).
  • fulfills part of the degree requirements (such as a required practicum or an elective requirement).
  • required practical experience(s) as described in the course syllabus.

Student Eligibility for CPT

A student applying for CPT must meet the following conditions:

  • be actively pursuing a degree or non-degree program (such as post baccalaureate non-degree). Students currently in the Intensive English Program (IEP) are not eligible for CPT.  
  • undergraduate and post baccalaureate students – must have been in F-1 status for at least 9 months (two 16-week semesters); graduate students may apply for CPT during their first semester with the permission of their academic advisor.
  • be enrolled in a course for which work/training is part of the course requirements as indicated in the course syllabus. 

Procedures for Applying for CPT

A student applying for CPT must:

  1. Read the “Student Curricular Practical Training Request Form” pages 1-3.
  2. Sign page 1. 
  3. Ask their academic advisor to complete the “Advisor Information and Statement on page 2.
  4. Ask their academic advisor/department chair to enroll them in the required course.  The course may be for 1, 2 or 3 credits.  This is determined by the department’s policy and discussion with the academic advisor.  
  5. Provide a copy of the course syllabus that indicates a practical experience is part of the course requirements. If there is no syllabus, provide a course plan that indicates practical experience is an essential part of the course.
  6. Provide an employment/training offer letter signed by the company/training facility/academic department on official letterhead with the required information (listed on page 3 of the form). *see note below
  7. Submit all documents to one of the Designated School Officials (DSOs) at the Center for Global Learning & Engagement (CGLE) to request approval and receive an updated I-20 indicating authorization for CPT.  
  8. CGLE staff will email you when your CPT has been approved.  You can then come to the office to pick up your updated I-20.

*Note:  If your course allows for multiple practical experiences in the same semester/session (example – music performance students), you may complete one CPT form for the semester/session.  Submit the employer/training letters as you receive them. You MUST wait for confirmation from the DSO that your employment has been approved and added to your I-20 before you start the new employment. As much as possible, please submit the letters all at the same time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to apply for CPT?

There is no fee to apply for CPT.

How long does it take to be approved for CPT?

After you have submitted a complete application, a DSO in the Center for Global Learning & Engagement will review and approve the request.  Please allow at least 5 business days before your CPT start date for questions/processing.  DO NOT start work/training until you have been notified by email that your CPT has been approved and your new I-20 with the approval has been printed.

When can I start my CPT?

You may not begin work/training until you have received authorization from a DSO at the CGLE on your I-20 with a specific start date.  Working before or after approved dates is illegal employment and is grounds for termination of a student’s F-1 status.

Can CPT start before the semester starts?  Or can my CPT last beyond the end of the semester?

In certain circumstances, yes to both questions. CPT is usually approved for the first day of the semester/session and ends on the last day of the semester/session.  However, beginning and end dates may be adjusted if required by the employer to meet job requirements. That is, for the start date up to 30 days early and the end date up to the day before the start of the next semester/session, not to exceed 30 days.

Exceptions to early/late CPT dates:  New students or continuing students who are starting a new degree program may NOT begin their CPT before the first day of their initial semester/session.  Students in their final semester must end their CPT no later than the last day of the semester/session. 

My employer wants me to work for a full year.  Can I be approved for a full year?

Yes, you can work for a full year, but a student can only be approved for one semester/session of CPT at a time. Students must complete a new CPT form for the new semester/session because they must show they are approved by their department for a new course/additional credit.  The previous employment letter can be submitted along with the new CPT form.

Can I get paid for CPT?  What if the practical experience is unpaid – do I still need CPT authorization?

Internships, practicums, clinicals, training and work authorized under CPT can either be paid or unpaid. Both paid and unpaid experiences require you to receive authorization on your I-20 by completing the CPT application.

Do I need a Social Security Card for CPT?

Yes, but only if your CPT experience is paid. Check with your employer to see if you can start working before you receive your card.

Can I be approved for CPT without being enrolled in a course?

No. To receive authorization for CPT you must be enrolled in a course for at least 1 credit for which practical experience is an integral part of the course as stated in the syllabus.  For example, an internship course, a special problems course, a practicum/clinical, thesis/dissertation research or a course that lists practical experience as a requirement in the syllabus.

How many hours can I work per week?

Fall/Spring – a total of 20 hours per week (this is total work hours – CPT and on-campus employment); if it is your final semester and you are taking no other courses, you may work up to 40 total hours per week (CPT and on-campus employment).

Summer Session – a total of 20 hours per week IF taking other courses; a total of 40 hours per week if you are taking no other courses (CPT and on-campus employment).

Is remote work allowed under CPT? 

CPT employment/training may be remote but must be for an employer/organization that is located in the U.S. that provides routine mentoring and monitoring of the student’s activities.

What if my internship or practicum is at UCA?  Do I still need CPT authorization?

It depends on the terms of your internship/practicum.  If your practical training experience is part of a paid student worker position, then CPT authorization is not required.  If the internship is unpaid or not paid as a student worker, then CPT authorization is required.

My internship this summer is in my home country.  Do I need CPT authorization?

If your internship is outside the U.S., CPT authorization is not required and you do not need to be enrolled in a class for the internship.

It will be good for me to have work experience before I graduate. Why can’t I just work off-campus?

F-1 student visas are designed for full-time study and do not permit general work authorization. After graduation, you can apply for a full-time practical work experience in your major under Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Will participating in CPT affect my chances of being approved for Optional Practical Training (OPT) at the end of my program?

Probably not. Most CPT is part-time (20 hours or less per week).  Part-time CPT does not affect OPT, no matter how many months you have been approved for part-time CPT.  The ONLY time CPT participation affects OPT is if a student has full-time CPT (more than 20 hours per week) for more than 12 months. 

How can I find internships available for international students?

UCA’s Career Services office has resources to help students find internships and other types of employment. Contact them to find out which opportunities are available for international students.