Curricular Practical Training

immigration lawyer

The US Department of Homeland Security regulations state that Curricular Practical Training (CPT) must be "an integral part of an established curriculum."  Curricular practical training is defiened as "alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school." Therefore, CPT for F-1 students is intended to provide work experience, prior to completion of that program, in situations where the work serves as an integral part of a student's academic program.


A student must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year before being eligible for CPT. An exception exists for graduate studies that require immediate participation in curricular practical training. A student must be  in valid F-1 status and it must occur before the completion of his/her program.  English language programs students are not eligible for CPT. A gap in study or a status violation caused by the sudent, may require that the one academic year waiting period would need to be recalculated once the student has again obtained valid F-1 status.


A student would have to establish the following in order to authorize CPT. It must be clearly documented that the proposed employment meets one of the two conditions below.

  • The training employment is required of all degree candidates in the program and is necessary for the awarding of the degree. Included in this category is employment in a required internship or practicum. There are only a few academic programs at Penn which require a period of off-campus employment for all degree candidates. This requirement must be formally documented in school publications.
  • The training employment will result in the awarding of academic credit. Included in this category is employment for a course specifically designed to award academic credit for an employment experience. This may include graduate students in dissertation/thesis status where the training opportunity is an integral component of the student’s dissertation/thesis. In both of these cases, you must register and complete the CPT-related course during the semester that you are working under CPT authorization. For example, if you will be working in the summer, you must register and complete the CPT-related course in the same summer semester.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time CPT

Part-Time Training

During the school year there is a limit to no more than 20 hours per week during classes  sessions.

Full-Time Training

During official school breaks and vacations  students can engage in full-time CPT. PhD students can  engage in
full-time CPT during his /her dissertation. CPT authorization terminates when the student completes the dissertation. Students may work more than 20 hours per week during Full-time CPT.

If a student  participates  in 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training, s/he will not be eligible for post-completion optional practical training (OPT).

Application and Documentation Requirements

To apply for CPT, you will need to provide your student advisor with   the following documents:

  • Copy of your official job offer letter on company letterhead that is signed by the prospective employer. The letter should include the employer’s name, full address, dates of employment, and duties.
  • Copies of your current immigration documents: passport (biographical data, photo, & expiration date pages), front
    and back of I-94 card, and I-20(s).

Authorization Procedures

If you are eligible and have the documentation requirea student advisor,  will authorize CPT by issuing a new I-20.  You may begin CPT employment only after you have received the I-20 with your CPT authorization. Note: This work authorization is valid only for the specific employer, location, time period and on a part-time or full-time basis as approved buy the student advisor as evidenced on your I-20 issued for CPT. You will need an extension if you desire to work beyond the date authorized.  Failure to do would be a violation of your nonimmigrant student status, and would  jeopardize your ability to remain in the US.

Social Security Number

If you do not have a Social Security Number , you should apply for a Social Security Number based on the CPT authorization. 


F-1 students who have been in the US for less than five different calendar years are exempt from social security taxes. Please notify your employer, as many employers are unfamiliar with this provision of the tax laws. Students in F-1 status are subject to all other taxes that may apply, including federal, state and local. For more information, consult with anaccountant  and/or Publication 519 of the Internal Revenue Service (

Failure to Comply with Regulations

It is a student's responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to F-1 students, including employment and tax regulations. Working without the proper employment authorization is a violation of the F-1 nonimmigrant status. Failure to comply  may jeopardize your stay in the US.

Instructions & Forms

The DSO approves Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for students in accordance with the 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i). No employment authorization from USCIS is needed. For assistance the DSO should consult the SEVIS Users Manual for SEVIS process or the SEVP Help Desk at 1-800-892-4829. For unresolved policy issues, send an email to or contact SEVP at (202) 305-2346.