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F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

If your major requires a practicum for degree completion or you enrolled in a for-credit course that requires internship hours, you may qualify for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization.

CPT Authorization
CPT authorization is required for any curricular placement or for-credit internship (paid or unpaid), including:
  • An internship or practicum that is required for degree completion
  • An internship required for a course offered in the UHart course catalog for which a student will earn academic credit
  • An off-campus placement arranged by UHart to pursue graduate thesis/dissertation research that cannot be accomplished on campus, and is required to complete your degree program
If the internship is NOT required: 
CPT authorization must be an “integral part of an established curriculum.” This means it needs to directly related to your academic program and must meet a curricular requirement to qualify.

If you have an internship or employment opportunity that is related to your field of study, but is not required for your program as defined above, you will need to apply for an be approved for Optional Practical Training before you can accept the position.

CPT Eligibility
If your internship qualifies for CPT and you are currently in F-1 status, you will be eligible for authorization after you have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis in a degree program for one full academic year.

Students enrolled in the English Language Institute (ELI) or the International Pathway Program (IPP) are not eligible for CPT.

Important! Students who lose legal F-1 status or take an immigration leave of absence and are issued a new I-20 (new SEVIS ID) for “Initial Attendance” to re-enter the US will re-start the eligibility clock. Any time previously spent in F-1 status will not count toward eligibility. This means after returning to the US with a new I-20, you will have to finish one full academic year of study before being eligible for CPT.

Note! CPT will NOT be granted to students who have finished their program requirements and who are merely delaying graduation to make use of CPT. Additionally, some academic programs at UHart do NOT allow for CPT authorization during the final semester when the coursework is not required.

Part-time or Full-time CPT
CPT can be authorized during the academic year or during the summer but must be specified as either part-time or full-time.

The overall amount of CPT that will be authorized is defined by what is required or permitted under your degree program. There is no regulatory limit to CPT, however, if you are authorized for a total of 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training. Periods of part-time CPT authorization do not affect OPT eligibility, however, high usage of even part-time CPT can lead to increased scrutiny and risk when applying for OPT, visa applications, and other DHS benefits, like H1-B petitions.

Part-time CPT Authorization: If your internship requires 20 hours or less of work per week, you will be authorized for part-time CPT.

Full-time CPT Authorization: If your internship requires more than 20 hours of work per week, you will be authorized for full-time CPT.

You must maintain a full-time course load (12 credits for UG or 9 credits for Grad) if you engage in CPT during the Fall or Spring semesters. Students who are approved for a reduced course load and are applying for part-time CPT will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Applying for CPT Authorization
DO NOT begin any employment until CPT has been approved and authorized on your I-20. CPT is authorized by the International Center for a specific employer, location, hours, and dates. You should always plan to obtain the CPT authorization at least a few weeks before you wish to begin your internship (keep in mind I-20 processing is a minimum of 3-5 business days).

If there is a change of employer, job location, or dates of employment or if you will work for more than one employer at a time, you must reapply for CPT. CPT is employer specific and you can only work for the company listed

When applying for CPT authorization, follow the steps below:
  1. Meet with your Academic Advisor to discuss appropriate internship opportunities for your major.
  2. Enroll in the appropriate course in order to receive credit for CPT (required unless CPT is a degree requirement).
  3. Login and complete the CPT Request. Your academic advisor will be sent an email to complete their part.
    • Upload Verification or Offer Letter from your employer (Letter should be on letterhead including: Company Name and address, student’s job title, job description, dates of employment, hours per week, salary (if paid) and supervisor’s name, title, and contact information)
    • Be sure the the employment dates match the letter you submit and they are within the semester (if you are enrolled in coursework)
The International Center grants permission for CPT after establishing a student’s eligibility and reviewing the application materials. If CPT is approved, the new I-20 is issued within 3-5 business days. You may not begin working until you have been issued a CPT I-20. The new I-20 will reflect the employer’s information and authorization dates on page 2. The I-20 should be shown to the employer as evidence of work authorization.

The International Center cannot authorize CPT with a start date in the past – working without authorization on your I-20 is illegal and your I-20 will be terminated.

CPT Frequently Asked Questions
How is CPT authorized?

CPT is authorized by a DSO (Designated School Official) at a school approved by SEVP (the Student and Exchange Visitor Program) to enroll students in F-1 status. The CPT authorization is employer, location, and date-specific and it appears as a notation on page 2 of your Form I-20.

Can I withdraw from my CPT course?

No. When CPT authorization is granted based on an academic registration, you must remain registered for the course for the entire semester for which the CPT authorization was granted. IF you withdraw from a course on which CPT was based, your authorization will become invalid and you may jeopardize your F-1 immigration status.

Can I work for a company other than my CPT employer/placement or outside of the authorized dates?

No.  CPT is authorized for a specific employer/placement company and location. CPT is also date-specific. You may not begin work until the start date of the CPT authorization and must stop working on or before the end date of the authorization. If you anticipate a change in your CPT employer/placement (or need to begin earlier or work later than the dates for which you have been authorized) you must request a change to your CPT authorization from you academic department and from the International Center. Until and unless this change is approved, you cannot work at another location, begin earlier or work beyond your authorization.

If you will work at more than one CPT employer/placement, you must submit (and be approved) for each CPT employer.  All CPT employers and dates must be listed on page 2 of your I-20.  If they are not listed, you are not authorized for work.  

How many hours per week can I work?

CPT is usually authorized part-time (allowing you to work 20 hours or less per week only) during semesters of required study, but may sometimes be authorized full-time (allowing more than 20 hours per week) if full-time participation is required by your program or during periods when full-time registration is not required (such as summer semester). The CPT authorization on page 2 of your I-20 will specific whether your authorization is full or part-time. Any proposed changes must be reviewed and approved by the International Center in advance.

Will my CPT authorization affect my eligibility to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

If you are authorized for an aggregate of 12 months of full-time CPT or more, you will lose eligibility for OPT authorization. If you are approved fro less than 12 months of full-time CPT (in aggregate) or for any amount of part-time CPT, this will not affect your eligibility for OPT. However, keep in mind that the International Center advises students to use caution in regard to high usage of part-time CPT which can lead to increased scrutiny and risk in the future.

Can I apply for a Social Security Number (SSN)?

Your CPT authorization is a type of US employment authorization, and therefore, allows you to apply for a SSN through the Social Security Administration. Instructions on applying can be found here. Your SSN card, when approved, will be stamped “not authorized for employment without DHS authorization.” This stamp means that the Social Security card alone does not grant you work permission. However, the CPT authorization on page 2 of your I-29 is granted in accordance with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations, and can be used along with your SSN to allow you to be paid and taxed correctly in the US for your work.

Can I paid for my CPT employment?

Once you have been granted CPT authorization, you are authorized to work and receive compensation for your CPT employment only. Federal regulations related to hiring, payment, internships and taxation of foreign nationals in the US are quite complex and are governed by US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the US Department of Labor (DOL), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The DOL has established guidelines for employers related to Fair Labor Standards for paid and unpaid internships. 

What are my tax obligations during CPT?

In general, Social Security/FICA taxes should not be withheld from earnings for F-1 non-immigrations, unless they are considered a “resident for tax purposes.” Earnings of F-1 nonimmigrants are usually subject to federal, state, and local income taxes, unless exempted by a tax treaty.