F1 Visa – Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Guide

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** This article about Curricular Practical Training (CPT)  is part of series of articles about F1 Visa. Refer to Table of Contents at end of this article**

According to Department of Homeland Security Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined 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.”

Thus, CPT for F-1 visa students is intended to provide work experience in situations where the work serves as an integral part of a student’s academic program, prior to completion of that program.

CPT Eligibility

The student must have enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year before being eligible for CPT.

An exception exists for graduate students whose programs require immediate participation in an internship.

One Academic Year

  • Starting College in Fall – Fall and Spring (CPT from Summer)
  • Starting College in Spring – Spring, Summer, Fall (CPT from Spring)

CPT is available only while the student is in valid F-1 status and before the completion of degree.

CPT – Part-Time vs. Full-Time

It is possible to get Part Time of Ful-time CPT.

Part-Time CPT

During the school year while classes are in session, students can get internship offer and work part time (limited to no more than 20 hours per week)

Full-Time CPT

If you find a full time internship after completing one academic year, then apply for Full-time CPT. This could be in Summer, Fall or Spring.

Some schools may not allow full time CPT during Fall and Spring semesters (only in Summer break).

Important – If you use CPT for 12 months or more, you will not be eligible for post-completion optional practical training (OPT).

Application and Documentation Requirements

One of the criteria to select universities is to find out CPT rules for university. I wold hesitate to attend a school where CPT is not allowed during semester hours.

Companies would prefer students who can work for atleast 2 semester, not just summer months.

If you are unsure about your eligibility for CPT, you should first meet with an International student adviser.

To apply for CPT, following documents is required (varies with school)

  • Job Offer Letter – Official 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.
  • CPT Recommendation Form completed by your academic advisor. Sometimes advisor wouldn’t allow CPT, if you are in Thesis track.
  • Copies of your current immigration documents: passport (biographical data, photo, & expiration date pages), front
    and back of I-94 card, and I-20(s).

CPT – Approval Process

If you are eligible and have the documentation required for CPT,

International Student advisor will authorize CPT by issuing a new I-20.

It can take upto a week to issue new I-20.

You can start working only after you have received the I-20 with your CPT.

This work authorization is valid only for the specific employer, location, time period and on a part-time or full-time basis as approved.

If you get internship extension beyond the date listed in CPT, then get new offer letter and follow the process again to get new I-20.

Don’t continue to work after CPT expiration date.

CPT Income Taxes

F1 visa students who have been in the US for no more than five different calendar years are exempt from social security taxes (Social Security and Medicare, referred as FICA).

Important – Let your HR know that you are exempt from FICA taxes.

Students in F-1 status are subject to all other taxes that may apply, including federal, state and local.

Series – F1 Visa Rules

Following other related posted from F1 Visa Rules series.

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