F1 Visa

F1 Visa – Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Guide

** 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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  1. Just out of curiosity. Who tracks a CPT student’s hours? Is the government automatically tracking how many hours I am working, or am I to submit my pay stubs to my DSO? Want to make sure I’m following correct protocol. Who is responsible for knowing how many hours I work and how will they receive that information?

  2. Hi Raghu,

    I was approached by a consultancy for full time employment . But my course say that I have to take a mandatory 3 credit internship .

    The consultancy is ready to give me intern position in his organization . But at the same time I will be working with client like American Airlines in the client location.

    My question is –> Is it legal to work and get an internship from consultancy during CPT ?? Does it cause problem when you work in client location ??


    1. Thats typical case of consultants manipulate the system to use fake experience to market your resume.

  3. Hi,
    In my university, i have an option of taking CPT. But my question is how early I can apply for CPT. One academic means is it 9 months or 12 months?

  4. /Hi all,

    I have one query. I am currently on my CPT and have an offer where they want me to travel to europe for business reasons. Whereas, my university does not allow any business travel. I just wanted to know if my company desperately wants me to go for the task what could be the way for this? can I travel on F-1 for business purpose ?

  5. Hi

    Can we get the CPT from day 1 and work full time and study in weekends.
    and how many years can we work in CPT if I am doing my MBA i.e. 2 years .
    like can I work for 2 years till I complete my CPT and can you tell about the credits in brief.

  6. Could you please tell me how to find out if the University allows CPT or not? It is not mentioned in their website. I have got an admit from City university of Seattle.

  7. I need some help from you . I worked for an employer in my first semester on apart time CPT, through a coop agreement by my school.The total duration on this CPT was 45 hrs. At conclusion of this CPT, my employer refused to pay or issue me any paystubs and W2. I am graduating in 2 weeks, and now I have a RFE on my OPT asking for paystubs and W2 for last year. I don’t have any of these now. Please suggest my options. I am extremely worried.

  8. Hi Raghu,
    I have one question for you with respect to CPT. I have been offered a temporary position from a top firm, but it seems that payroll will be handled by a outside agency as they are recruiting me for a temporary summer position. In this case I wanted to know while applying for CPT should i specify that I will be working for contract agency or the firm itself?
    your inputs will be of great help. I did contact international student adviser and they are not very sure about it.

  9. Hi,

    Can an international student on F-1 Visa go for overtime or work for more than 40 hours a week during CPT/internship?


  10. Dear Raghu,

    What are the options for the students who are on second OPT (STEM) working but H1B quota might run out. I heard there are some schools that gives CPT from the first semester. I have a job right now but not sure what to do if H1B quota runs out.


  11. hi Raghu,

    I am planning to do my MS in the US and looking for colleges which provide CPT immediately after getting F1. Please guide me if there are colleges which provide CPT immediately or I need to wait to finish 2 semesters?

  12. Hi,

    I just got admission from Maharishi University of management for computer science master program which offers me CPT during education, I just want to know your opinion about this university and its financial aid.

    1. Hi Vida, CPT is part of your masters studies in STEM programs at all Universities you apply to. You should base your decision on admission offers from other Universities as well if you have applied to. In case you have liked the CS program at MUM, you can go ahead with it.
      All the Best!

  13. Hi,

    I just got admission from Maharishi University of management for computer science master program which offers me CPT during education, Ijust want to know your opinion about this university and its financial aid.

  14. Need information regarding online masters degree and CPT which they are offering. I heard that a university in Kentucky provides CPT from day one. But murthy.com says, stay away from that kind of universities which provide CPT from day one. But some of my friends joined and continuing the job. so, wanted to check in this forum about online masters and CPT which they offer. Please let me know thoughts for the same.

    (1) Will there be any problem if we apply for H1 during my CPT is active?
    (2) Any issues during Visa interview when i visit india with F1 and having that CPT?
    (3) is it legally allowed to work 40 hrs on CPT?

  15. I am a DSO and have been at 4 different universities and I’m sorry to say, this information is not 100% accurate. I do not mean to say that the information is wrong or incorrect, but since each school will have a different interpretation of many of the regulations, the processes are not always the same. At all 4 universities where I have worked, I have never seen CPT done in the manner listed above. Students need to meet with their school DSO in order to find out how the specific school processes CPT.

    1. Hello dcovin, Thanks fo ryour comments. Can you explain in brief, how you have processed CPT? Above process is based on how I received my CPT.

      Also, I have the following lines in the article – If you are unsure about your eligibility for CPT, you should first meet with an International student adviser.

  16. Hi

    I have done my degree in B com computers 2010 pass out and MBA in finance 2012 pass out want to do MBA in US with different specialization.I heard only TOEFL exam is enough for getting a CPT visa. and what are the possibilities of getting visa approved by only TOEFL marks.

  17. you said if i took above 12 months fulltime intern of CPT , then I am not able to get OPT . Here I am asking that, Can i get H1B while I am on CPT?

  18. Is it possible to get a 12 month CPA after doing a one year course on a F1 visa. I will be doing a one year production course at NY Film Academy and want to make sure I am eligible to do a CPA after I graduate. Can anyone help me with this.

  19. Hi,

    Will working online PAID or Unpaid qualify for Incampus 20 hours or CPT / OPT. Is it allowed on F1 visa

  20. Hi ,

    Can you help with this :: i am a former student for UNVA attended 2 quarters but came to know about it and then transferred to a accredited univ where none of my courses were transferred but used 6 months of part time cpt in unva and then in my new univ which is accredited after 6 months i started using my part time cpt again as per the curiculum,so if i apply for my opt with my new univ will this effect any of my opt period , please guide me as i only used 20hrs/week part cpt for about 12 months which includes 6 months in unva and then about 6 months in new univ?? does my unva part time cpt gets counted if so i already crossed 12 months of my part time cpt so will i be eligible for opt help me on this

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