What is the Difference Between OPT and CPT?

Vk comments at the post, How to get a Job after MS without work experience.

What is the difference between Internship and OPT?
Which is better for a job opportunity?
Is it wise to undergo internship in India and join MS during spring?
Does it make any difference if we join MS during spring or fall?

OPT

  • OPT is a 1 year work permit given to students after completing graduate degree program in the United States.
  • You have to find a job within 90 days of that 1 year period after graduation, or else you become out of status.
  • If your employer is enrolled in the eVerify program, you can get up to 29 months of OPT.
  • You have to apply for H-1B visa while in OPT.

CPT

  • To work as an intern in F-1 Visa, you will need to get an internship
  • Your college then has to issue a CPT (Curriculum Practical Training)
  • CPT is a work authorization that will allow you to do internship.
  • CPT can be issued for 1 semester up to 364 Days (rules vary among universities)
  • If you have 365 days of CPT, you may not be able to get an OPT.

So an OPT and a CPT are similar in the way they both allows you to work legally in the U.S. You will need a CPT to work as an intern before graduation, you will need an OPT to work after completing a degree.

In some cases, you will get a Pre-Completion OPT that will allow you to work legally before graduation, in instances when you have consumed the entire duration of your CPT period.

U.S. universities will allow international students to do internship only after completing at least 2 semesters (varies among schools) or after completing a certain number of credits.

Search in the blog for “Spring vs Fall”, which are among the many articles that have been published on the same topic.

29 Comments

  1. Sachin Shah on January 25, 2017 at 4:10 AM

    Hi Mr Raghuram,

    Can you please help me to know, are Medical students during their Clinical rotation can apply to get CPT or OPT?

  2. joshi on December 4, 2015 at 12:05 AM

    Hi, your posts are very informative. I have one question regarding cpt and opt. If I not work more than 364 days in cpt, then there should be objection in opt right(even 1 percent objection).

    • Raghuram Sukumar on December 4, 2015 at 7:07 AM

      I can’t speak about what issues you will run into with OPT and H1B. You should consult an attorney.

  3. vivek on February 12, 2015 at 1:42 PM

    Hi,

    My wife has been offered a full time job as a software engineer starting May last week and my wife is graduating on May first week, so she will work full time through OPT. But the employer has asked her if she can work part time before graduating? So in this scenario- can she use CPT? The role on the offer letter say software engineer and not internship..is CPT legal in this scenario? Please help me.ifits legal, can CPT and OPT dates overlap?

    • Raghuram Sukumar on February 14, 2015 at 3:33 PM

      CPT is before graduation.

  4. Nitya on August 4, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Hi,
    I wanted to know is it fine fro F1 visa holders to work overtime during internship? that would be above 40 hrs per week….. ?
    How will effect us in future?

    • Raghuram Sukumar on August 4, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      Is it contract or Full time job?

      • Nitya on August 4, 2014 at 2:00 PM

        Its a full time Internship.

        • Raghuram Sukumar on August 4, 2014 at 4:32 PM

          That’s how full time jobs are these days 🙂 no worries. happy working.

  5. Rajesh on May 10, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    Too many questions, I have:

    1. Does ‘Assistant-ship’ at the University, reduce OPT period?
    2. Does part-time CPT, reduce OPT period?….If I am enroll for a two-year MBA, can I work on part-time CPT, throughout the two-years?
    3. Any list of which Universities grant the maximum assistant-ship or scholarship or waiver?

    Regards,
    Rajesh

  6. Nisha on January 10, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    Hi ,
    I need to change my status from H4 to f1 so pls share with me the university who provides f1 status from day one as my basic motive is to work .

    Thank you for your time
    Nisha

  7. KVN on July 10, 2012 at 5:12 AM

    Hi,
    I am in Australia at the moment..i am planning MBA for Jan intake in NPU……Also, Can i be able to get CPT from 1st Semester or at-least from 2nd Semester…Thanks…

  8. sreya chatterji on June 15, 2012 at 1:05 AM

    I have completed my MS in Applied Economics in Dec 2011 & ‘m in OPT from 21st feb2012. I have secured a regular employment & my employer shall sponsor premium H1B in 2nd April 2013.There will be a gap period from 20th Feb’13 to 2nd April ’13.How to resolve this issue?.

  9. Renu on April 19, 2012 at 8:27 PM

    My OPT STEM EXT card will expire on May 15. I’m working right now. My employer is not going to file H1B for me(He ditched me). I want to enroll as a student again and work on CPT.
    I talked to university they are ready to offer CPT on first day but the start date will be May 25th.
    But my EAD will expire on May 15th as I said before. There will be gap between May 15th to May 25th. Will I be out of status even if I have i-20 and sevis is already transferred to the university?

    • vishnu on April 27, 2012 at 7:40 AM

      Hi Renu, Hope you have got some solution for your problem. I am searching for some kind of university which gives me CPT from the 1st day (or duirng the 1st sem). Can you please suggest me the University which you are telling about…

    • Ron on May 19, 2012 at 7:59 PM

      Hi Renu, I am also searching for the universities who offers CPT from 1st semester,so please can you suggest me universities for that?

      • HSB on May 19, 2012 at 8:06 PM

        schools that offered CPT in first sem are like Trivalley which is in trouble.

    • Keerthana on June 18, 2012 at 6:42 PM

      Can you please let me know the univs that offer CPT from day1 itself.. as I completed MS (USA).. So I think we are eligible to take CPT from day1 as we satisfy the rule of staying in US for 9 months or taking 15 credits..

      • HSB on June 18, 2012 at 8:29 PM

        Looks like you are inviting trouble.

  10. jonat on March 16, 2012 at 12:34 AM

    Hi. I am in F1 status now. i would like to know if I will be given an SSN number once i am in my OPT or CPT? If ever I will have the number? whatkind of number will it be? A temporary or a permanent number that I could use in my employment? thanks…

    • Renu on April 19, 2012 at 8:26 PM

      Yes u will get SSN.
      If you are on CPT you have to show your employment letter.
      If you are on OPT just show your OPT card.

  11. thanus on October 23, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    Hi, I am doing my masters now. I am on L2 visa at present. Its a dependent visa where i have the opportunity to work and study. So, do i require a CPT from my university to work as an intern in summer? Is it better for me to change to F1 to work as a full time student? I am confused. Please let me know the things..

  12. shyam on November 20, 2010 at 10:04 PM

    Hi Admin,

    I read somewhere that "Both CPT and OPT do not allow the student to begin employment prior to completing the first academic year". Is it true?

    I am applying for spring admission.. So, in that case can I work with CPT in summer ?

    Regards,

    shyam

  13. Rajat on July 19, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    i m interested in pursuing MBA from US, and i confused to choose between opt and cpt, i dont understand the actual differnce between these two programs.

  14. maria on June 1, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    Hi,

    I have completed MCA from India. Now i'm in US on H4 . i would like to do some work rather than sitting at home. suggest me how can i change my visa status? which is better in current situation : transfer my visa to H1 / Do some course & change to F1 ??

  15. Elaine Martin on January 28, 2010 at 9:59 AM

    Thanks for the article. I just want to clarify some points on OPT

    :

    "* OPT is 1 year work permit given to students after completing Graduate Degree in United States."

    In fact, a person can get OPT before graduating, and the degree does not need to be a graduate program

    "*You have to find a job within 90 days of that 1 year period after graduation, else you become out of status."

    There is a 60-day grace period after F-1 status when an F-1 holder can stay in the US.

    *If your employer is enrolled in eVerify program, you can get up to 29 months of OPT."

    True, but only if the worker holds a STEM degree.

    *You have to apply for H1B visa while in OPT."

    To stay in the US after OPT expires, the student needs to change to another status. However, this does not have to be H-1B.

    • HSB on January 28, 2010 at 11:04 AM

      @ Elaine – Wonderful. Thanks for adding your comments.

      • Arun Gowtham on September 5, 2012 at 11:14 PM

        @Elaine- Thank you very much. But i need to know whether companies provide OPT all round the year or only during special sessions??

  16. Krish on January 27, 2010 at 9:22 PM

    Are the conversions from MS to PHD aloowed between the different fields of study like Microbiolgy to Biochemistry and is their any chance to change the Universities in US after registering a PhD in one

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