The Curricular Practical Training (CPT): A step-by-step guide to your first job in the USA

    Updated on: 04 Sep 2023


    While studying in the USA, students often tend to apply for internships or jobs to get exposure to practical work experience. For this, you need CPT to apply for a job while studying.

    There are two types of jobs you can apply for:

    On-Campus Job

    Under On-Campus employment, you can freely work without USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) or CPT approval.

    However, the following rules apply to an F-1 student:

    • You must keep your F-1 status up to date.
    • While your college or school is in session, you can work up to 20 hours a week.

    Off-Campus Job

    Under an off-campus job, you need to get your CPT approval from USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).

    If you want to work off-campus, you must first obtain your CPT.

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    What Is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

    CPT stands for Curricular Practical Training, which allows international students with F-1 status to work through internships or part-time jobs, but these need to be related to their major area of study. For CPT authorization, you need to ask for help from your designated school officials (DSO), who will check your details and accordingly update your CPT in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS), and you can take the printed I-20 form for the confirmation. This will serve as proof to show that you are eligible under the CPT employment policy. If you need more details, you should contact your DSO. It is important to note that before applying for CPT, you need to have a letter from the employer, and you are only allowed to work for a limited period. You must complete your CPT before graduation.

    Once you get CPT, you can work as:

    • The full-time employer for 20 hours a week
    • The part-time employer for 20 hours or less per week

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    Part-Time vs. Full-Time CPT

    Part-time CPT: Under part-time CPT, you can work for 20 hours or less per week. But you need to attend your college or school classes regularly to maintain F-1 status.

    Full-time CPT: Under full-time CPT, you can work more than 20 hours.

    Note: (if you work full-time or part-time for more than 12 months with CPT, you will not be eligible for OPT)

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    Types of CPT

    Mainly there are two types of CPT:

    Required CPT- This is required when your college or university makes it mandatory for all the students to get practical experience for graduation.

    Optional CPT- This is not necessary for your graduation, but it should be related to your field of study.

    Eligibility Criteria for CPT

    The most important topic to consider while applying for CPT.

    So, let's look at the following for detailed understanding:

    • Your F-1 visa status must be updated
    • You must be enrolled in a full-time program for one academic year
    • You need a job letter before applying for CPT
    • Your job role must be directly related to your studies
    • It's better to have a letter of recommendation from your academic advisor
    • Most important, English shouldn't be your second language

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    How to Apply for CPT?

    • CPT authorization generally takes up to 1-2 weeks for the whole process and requires several documents for verification.

    • You can print your completion certificate after you have completed the CPT Online Certification Course.

    • Get a detailed description of your company's training program from your company/employer.

    • Discuss your CPT plans in detail with your Academic or Faculty Advisor. By completing the Academic/Faculty Advisor Recommendation Form, your advisor may recommend you for CPT if they believe the training is integral to your curricular. You may also be able to enroll in a Registrar-Designated CPT course with your advisor's assistance.

    • Collect all required documentation.

    • You can initiate the CPT authorization process by logging into M-Passport, clicking on Requests > CPT Authorization, and following the instructions that appear. All required documents must be submitted. Invalid or incomplete CPT applications will not be accepted by the IC.

    • Your CPT application will get reviewed by an International Student and Scholar Advisor. A CPT I-20 showing this approval will be created if all requirements are correct. It usually takes 1-2 weeks for a request to be processed. If you are requesting during peak times like April, September, or January, you should expect it to take 2 full weeks to process your request.

    • As soon as your CPT I-20 is ready, you will receive an e-mail. Until your CPT I-20 is printed, no paid or unpaid work can be done.

    • Be sure to sign and date your CPT I-20 and keep all I-20s permanently in your files.

    • Please send documentation verifying any changes to in order for us to update your CPT.

    First published date: 08 Aug 2022

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About author

Bipasha Goswami
Content Writer with a demonstrated history of working in the health, advertising, real estate industries, and study abroad services. Skilled in Copywriting, Content Writing, Photography, Advertising, and Video Editing. Strong marketing professional with a BA - Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from JIMS VASANT KUNJ

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