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What Is Curricular Practical Training and How to Meet Requirements

As an F-1 student, you may qualify for practical training related to your primary field of study. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regulations permit two types of practical training; one is Curricular Practical Training (CPT). 

What Is Curricular Practical Training? 

Curricular Practical Training is real-world training in your main area of study woven into the school’s curriculum as an integral part of your education. This means CPT is required to complete your program.  

A sponsoring employer, in agreement with the school, may offer CPT in several different ways, including: 

  • Cooperative education program 
  • Internship/Externship 
  • Practicum 
  • Alternative work-study arrangement 

CPT may be either full-time or part-time. ICE classifies full-time as working over 20 hours per week. 

How to Meet CPT Requirements 

You can only begin CPT once you meet all eligibility requirements and receive CPT authorization. 

Eligibility 

To participate in CPT, you must be an F-1 student enrolled full-time for at least one year in an SEVP-certified institution or another qualifying program, such as a conservatory or seminary. The one exception is if you are taking graduate studies that require prior practical training.  

To qualify for CPT, your primary field of study can be in any subject except for English as a Second Language (ESL.) 

You cannot participate in CPT for your minor area of study or general graduation requirements. 

If you participate in CPT full-time for one year, you become ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT), the other form of practical training available to F-1 students.  

Authorization 

A Designated School Official (DSO) will authorize your CPT opportunity in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. That authorization will then appear on your Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.  

You do not need additional authorization from ICE to participate in CPT.  

CPT authorization is for practical training from a specific employer. Therefore, you must secure your CPT opportunity before you can receive CPT authorization. An employer must sign a letter or cooperative agreement affirming the CPT opportunity for it to be authorized.  

You may secure authorization for multiple CPT opportunities and with more than a single employer at once. However, you must receive separate CPT authorization for each segment and employer that hires you.  

CPT authorization is exclusively for work performed within the United States. If you  

conduct your training abroad, such as taking on a summer internship in your home country; you do not need CPT authorization.  

You must complete your authorized training before your Form I-20’s end date, as the authorization is for a pre-determined period of time. 

Overview of the CPT Authorization Process 

The process involves you, the student, and DSO taking the following actions: 

  1. You complete the process your school has established for requesting CPT. 
  1. Your DSO reviews this request and determines your CPT eligibility. 
  1. Assuming you meet all eligibility requirements, your DSO authorizes a specific employer for your CPT in SEVIS. 
  1. Your DSO prints a new Form I-20 containing the CPT authorization and signs it. 
  1. You can begin work for your authorized employer either before or after the start date listed for your CPT on your Form I-20. You cannot start your CPT before the listed start date, and you must complete your training by the listed end date. 

You must receive CPT authorization before starting work for a particular employer. A DSO cannot backdate CPT authorization.  

Be sure you can start and complete your CPT within the time frame listed on your authorization. A DSO can only cancel your CPT before its listed start date. After that date, your DSO can only change your end date to shorten the CPT period. Your DSO can also defer or update your authorization after this time.  

In Summary 

Curricular Practical Training is not interchangeable with Optional Practical Training. It is therefore essential you understand the difference between the two before pursuing one or the other.  

If you are an F-1 student at CSI still enrolled in your program of study and would like to discuss fulfilling your CPT requirement or begin the process of authorization, contact CSI right away. The sooner you start the CPT authorization process, the more time you can give yourself to complete this integral component of your education. 

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