If you are an F-1 student and have a practical training opportunity that will give you practical experience in your field of study before you graduate, such as an internship, you may be eligible for a type of authorization called Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
CPT authorization requires your practical experience to be an integral part of your curriculum. The practical training opportunity needs to fulfill a requirement for a course you are registered in, such as a required practicum or an internship credit, or help you with a research project, such as a thesis, dissertation, or other opportunities that are integral to your curriculum such as performance, for the term(s) in which the experience will occur. You will be required to enroll in a corresponding course during the period of time that you will work, or in the term immediately following the practical experience.
Do I need authorization for unpaid opportunities in my field of study?
If you have found an internship or other unpaid training opportunity, OIS strongly recommends that you apply for CPT authorization before beginning that volunteer opportunity. If you are offered compensation for your experience, you can only accept it if you have CPT authorization.
You are required to have authorization from the Office of International Services (OIS) before you begin. Working without proper authorization is a violation of your legal status that will require the termination of your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.
Am I eligible for Curricular Practical Training authorization?
You are required to meet all of the following criteria to be eligible for CPT authorization:
You are a full-time student for at least one full academic year.
You have F-1 status.
You have an offer letter outlining the training opportunity in your major field of study.
You have registered for an appropriate course that covers the duration of the training that you seek. Which course you are required to register for depends on what CPT option you pursue.
The U.S. government has not updated the regulations related to Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) due to COVID-19.
The U.S. government requires you to be in-person in the U.S. for 30 weeks of classroom instruction before you are eligible. Only weeks that you have been in the United States count towards the 30-week requirement. Here are some examples to make it more clear:
If you arrived in the U.S. on August 12, 2022, and enrolled in classes that met August 23, 2022-December 16, 2022, you have 16 weeks of instruction. Note that the time you were in the U.S. before classes started do not count. To be eligible for CPT you would need to complete at least another 14 weeks of instruction (13 week courses would not be enough).
If you were enrolled in classes that met August 23, 2022-December 16, 2022, but participated online until you arrived in the U.S. on September 9, 2022, you have accumulated only 14 weeks of instruction. Note that the time you were enrolled in class outside the U.S. does not count. To be eligible for CPT in summer 2023, you would also need to complete 16 weeks of classroom instruction in spring 2023.
What kind of practical training qualifies for CPT?
Practical training that qualifies for CPT has to meet one of the following criteria:
The training fulfills an optional or required internship or practicum in your academic program. Registration in an internship or practicum course is required.
The training fulfills the course requirements of a standard course or independent study course in your academic program. Registration in the standard course or independent study course is required.
In order to be eligible for CPT, an experience must be determined to be an integral part of your academic curriculum. CPT cannot be used solely for you to improve your chances of getting a job after graduation. In order to grant CPT authorization, OIS needs to be able to document that the practical experience and its duties are integral to your academic curriculum.
Graduate students only: The training benefits your thesis/dissertation/final project in a material and substantial way. Registration for thesis/dissertation/final project credit(s) is required.
Doctoral students only: The training enables you to fulfill a specific deficit in your overall program or provides you an opportunity to have an experience that is an integral part of the Ph.D. program that is otherwise not available to you. Registration in dissertation research or G901 credit(s) is required.
How do I get authorization for Curricular Practical Training?
To apply for CPT authorization, all students except Performer Diploma (PD), Artist Diploma (AD), and Master of Music (MM) students need to complete these steps:
In order to be granted authorization for practical training, your advisor has to certify that you will register in an appropriate course/independent study, internship credit(s), or dissertation credit(s). Speak with your academic advisor to determine your options for a CPT-appropriate course. If your advisor has questions, please have them contact OIS for assistance.
Additionally, OIS needs to receive confirmation from your academic advisor through the e-form process the course in which you are registered so that OIS can process your CPT request. Your academic advisor will be asked to provide information about how the practical training that you plan participate in will be integral to your curriculum and fulfill requirements of your program of study.
You have to provide OIS with an offer letter for your practical training (on company letterhead) from your prospective employer. Please share a copy of the offer letter with your academic advisor. Please circle the following before submitting:
The specific start date with the phrase "or date of authorization"
For example: "The candidate will begin the training opportunity on October 1, 2022, or date of authorization, whichever is later."
The specific end date for training
The number of hours you will train per week. It will not be sufficient for the letter to state “part time” or “full time.” The number of hours per week has to be provided.
The physical location (street address, city, state, and zip code) of the internship provider location where the experience is taking place. If the experience is taking place remotely, the address of the internship provider location with which the training is associated is needed. In all cases, please note that P.O. boxes are not acceptable.
A description, as detailed as possible, of the duties entailed in your training
Students need to register for a CPT-appropriate course for each semester or summer session for which they seek authorization. CPT authorization cannot be based upon “incompletes” or other registrations from previous semesters.
If you seek practical training for the summer, you need to be enrolled in a CPT-appropriate course.
If your proposed CPT end date falls on or before the last day of the final summer term, you may enroll in a summer CPT-appropriate course that ends on the last day of the final summer term (end of the third 4 weeks, end of the second 6 weeks, end of the second 8 weeks, end of the 12 weeks).
If your proposed CPT end date is after the last day of the final summer term, you will need to register in the fall term (your program may require registration in the summer as well—please discuss that with your academic advisor).
You need to submit your completed application for CPT in Atlas at least two weeks before the CPT experience is expected to begin. A completed CPT application means that all of the required CPT forms have been submitted by you, completed by your academic advisor (required in most cases) and received by our office.
Please apply earlier when the university is closed for the winter break, at the beginning of a semester, or at the end of a semester, because those are very busy times in the office. Failure to do so can result in delays in processing, during which time you are not eligible to begin your practical training/internship.
CPT authorization for PD, AD, and MM music students
To apply for CPT authorization, PD, AD, and MM music students need to complete the following steps:
Register for a performance course for the semester or summer session in which you would like to work.
Upload an offer letter for a gig, lessons, or performances.
How long does CPT authorization last?
CPT authorization is granted on a semester-by-semester basis only.
If you wish to continue your practical training beyond the semester for which you’ve been authorized, you need to submit a CPT extension and register in the appropriate course for the option you choose.
Do this as soon as you register for the next semester so OIS will have time to process your application.
What are the rules I need to follow while on CPT?
You need to comply with the following policies while on CPT:
You may not use incompletes or deferred grades from a previous semester for CPT authorization.
You may not use CPT for a specific independent study course for more than two terms. Further independent study work needs to have a different course number and different academic requirements.
You have to enroll in each semester during which you are pursuing CPT.
Withdrawing from classes or dropping credits that are tied to CPT authorization immediately cancels the CPT authorization. Training done without this authorization is illegal and a violation of status that will result in termination of your SEVIS record.
If you are authorized for part-time CPT, you may train no more than 20 hours per week in all training opportunities. You need to enroll as a full-time student for the duration of the CPT. For part-time CPT, remember that each training opportunity that is not at IU will require its own CPT authorization.
If you are authorized for full-time CPT, you may train 21 or more hours per week. Your enrollment in CPT-qualified credits will be considered full time.
CPT authorization results in the issuance of a new I-20. This I-20 will have a travel signature that will be valid for entry into the United States for one year, provided that you remain enrolled full time at IU, your I-20 itself has not expired, and your major has not changed.
We’re here to help
Here is a list of common questions students have about CPT.
If you hold a current position on campus (hourly or as a graduate research assistant, etc.) and you wish to accept additional employment in your field of study, you may be eligible for this benefit. Without CPT, you are only eligible for a total of 20 hours per week of on-campus work (excluding university breaks).
If you wish to (1) work more than 20 hours per week, or (2) work off-campus, CPT authorization is required.
Please contact our office to schedule an appointment with an international student advisor to discuss your options.
While possible, it can be challenging to obtain CPT for a position where you will be considered an independent contractor. Additional details will be needed.
Be sure that your offer letter:
specifies who your direct supervisor is (and that this person is on site where you will be having your practical training experience)
outlines the mentor/mentee relationship with your practical training role, and how the experience will include practical training in your field of study.
The amount of part-time CPT utilized will not impact your eligibility to receive 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) following completion of studies.
However, if you use 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will no longer be eligible for OPT once you graduate. Even if you forfeit your opportunity for OPT by using more than 12 months of full-time CPT, you will be permitted to use no more than two years of full-time CPT.
If you plan to forfeit your opportunity for OPT by using more than 12 months of full-time CPT, contact our office to schedule an appointment with an international student advisor to discuss your options.
If you have found an internship or other training opportunity that is unpaid, we strongly recommend that you apply for CPT authorization prior to beginning that volunteer opportunity. If you are offered compensation for your experience, you will only be able to accept it if you have CPT authorization.
You need to be careful not to “volunteer” without pay in positions for which U.S. citizens would be paid. This rule is designed to protect you, the employer, and other workers. The U.S. Department of Labor provides information on the Fair Labor Standards Act on its website.
An extension of CPT authorization is a specific process, and not just a situation where you would like to have a longer practical experience than you were originally offered, which would require a brand new CPT application. If your specific CPT situation would require a CPT extension, an international student advisor will provide you with that information when your CPT request is approved. You will want to review that information carefully—ask if you have questions!
Social Security (FICA) should not be withheld from the wages of an F-1 student on CPT if the student is classified as a nonresident for tax purposes. Earnings are, however, still subject to federal, state, and local taxes.