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 is required to be an integral part of your curriculum. It is necessary that the practical training 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. 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 work.
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 (excludes summer terms).
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.
If you started at IU in spring 2020 or earlier
If you have been enrolled full time and currently are and have remained in active SEVIS status, you are eligible to apply for CPT/OPT now.
All other students
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 10, 2020, and enrolled in classes that met August 24, 2020-December 18, 2020, 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 24, 2020-December 18, 2020, but participated online until you arrived in the U.S. on September 14, 2020, 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 2021, you would also need to complete 16 hours of classroom instruction in spring 2021.
What kind of work qualifies for CPT?
Work 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.
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 work authorization, 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 him or her contact OIS for assistance.
Additionally, OIS needs to receive confirmation from your academic advisor through the e-form process that indicates 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 work that you plan to do will be integral to your curriculum and fulfill requirements of your program of study.
You have to provide OIS with an offer letter (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, 2016, 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) where the training will be conducted. P.O. boxes are not accepted for this requirement.
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 work authorization 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, registration can be in the final summer term (unless the summer term is your final term; in this case, please discuss your plans with us before proceeding).
Your completed application for CPT needs to be submitted to OIS in Atlas at least two weeks before the employment is expected to begin. 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 work.
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 of employment 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 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.
You may use an unlimited amount of part-time CPT and still get 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.
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.