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Work Authorization for F-1 Students

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training, or CPT, is work authorization that allows F-1 students to gain practical work experience in their field of study prior to the completion of their academic programs. To be eligible for CPT, you must have completed one academic year in the United States. The following information provides guidelines to securing this authorization.

Practical training may be authorized to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full time basis, in a service-approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary for one full academic year.

Curricular Practical Training is authorized by the International Relations Office in accordance with 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i) and structured office policies that have been developed with this regulatory backing.

Please Note: Working off-campus without confirmation of authorization is never lawful for students in F-1 status. You must have authorization from the International Relations Office before you start working.

To be eligible for CPT authorization, you must:

    • Have been a full-time student for at least one full academic year
    • Be in F-1 status
    • Work with your academic advisor (see additional information below)
    • Have letter from your employer that meets requirements listed below.
    • In addition the employment must be in your major field of study and affiliated with a program or course in line with one of the qualified opportunities below.

To receive CPT authorization, you will be required to register for an appropriate course which covers the duration of the employment that you seek. What course you are required to register for depends on what CPT option you will pursue.

There are two ways in which F-1 students can apply for and receive CPT authorization.

  • The work fulfills an optional or required internship or practicum in your academic program (registration in an internship or practicum course required);
  • The work 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 required);

CPT authorization is granted on a semester-by-semester basis only. If you wish to continue your employment beyond the semester for which you’ve been authorized, you must follow the entire application process again, including the appropriate course registration for the option that you choose. It’s best to do this as soon as you register for the next semester so that our office will have the time to process your application.

  1. Print and complete the Application for Curricular Practical Training.
  2. Communicate with a qualified academic adviser. In order to be authorized for work authorization, an academic adviser from within your department must certify that you will register in an appropriate course/independent study, internship credit(s), or dissertation credit(s). Your academic adviser will be able to provide guidance for you as to the suitability of certain options available for registration that will qualify for CPT. If your advisor has questions, please have them contact the International Relations Office for assistance. Additionally, the Office of International Relations Office must have a signed CPT Application form with the Adviser’s recommendation and statement verifying the connection of registration in CPT-qualified credits to the work that will be done.
  3. Get a job offer letter.
    1. You must provide the International Relations Office with an offer letter from your prospective employer. This letter should be on company letterhead. The letter will need to state the following:
    2. The specific start date and specific end date for employment.
    3. The number of hours that will be worked per week.
    4. The physical location where the job will be conducted (an address listing street, city, state and ZIP code). P.O. Boxes are not accepted for this requirement.
    5. A description, as detailed as possible, of the job duties entailed in your work.
  4. Register for the appropriate course. Registration in appropriate credits is always required for terms in which you wish to have CPT authorization.


  1. Submit your job offer letter, completed CPT application form with Adviser Recommendation to the International Relations Office.

At this time we will need to see your I-20, your most recent I-94 record and your passport. Your complete application for CPT must be submitted to the International Relations Office at least two weeks before the employment is expected to begin. Please apply earlier when the college will be closed for the winter break or at the beginning and end of a semester, as those are particularly 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.

Of Special Note When Applying for CPT:

If you have found an internship or other work opportunity which is unpaid, the International Relations Office strongly recommends that you apply for CPT authorization prior to beginning that volunteer opportunity. On the chance that you would be offered compensation for your experience, you would only be able to accept it if you have CPT authorization. Apply for authorization before you begin working to ensure that you won’t run into problems.

Note: Working off-campus without authorization is a violation of status that will require termination of your SEVIS record!

Part Time versus Full Time CPT

Part-time CPT is for work up to 20 hours per week.

Full-time CPT is for work at or above 21 hours per week.

If you plan to work with part-time CPT authorization, you must enroll as a full-time student for the duration of the CPT. If you plan to work with full-time CPT authorization, your enrollment in CPT-qualified credits will be considered full-time.

If you hold a student hourly position on-campus and you wish to accept additional employment, please keep in mind that you are only eligible for a total of 20 hours/week for all jobs. If you wish to work more than 20 hours/week for all jobs combined, you must apply for CPT authorization for all jobs.

F-1 students can use an unlimited amount of part-time Curricular Practical Training and still get 12 months of Optional Practical Training following completion of studies. However, if a student uses more than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training, s/he will no longer be eligible for Optional Practical Training.

Tax Issues Social Security (FICA) should not be withheld from the wages of an F-1 student on CPT if the student is classified as a non-resident for tax purposes. Earnings are, however, still subject to federal, state, and local taxes. Look at IRS publication 519 ( pages 5 and 42 for more information.

CPT authorization results in a new page 3 of your I-20. Please staple this new page 3 to your current Continued Attendance I-20. This page will have a travel signature that will be valid for entry into the U.S. for one year.

The International Relations Office, in an effort to provide students with correct and pertinent information, would like to share some of our policy statements regarding the CPT authorization.

    1. You may not use incompletes for CPT authorization.
    2. You may receive CPT for no more than two terms of a particular independent study. Registration in both terms is required. Further independent study work will be required to have a different course number and different academic requirements.
    3. The International Relations Office enforces an enrollment policy for CPT that requires employment to correlate directly to academics. Enrollment in each semester (pursuant to the CPT option chosen) is mandatory.

Please note: Withdrawing from or dropping credits that are tied to CPT work authorization immediately cancels the CPT authorization. Work done without this authorization is illegal and a violation of status.

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment authorization which allows F-1 students to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience. Students may be approved for to up to 12 months of optional practical training per educational level. Optional Practical Training requires authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which typically takes 2-3 months to obtain. We recommend that students apply 3-4 months before they wish to begin employment.

  • Eligibility Requirements
    • To be eligible for optional practical training, you must:
      1. have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year,
      2. currently be maintaining a full-time program of study and valid F-1 status, and
      3. intend to work in a job directly related to your major field of study.

A job offer is not required to be eligible for or to apply for OPT, but the student is expected to work or to be actively seeking employment after the OPT approval card (EAD) is issued. Student must report all changes to employment status and employer information to Otero College within 10 days of the change. Students on OPT cannot be without employment for more than a total of 90 days from the start date of their OPT to the end date of their OPT and positions must be related to the field of study that a student has been engaged in and commensurate with your degree level.