Curricular Practical Training (CPT): A Comprehensive Guide for International Students
Curricular Practical Training (CPT): A Comprehensive Guide for International Students
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a part of the student visa program in the United States designed for international students with F-1 visa status. It provides an opportunity for students to engage in employment experiences that are directly related to their academic studies. CPT provides a unique platform for international students to immerse themselves in the American workplace culture.
This guide explores Curricular Practical Training in the USA for international students covering basics, eligibility, benefits like work experience and networking, and the application process.
What Is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?
To work off-campus while studying, you can apply for Curricular Practical Training in the US. CPT is a type of work that is part of your study program. This includes internships or other work experiences that are part of your course requirements, often organized in partnership with employers and your school.
CPT is only available before you finish your degree, and you need to have a job offer when you apply. Also, working under CPT should not delay your graduation. If you're doing CPT during the fall and winter terms, you must also be enrolled in school full-time. Full-time means taking at least 12 credit hours if you're an undergraduate student, 8 hours if you're a graduate student, and 6 hours if you're a Graduate Student Instructor or Research Assistant. It's important to note that taking only the Rackham 998 course, which is 1 credit hour, doesn't count as full-time.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time CPT
Part-time CPT means working 20 hours or less each week. If you choose this, you need to be studying full-time and be on campus during the fall and winter terms to keep your F-1 visa status legal.
Full-time CPT is when you work more than 20 hours every week. Remember, if you do full-time CPT for 12 months or more, you won't be able to do Optional Practical Training (OPT) later. During the fall and winter, if you're doing full-time CPT, you must either be studying full-time or have permission for a Reduced Course Load (RCL).
Eligibility for Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
To be passed for CPT eligibility as authorized by a Designated School Official (DSO), here's what an F-1 student needs to meet:
- The student must have been studying full-time for at least one full academic year at a college, university, conservatory, or seminary that is certified by SEVP.
Note: If you are a graduate student and your program requires you to start training earlier, this one-year rule does not apply.
- The student should not be enrolled in an English as a Second Language (ESL) program.
- The student must have already found a training position.
- Your training must be directly related to your major area of study.
- Before you start work, a Designated School Official (DSO) must authorize your CPT in SEVIS, and this will be shown on your Form I-20.
- You must do the CPT before the end date of your study program on your Form I-20.
- The authorization is for a specific job with a specific employer and for a set period.
- You need to have a training opportunity lined up before your CPT can be approved.
Benefits of Work Study CPT
Let's explore the top benefits of Work Study CPT and how it can help you as an international student.
- Earn Money
With Work Study CPT, you can start earning while studying. This means you can support yourself financially in the US, reducing the need for family support. This financial independence allows you to focus more on your job and gain new knowledge and experiences.
- Develop Relevant Work Experience and Skills
CPT provides you with work experience that's closely related to your field of study. Unlike typical part-time jobs, CPT gives you a chance to gain skills and insights directly relevant to your career path, making your work experience more valuable for your future.
- Career Exploration and Development
CPT lets you explore different career options in your field. It helps you understand your strengths and what you enjoy doing, guiding you in making better career choices for your future.
- Increase Chances of Employment After Graduation
By participating in CPT, you gain real work experience in your field of study. This experience makes you more attractive to employers after you graduate, as you'll already have relevant skills and work history in your chosen area.
- Networking Opportunities
CPT allows you to meet and connect with professionals in your industry. These connections can be valuable for finding jobs in the future, getting career advice, and building a strong list of professional references.
How to Apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
To prepare for your application for Curricular Practical Training, follow these simple steps:
- Plan Ahead: Remember, it takes about 1-2 weeks for the International Center (IC) to process your CPT application. You'll need to gather some documents, which might take time.
- Take the Online Course: Complete the CPT Online Certification Course from your college or university. After finishing, print out the email that shows you completed the workshop.
- Talk to Your Employer: Get a Detailed Training Description from the company or employer where you plan to work.
- Meet with Your Advisor: Discuss your CPT plans with your Academic or Faculty Advisor. Show them the Detailed Training Description. If they agree it's important for your studies, they'll recommend you for CPT by filling out a special form. They might also help you enroll in a specific course for CPT if needed.
- Gather Your Documents: Collect all the necessary paperwork and apply to the CPT Program through your college or university. Make sure you have all the documents needed. Incomplete applications won’t be accepted.
- Wait for Review: An advisor will review your application. If everything is correct, they will approve your CPT and create a new I-20 form showing this approval. Normally, this takes around 1-2 weeks.
- Check Your Email: Wait for an email telling you your CPT I-20 is ready. Remember, you cannot start working, even unpaid until your CPT I-20 is printed.
- Sign Your CPT I-20: Once you get your CPT I-20, sign it and date it. Keep all your I-20 forms in a safe place.
- Begin Your Program: Inform your employer and provide them with any needed CPT documents. Start your CPT program on the given date.
What Is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
OPT meaning Optional Practical Training is a type of work training, usually paid, that is closely related to what you're studying. There are two kinds: one you can do while you're still in school, called pre-completion OPT, and one you can do after you graduate, called post-completion OPT. It's a good idea to talk to your Designated School Official (DSO) to see which type is best for you.
- You can apply for up to 12 months of OPT after finishing each level of your education, like an undergraduate or master's degree.
- If you're a student on an F-1 visa and your major is in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM), you might be able to get extra time for your OPT, called the STEM OPT Extension.
What Is The Difference Between CPT and OPT?
The main differences between CPT vs OPT are about when you can do them, what they involve, and their rules.
OPT allows students on an F-1 visa to work in their field of study either before or after graduation, for up to 12 months with a possible 24-month extension for STEM students. You don't need a specific job offer for OPT and it's not tied to an employer.
In contrast, CPT is only available before you graduate, and it must be directly related to your major. For CPT, you need a job offer related to your field, and it's usually part of an internship or co-op program. CPT is also authorized by your school (DSO), while OPT needs approval from USCIS.
CPT and OPT both offer great opportunities for international students in the U.S. to gain valuable work experience in their field of study. CPT is perfect for gaining hands-on experience before graduation, while OPT is a fantastic way to continue building skills after completing your studies.
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How do I obtain Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?
To obtain CPT, you must be an F-1 student, have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year, and have a job offer related to your field of study. You should complete the CPT certification course, obtain a detailed training description from your employer, and get authorization from your Designated School Official (DSO).
Can a student continue CPT placement if they have changed programs?
To continue employment under a new academic program, students don't need to take any extra steps. However, they must submit a new application for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). When applying, it's necessary to update the cooperative agreement and the job offer letter, ensuring they are dated within the last six months. This update is part of the new CPT application process.
What are the types of CPT?
There are two types of CPT: required and optional. Required CPT is mandatory as part of your academic program, while optional CPT is related to your field of study but not required for graduation.
Am I eligible for CPT?
Eligibility for CPT includes being an F-1 student enrolled full-time for at least one academic year, not being in an ESL program, having a job offer, and having the CPT be related to your major.
Does CPT Affect OPT?
Yes, if you use full-time CPT for 12 months or more, it can affect your eligibility for OPT.
Can You Apply for CPT and OPT at the Same Time?
Generally, you cannot be authorized for CPT and OPT at the same time as they serve different purposes and times in your academic career.
What are CPT hours for international students?
Part-time CPT working hours and duration allow for up to 20 hours per week of work, while full-time CPT working hours and duration allow for more than 20 hours per week.
What are the two types of F-1 practical training?
The two types of F-1 practical training are CPT and OPT.
Can an F1 student work as an independent contractor on CPT?
No, you must have an employer-employee relationship for CPT. Independent contracting is generally not permitted.
What happens if a student violates CPT rules?
Violating CPT rules can result in the loss of your F-1 status.
How to write a Curricular Practical Training report?
Focus on several key areas according to the curricular practical training regulations: the skills you used, what you learned in practice, how the internship influences your future career plans, your enjoyment and opinions about the work, any changes you would make based on what you learned, and how the internship relates to your first-year courses and future class choices. It's recommended to keep a weekly journal during your internship to track your experiences and learnings, which will make writing the final reflection easier.