University of Houston-Victoria

International Programs

CPT Curricular Practical Training

Overview

If you wish to accept employment off-campus, you should pursue Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT is defined as employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including: “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” Source: [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)]. CPT is available only prior to the completion of your degree program and you must have a job offer at the time of application. CPT employment should not delay completion of your academic program unless your academic program “requires a completion of an internship” from all students in the program.

Students must maintain full-time enrollment during fall and spring CPT. Full-time enrollment is 12 credit hours for undergraduate students, 9 credit hours for graduate students and 6 credit hours for Graduate Biomedical students (after 1st year).

The full-time enrollment requirement means that most students must limit their CPT during the academic year to local jobs or to working for their employer remotely, on a part-time basis (20 hours). In other words, when you as an F-1 student are required to be enrolled fulltime in classes for fall and spring, you cannot complete a fulltime CPT. Fulltime CPT is only available during summer semester.  

 

Types of CPT: There are two types of CPT: required and optional. Required CPT is available the academic program mandates practical work experience for all students in order to graduate. Optional CPT is work experience directly related to your field of study that is not required.

What is CPT? Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is temporary authorization for practical training directly related to your major field of study—paid or unpaid. CPT is authorized by the International Programs.

CPT is an academic experience and is not intended to be used for regular on-going off-campus work. Students should be mindful to keep all records of CPT and the academic work related to CPT, and how that employment is integral to the degree program. Students will need to retain copies of all previous CPT I-20s when applying later for OPT.

Accrual of part-time CPT should not negatively affect eligibility for OPT. While there are no limitations on part-time CPT, high CPT usage can cause DHS to subject records to increase scrutiny when the student applies for OPT, visa applications, or other DHS benefits like H-1B petitions. UC Berkeley has noted a significant increase in Requests for Evidence for STEM OPT applications and H-1Bs for students with high rates of CPT usage.

“Practical training” can include:

  • Employment
  • Internship experience (paid or unpaid)
  • Cooperative (co-op) education experience
  • Practicum participation

Hours 
CPT authorization can be:

  • Part-time (20 hours per week or less)
  • Full-time (more than 20 hours per week)
  • During the regular academic year (you must also register for full-time credits)
  • During your annual vacation semester

Students who accumulate 12 months (365 or more days) of full-time CPT authorization, lose their eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT).  Part-time CPT authorization, or fewer than 12 months of full-time CPT authorization, does not affect OPT eligibility. Multiple overlapping, part-time CPTs may count as full-time CPT days for OPT eligibility.

Eligibility

  • Are currently in valid F-1 status
  • F-1 student in good academic standing with UHV, in good legal status with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis, in the same SEVIS ID, for at least one full academic year (fall, spring and summer semester) at a SEVIS approved school. 
    • “One academic year” at UHV is defined as fall, spring and summer semester per the academic calendar, including final exams week.
    • An exception to the academic year rule is provided for graduate students whose programs require immediate participation in CPT. The program requirement must be for all students in the program and listed in the program’s online curriculum description.
    • Students who transferred their SEVIS records directly to UHV from a previous college in the U.S. may count study time at the previous school as long as courses from the previous institution is transferred towards the UHV degree plan.
    • Students transferring their SEVIS record directly to UHV from non-academic programs (such as ESL program, Kaplan Test Prep Programs) are not eligible to count the previous U.S. institution time.
    • Students on a valid F-1 status, who departs the U.S. or takes leaves of absence and returns to UHV on a new initial Form I-20 with a new SEVIS ID (in lieu of an actual transfer in SEVIS), cannot count the time they spent studying at a previous school.
  • Are in a major
    • Premajor students are not eligible for CPT
    • CPT cannot be authorized based on a minor or certificate program
  • Will earn internship course credits in your academic department for the CPT experience
    • See more details in the “Credit Requirement” section below
    • Consult your academic department adviser about internship credits
    • You must also be advancing in a normal progress towards completing the academic program. Students cannot use CPT as to prolong time to complete the academic program.
    • If you have not requested CPT, but you are on your final semester at UHV and your graduation is confirmed by the UHV Registrar then you are not able to complete a CPT. You will need to wait until OPT is approved. 
  • Have a job or internship offer (Don’t start the job before getting CPT approval; CPT authorization is specific to the training position)
  • CPT is not available after a student completes a degree program.

Course Credit Requirement

UHV DSO advisors can authorize CPT for an activity that is “integral to your established curriculum,” as allowed by the immigration rules. How do we assess this?

A training activity must be either:

  • Required for all students in your degree program for graduation (the requirement must be clearly outlined in the curriculum description online) OR
  • Optional and credit-bearing; this means you have checked with your academic department and confirmed you can earn internship credits in your academic department according to the rules below.

Credit requirement for optional CPT:

  • This is an International Programs requirement: even if your academic department does not require you to earn credit for optional training/work experience, International Programs requires the credit as an International student.
  • The credit could be an internship, cooperative education program, practicum, independent study, or similar course through your academic department—your department adviser can help identify the appropriate course. Internship courses outside of your academic department usually do not qualify for CPT
  • The credit must be earned in the same semester for which CPT is authorized.
  • You must earn at least one CPT-related credit for each semester of authorization granted.
  • Graduate students may not use thesis or dissertation credit to fulfill the CPT credit requirement.
  • If you apply for CPT authorization in your final semester, you must register for at least one additional course in addition to your CPT-credit. CPT-credit cannot be the only credit on your final semester schedule unless it is fulfilling a degree requirement.
  • Multiple CPT positions in one semester: if you apply for CPT authorization for two different overlapping positions, you must register for a separate CPT-credit for each position. Multiple overlapping, part-time CPTs may count as full-time CPT days for OPT eligibility. It is your responsibility to keep track of your hours and provide this information to USCIS when applying for OPT, if needed. If the two positions do not overlap, no additional credit is required–the sequential positions can be linked to one CPT credit.

Department Adviser/ Academic Advisor Role with CPT

Department advisers must assist with the CPT application to identify internship course credit. Every department and School on campus handles internship credits differently.
Students are responsible for determining how their academic department manages internship credit.

A Department Adviser/ Internship Coordinator may be:

  • Major academic adviser
  • Graduate program coordinator
  • Faculty Program coordinator
  • Success Coaches for those students with 45 credits

The department adviser/ internships coordinator is responsible for completing the “Adviser Section” of the CPT application on your behalf; this person should be familiar with the student’s degree program and job/internship offer.

Provide your department adviser/internship coordinator with this information before you apply for CPT through International Programs:

  • Expected graduation semester/ year
  • Course number of credit you will earn for CPT (unless the work is required for all students in your degree program)
  • Number of credits you will earn in the semester of CPT authorization
  • Which semester you will register for CPT-related credit
    (Example:if your proposed employment is from January 25 to April 15, you must earn CPT-related credit in spring semester.)
    (Vacation semesters/ Summer semester if you will apply for CPT during your annual vacation semester- the CPT credit must be for summer semester timeframe.
  • Brief description of proposed work experience and how it relates to your major/field of study
  • Name of your employer (Caution! If you are working for a staffing or recruiting agency, confirm with them if they must be listed as your employer).
  • Employer’s (work site) address: street address, city, state, and zip code
  • Notify adviser to expect an email invitation to complete the “Adviser Section” of your CPT application.

How to Apply

Do not start a job or internship until you receive CPT authorization from International Programs (new I-20). Allow 5 business days for completion by International Programs.

Application Overview:

  • Submit the completed CPT application to the International Programs, along with the following documents:
  • Coordinate with department adviser to ensure they have all the necessary info to complete CPT application.
  • Contact the International Programs to receive the necessary forms to submit
  • Find a job/internship offer
  • Contact your department adviser/ internship coordinator to learn about the internship course credit policy in your academic department.
  • Confirm eligibility for CPT
    • Internship confirmation letter
    • CPT form/ completed by the student and the academic advisor/ internship coordinator
    • A statement from the student indicating how the internship is related to the student degree plan
    • Evidence of CPT credit registration for the semester student is requesting CPT
  • Do not begin working until (a) you have received your I-20 endorsed for CPT and (b) the date listed on page 2 of your new I-20.
  • You might need to contact your employer/CPT supervisor to defer your start date if you don’t allow enough time for International Programs to process your documents.
  • You will receive an email notification from International Programs when your CPT approval (new I-20) is ready for you to sign.
  • Review your CPT authorization (printed on page 2 of your new I-20).
  • Think of your CPT application and authorization as a contract. Follow the rules of the authorization; don’t work outside of the start and end dates.
  • Register for the required CPT-credits indicated in your CPT application. If you forget, you will not be eligible for future CPT or OPT.
  • Notify International Programs of any changes, such as ending the training position early, not completing the job, etc.
  • If your CPT position is paid, and you do not have a Social Security Number, work with International Programs on applying for your Social Security Number.
  • If your CPT position is paid, use your new I-20 with CPT approval, together with your passport and I-94 record, as proof of your eligibility to work. These documents may be used to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 that all U.S. employers are required to complete.

After CPT Approval

CPT Updates (Extensions, Shortens, Etc.): Extension vs. new application

Extension: If the new requested end date is before the start of the next academic semester. For extensions, work with the International Programs on CPT update. You will need to complete a new application and enroll in CPT-credits.

New Application: If the new requested end date overlaps with the next academic semester, this is not an extension. You must submit a CPT application following the items described at How to Apply.

CPT shortened end dates:
If you stop your position early, notify International Programs immediately through email at international@uhv.edu  You will still be required to register for and earn CPT-related credit according to the application.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the difference between Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT)?CPT is employment that is an integral part of your major curriculum and allows you to participate in an internship, practicum or cooperative education program. CPT must be required or, if not required, you must receive course credit. CPT is employer specific and must be done before you graduate. OPT is optional for any student who meets the eligibility requirements and you do not need to earn credit. OPT is not employer specific and may be done before or after you graduate.

Do I have to be registered while on CPT?Students must maintain F-1 student status, which generally requires full-time registration. Most students are required to register as full-time students while on CPT. In some cases, graduate students, depending on degree program requirements, may be considered as full-time students with fewer than 9-credits while on full-time CPT.

I am a brand-new student entering UHV for the Undergraduate or Graduate program on an initial I-20. When Am I eligible to take part in CPT?If you are an international student entering UHV as a brand new student then you must meet UHV one academic year. UHV’s policy on one academic year is fall, spring and summer. Example, if you are entering UHV for the first time in spring, one academic year is the following spring.

I am not a brand new student to UHV, but I took leave of absence returned home and I am now entering UHV on a new I-20/ new SEVIS ID. When do I become eligible for CPT?Unfortunately, since you departed the U.S. you must meet the UHV one academic year in order to be eligible for CPT.

As a SEVIS transfer undergraduate or graduate student my course work was transferred to UHV then am I immediately eligible for CPT?Yes, if you are a SEVIS transfer student and course work you completed at SEVIS Transfer-OUT campus is transferred over to UHV in to your degree plan then yes you are eligible to start your CPT as long as you have met the one year (12 months) legal F-1 status in the U.S.
Same academic program or SEVIS out institution course work transferred to the UHV degree plan. Pre-requisites cannot be counted for CPT authorization.

However, if a student leaves the United States and returns on a new Initial Form I-20 with new SEVIS ID (in lieu of an actual transfer in SEVIS), the student cannot count the time spent studying at a previous school.

SEVIS transfer as a brand new Graduate or Undergraduate student; can I take part in CPT?Immigration regulations clearly states that SEVIS transfer students can enroll in CPT if they meet legal F-1 status for 12 months. However, if you are entering for a new academic level (such as you were a bachelor’s degree student now transferring to UHV as a graduate student then we strongly recommend that you complete at least one semester (graduate course work, not pre-requisite course work) at UHV as a graduate student before requesting CPT. SEVIS transfer undergraduate students can apply for CPT as long as they have maintained legal F-1 status for 12 months and course work you completed at SEVIS Transfer-out campus must transfer over to your degree plan at UHV. ESL programs, Kaplan Test center program students are not eligible for CPT until one academic year is met at UHV. One academic year means fall, spring and summer. If you enrolled in spring term, then it is summer, fall and spring.

Does CPT usage affect OPT eligibility?Students may use as much CPT as is required for their degree program. However, when authorized for a total of 12 months of full-time CPT, students are not eligible for OPT. Multiple overlapping, part-time CPTs may count toward this limit; otherwise, part-time CPT does not affect OPT.

Do I need to have a job to apply for CPT?Students must have an offer of employment to apply for CPT since the authorization is for a specific employer.

Can I change the number of hours I work?Students may change within the limits of part-time or full-time. For example, students may change from 10 hours per week to 15 hours per week without a new authorization. However, students who want to change from part-time to full-time (or vice versa) must request a new authorization.

Can I change employers?Since CPT is employer specific, students must apply for a new CPT authorization before you work for the new employer.

Can I extend my CPT?Students are authorized for specific dates of employment on their I-20. Students may not begin before the start date or continue after the end date. Students must apply for an extension with sufficient time to allow the assigned International Programs adviser to issue a new CPT authorization before continuing beyond the end date of the current CPT.

Do I need a Social Security number?Maybe, students will need a Social Security Number in order to receive payment from an employer if CPT is paid. If CPT is unpaid then you are not required to apply for a Social Security Number and you may use your Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) if you have one assigned to you.

Will I be required to pay Social Security and other taxes?In general, F-1 students are generally exempt from Social Security (FICA) taxes for the first five years in the U.S. as long as the student continues to declare nonresident status for tax purposes.

Unless the student qualifies under a tax treaty between the U.S. and their home government, earnings as an F-1 student will be subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes, and employers are required to withhold those taxes from paychecks. For more information on taxes, consult the Internal Revenue Service.

Will I receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?The CPT authorization on page 2 of the I-20 is proof of employment eligibility and together with the I-94 record may be used to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 required by an employer.

If an employer has questions about documentation required for I-9 purposes, please refer them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ “I-9 Central” webpage, including the section about international students with training authorization.

Do I need to maintain UHS Health Insurance if I am completing CPT for the summer semester?Yes, if your CPT is in the U.S. and you are in the U.S. then yes. If you are completing the CPT out of the U.S. and you are residing out of the U.S. then no, but work with International Programs when you should return to the U.S. and how your health insurance will apply.If your CPT is during fall and spring then you are required to have UHS insurance.

Immigration Resources:
https://www.ice.gov/sevis/f1-transfers#tab3
https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevis-help-hub/student-records/fm-student-employment/f-1-curricular-practical-training-cpt
https://www.ice.gov/sevis/practical-training
https://internationaloffice.berkeley.edu/students/employment/cpt
https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/complete-correct-form-i-9/completing-section-1-employee-information-and-attestation/foreign-academic-students
https://internationalcenter.umich.edu/students/f1-students/cpt

Updated 04/14/2021