Curricular Practical Training

Reminder: Do not begin any work until you have received your CPT I-20!

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) work authorization allows students in F-1 immigration status to gain practical experience in their major academic program prior to graduation. Normally, students seek CPT-eligible internships during summers between their sophomore and junior years and/or junior and senior years. CPT employment is considered to be an integral part of an established curriculum. Unless an internship is a degree requirement of all students in the major, full-time or part-time CPT may take place only in the summer. A good general principle is to approach CPT primarily from the curricular perspective, and only secondarily from the employment perspective.  When considering internship opportunities, keep in mind, 80% of the position duties should be directly related to your major curriculum. Because the U.S. Department of Labor uses a broad definition of employment – any activity for which a student receives a benefit which is monetary or otherwise – even unpaid internships require CPT authorization.  


Students must be in good academic standing and have been enrolled full-time for one year (two consecutive semesters) in F-1 status. The CPT experience must be directly related to the student’s major field of study. It may not be used in a student’s declared minor. CPT may only be used prior to the completion of a course of study. Speak to Shelley Palmer, the PDSO in the Center for Global Education before committing to any internship. Any student interested in pursuing CPT is encouraged to contact the PDSO about CPT rules and procedures.

Students may engage in work remotely, provided the employer can assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically. If the student will be required to work remotely, the employer must describe how they will provide the necessary oversight and assessment of the student’s learning objectives.

How to Apply

  •  Students must obtain an internship or employment offer before applying for CPT. Please consult with the PDSO for advise prior to accepting an internship.
  • Complete and submit a Summer CPT Form.
  • Once approved, your CPT employment recommendation will be submitted to SEVIS and a new I-20 with CPT authorization on page 2 will be issued to you within 5-7 business days. You will receive an email from the PDSO as soon as your CPT I-20 is ready. DO NOT begin work until your CPT is approved and you have received your new I-20.
  • Present this new I-20, along with your passport and I-94 record, as proof of employment authorization to your employer.

Remember: Students may not begin working until after CPT has been authorized and they have received their Form I -20 with PDSO endorsement on page 2.

Employment (Paid and Unpaid)

Employment is defined as any situation where one party provides services that benefit another, and in exchange receives some type of benefit from the party to whom the services were provided. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor consider both monetary and non-monetary compensation in exchange for services as employment. Thus, both paid and unpaid positions are considered “employment” and will need authorization before the start date of the work experience. All off-campus employment requires authorization. Failure to obtain proper authorization, even for an unpaid position, can result in a violation of status.

Under very narrow circumstances students may participate in limited unpaid volunteer activities without employment authorization (i.e., volunteering at a service or humanitarian organization). Before volunteering, please consult the PDSO to find out if authorization is required.

A Note of Caution to F-1 Students: Do not begin any off-campus employment (paid or unpaid) without first obtaining employment authorization and the CPT I-20 from the PDSO. Working off-campus without obtaining employment authorization is a serious violation of F-1 student status.