Curricular Practical Training Overview
What is CPT?
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is temporary authorization for practical training directly related to your major field of study. Your major field of study is listed on your I-20.
“Practical training” can include employment, internship experience (paid or unpaid), cooperative (co-op) education experience, practicum participation, etc. CPT is authorized by the ISS office in accordance with the F-1 regulations. You can apply for CPT during the regular academic year (you must remain registered full-time) and during your annual vacation quarter.
CPT may be part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week). If you accumulate 12 months (365 or more days) of full-time CPT authorization, you lose your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT), another type of employment authorization for F-1 students. Part-time CPT and fewer than 12 months of full-time CPT authorization does not affect your OPT eligibility.
You may be eligible for CPT if you:
- Are currently in valid F-1 status.
- Have been enrolled at a college or university in the U.S. on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year.
(“One academic year” at WWU is defined as three full-time quarters 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 should be listed on the program’s website in the curriculum description.)
- Are in a major (Premajor students, who are not yet admitted into a major, are not eligible for CPT. CPT cannot be authorized based on a minor or certificate program).
- Will earn your degree from WWU (visiting exchange students are not eligible for CPT).
You may request authorization for CPT to participate in training that is integral to your established curriculum. Training may be required or optional for your degree. Required training must be clearly identified and described in the course catalog or similar publication.
If the training is not required by your major degree program, ISS requires you to register for and earn academic credit in your department for your training experience. This could be an internship, cooperative education program, practicum, or similar course through your academic department.
- Your academic department might not require you to earn credit for an optional training/work experience, but ISS requires academic credit be earned in order to authorize CPT.
- The credit must be earned in the same quarter for which CPT is authorized, though exceptions may be granted for students pursuing CPT during their vacation quarter.
- You must earn at least one CPT-related credit for each quarter 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 quarter, you must register for at least one additional course besides your CPT-credit. CPT-credit cannot be the only credit on your final quarter schedule unless it is fulfilling a degree requirement.
- Multiple CPT positions in one quarter: if you apply for CPT authorization for two different overlapping positions, you must register for a separate CPT-credit for each position. If the two positions do not overlap, no additional credit is required–the sequential positions can be linked to one CPT credit.
CPT Application Procedures
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. Please refer to our handout regarding the differences.
Do I have to be registered while on CPT?
You 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 may be considered as full-time students with fewer than 10 credits while on full-time CPT. This includes students registered for Engineering Co-op credits and student registered for thesis or dissertation credits along with their CPT-related credit.
Does CPT usage affect OPT eligibility?
You may use as much CPT as is required for your degree program. However, if you use a total of 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you are not eligible for OPT. Part-time CPT does not affect OPT in any way.
Do I need to have a job to apply for CPT?
You 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?
You can change within the limits of part-time or full-time. For example, you may change from 10 hours per week to 15 hours per week without a new authorization. However, if you change from part-time to full-time (or vice versa) you must request a new authorization.
Can I change employers?
Since CPT is employer specific you must apply for a new CPT authorization before you work for the new employer.
Can I extend my CPT?
You are authorized for specific dates of employment on your I-20. You may not begin before the start date or continue after the end date. You must apply for an extension in sufficient time to allow your ISS adviser to issue a new CPT authorization before you can continue beyond the end date of your current CPT.
For CPT extensions:
- If the new requested end date is prior to the start of the next academic quarter, ask your academic adviser to email the admissions department at WWU to request the extended CPT end date. Your academic adviser should copy you on the email request so you know ISS received the request.
- If the new requested end date overlaps with the next academic quarter, you must submit a new online CPT application.
Do I need a Social Security number?
Yes, you will need a Social Security number in order to receive payment from your employer.
Will I be required to pay Social Security and other taxes?
In general, as an F-1 student you will be exempt from Social Security (FICA) taxes for your first five years in the U.S. as long as you continue to declare nonresident status for tax purposes.
Unless you qualify under a tax treaty between the U.S. and your home government, your 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 your paychecks. For more information on taxes, consult the Internal Revenue Service.
Will I receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?
No. The CPT authorization on page 2 of your I-20 is your proof of employment eligibility and together with your I-94 record may be used to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 required by your employer.
If you employer has questions about documentation required for I-9 purposes, please refer them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ “I-9 Central” page, including the section about international students with training authorization.