Students in valid F-1 status may obtain off-campus work permission in certain circumstances. You can only be employed off-campus by meeting eligibility requirements and obtaining written authorization first. ALWAYS speak with an advisor at ISS before starting off-campus employment.
Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (link to handout) is work permission for students with fieldwork requirements or internship electives built into the curriculum of their programs. CPT may take place during the academic year and/or in the summer but not after completion of a course of study.
You must have authorization from ISS before you begin a paid or unpaid internship or any other form of curricular practical training. As an F-1 student your employment cannot begin until you receive your SEVIS I-20 with the curricular practical training endorsement.
To be eligible for CPT students must be lawfully enrolled in school on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year. There is no application fee for curricular practical training however students must enroll in the appropriate course.
The following three items are needed to process an application for curricular practical training:
- A job offer letter from your employer on their official letterhead: The letter needs to include the starting and ending dates of the placement, the number of hours per week of employments, and a brief description of duties to be performed.
- A letter or email from your Program Director or Academic Advisor recommending Curricular Practical Training.
- A copy of the registration for the appropriate CPT course.
Once the curricular practical training application is complete, the Office of International Students and Scholars will update your SEVIS record and print a copy of your I-20 with the CPT employment authorization. You must have the SEVIS I-20 in hand prior to commencing the employment.
It is important to note that CPT is job specific. A new application will be required if there is a change of employers or if the employment is to be continued beyond the current ending date. An updated offer letter and a new course registration are required.
Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (link to handout) is a benefit of F-1 status and entitles students to work permission in their field of study before or following completion of studies. OPT gives students an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work environment. Students must be lawfully enrolled in school on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year to be eligible for practical training.
Optional practical training is 12 months of work permission for each degree completed at a higher educational level. Students, with the assistance of ISS, must submit an application for OPT to the USCIS Immigration Service Center in order to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). An offer of employment is NOT required to apply for OPT, however you should not start working until you receive the EAD.
Students will be given a checklist and complete mailing instructions during their OPT appointment at the Office of International Students and Scholars. It can take as long as 3 months for the EAD card to be processed by the Immigration Service Center therefore, you should apply 90 days before your completion date.
Students pursuing degrees in certain majors (in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) may be eligible to apply for a 24 month OPT extension (link to STEM handout). You can check with ISS to see if your major qualifies as a STEM major. Students must be working in a job that is related to their field of study and their employer must be e-verified. Students can apply for the STEM extension starting 3 months before their OPT work permission is going to expire.
Students can track the progress of their OPT application on USCIS Case Status Service Online (add link).