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F-1 CPT/OPT Comparison

CPT or OPT – What’s the difference? Which do you qualify for? Here’s a comparison chart to help you know the differences and make an informed decision.

NOTE: Part-time is anything up to 20 hours per week; full-time is anything more than 20 hours per week but is typically 40 hours.

Curricular Practical Training Optional Practical Training

You MUST have already found a job before you can apply and wait for authorization from ISSS before you can begin any employment.

You should not plan on being able to begin work earlier than 90 days after you send your recommendation packet to USCIS. You MAY be able to, but there is no guarantee and no way to expedite. You cannot begin working until you receive your EAD card and only on the start date of the card.

CPT is directly related to a particular job. You have received a job/training offer from a prospective employer.

OPT is NOT directly related to a particular job. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have received a job offer.

CPT is a required or optional part of the established curriculum for your major, as listed in the course catalog as an internship, practicum, work experience, or co-op—and you must be registered for such course throughout your CPT.

OPT is directly related to your major, but is not part of the curriculum.

CPT must be done while you are enrolled as a full-time student in a degree-seeking program (you must register for a minimum of one credit hour during the Summer semester; you may get permission to register less-than-full-time during your graduating semester).

OPT is typically done following completion of at least course requirements, usually following completion of all degree requirements.

There is no time limit, though one year full-time CPT will replace your eligibility for OPT. (Any amount of part-time CPT will have no effect on your eligibility for OPT).

OPT – one year allowed per person, per degree level (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate) as you progress. You may not, for example, get OPT for a second Bachelor’s degree after beginning a Master’s degree program.

CPT is approved in ISSS, and takes 15 business days to process.

OPT application is processed in ISSS within 15 business days. USCIS approval generally takes 2-3 months after they receive the application.