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What is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is work authorization that allows F-1 international students to participate in paid/unpaid off-campus practical training during their degree program. "Practical training" can include employment, internship experience (paid or unpaid), cooperative (co-op) education experience, practicum participation, etc. The purpose of CPT is academic, not just for employment purposes, and the internship must be considered an integral part of a student’s degree program. Students must have a specific job/internship offer to apply. Students CANNOT accept any kind of compensation for work performed in an unpaid internship.

Who is eligible to apply for CPT?

Students who have been in F-1 student status for at least one academic year in a degree-seeking program can apply for CPT if they have properly maintained F-1 status each semester. The only exception to this rule applies to students who are in a degree programs where all students in the academic program are required to do internship/practicum hours sooner to fulfill degree requirements and this is clearly stated in the WVU course catalog.

What is the difference between required and optional CPT?

Required CPT is defined as training/employment which is required of all degree candidates in the program and is necessary for the awarding of the degree. This requirement must be formally documented in the WVU catalog. Optional CPT is not required for the awarding of the degree, but is considered an integral part of a student’s degree program and the training employment will result in awarding of academic credit.

I want to find a full-time internship and not enroll in classes during a regular semester (fall or spring) Can I apply for CPT?

Full-time CPT can only be authorized in your annual vacation term (summer) and during breaks between terms. The exception is if the CPT is required for all students in a particular academic program, during a particular semester in the academic year, and clearly stated in the WVU course catalog. Otherwise you’re required to maintain your full-time enrollment during fall and spring semesters and work no more than 20 hours per week in order to maintain your F-1 status, regardless of your CPT work plans.

Can I do full-time CPT and still be eligible for the full 12 months of optional practical training (OPT)?

Yes. However, students who have been authorized for 12 months of full-time CPT become ineligible for OPT. USCIS will count the days of CPT authorization, and if you have had 365 days or more of full-time CPT, you will be INELIGIBLE for OPT. But any amount of full-time CPT adding up to less than 12 months has no impact on OPT eligibility, and part-time CPT does not impact OPT eligibility at all.

My degree program does not require an internship, does this mean I cannot participate in an off campus internship?

Not necessarily. You may still be eligible to apply for CPT if you and your Academic Advisor can document how the training is an integral part of your course of study still in progress. You will be required to enroll in either an internship credit or an independence study course specifically designed for this purpose.

I work on campus for less than 20 hours per week and I have been offered an internship off campus. Am I eligible to apply for CPT?

While school is in session a student may only engage in a maximum of 20 hours of employment per week, regardless of whether they are engaged in employment on or off campus. So if you meet the eligibility requirements for CPT, you may be authorized for part-time CPT for additional hours not to exceed 20 hours per week.  Graduate assistantships count as 20 hours of permissible work per week.

I hold a Graduate Assistantship. Am I eligible to apply for CPT?

No. While school is in session a student may only engage in a maximum of 20 hours of employment per week.

I have just been offered an internship opportunity. Can I begin work immediately?

No. You must apply for CPT at least five business days before you wish to begin work. You must have been approved for and have received an updated I-20 signed by ISSS and endorsed for CPT before you may begin work. Your CPT endorsed I-20 is what you’ll show your employer that you are authorized to work off campus.

Do I need to apply for CPT for an unpaid internship?

Yes. Remember CPT is often off campus employment. You should apply for work authorization for any internship/off campus employment/practicum, even if you will not be paid.

May I volunteer for an off-campus organization without CPT authorization?

Even if you are not being paid for work you are performing off campus, you may still require CPT authorization. "Volunteer work" is considered work for which no one would be paid and is charitable in nature, such as helping in a soup kitchen or walking dogs at an animal shelter. If you are working for a company, and doing work in your field of study, this would be considered "unpaid employment," which does require work authorization such as CPT.

I’m still confused, so what is the difference between unpaid internship and volunteering?

There is a difference between volunteering and engaging in an unpaid internship. Volunteering refers to donating time with an organization whose primary purpose is charitable or humanitarian in nature, without remuneration or any other type of compensation. Internships, both paid and unpaid, are primarily offered by the private sector and related to the intern’s field of study. The U.S. Department of Labor has guidelines for those seeking an unpaid internship:

Do I have to take classes while on CPT?

You must be enrolled as a full-time student during the semester of your part-time CPT work. If you are on authorized full-time CPT during your annual vacation term, you must be enrolled for at least an internship or independent study course that gives you academic credit for the work you are performing on CPT.

My department/college does not have a specific internship course. Can I still participate in CPT?

Yes, as long as your Academic Advisor can identify an appropriate course for you to enroll in that will give you credit for the work you are performing on CPT. Some departments will enroll students in independent study credits for CPT.

Is there a minimum credit requirement for the independent study and/or internship course?

There is no minimum credit requirement for CPT. However, you must receive at least one hour of credit, and you must maintain your full-time enrollment during fall and spring.

Can I use my current CPT authorization for another internship since it has not yet expired?

No. A CPT authorization is a job-specific authorization, so you must submit a complete new application to ISSS for review if you wish to hold additional employment.

What should I do if I quit my training before the original anticipated CPT authorization end date?

You should contact ISSS immediately so that we can amend your authorization dates. This is especially important when you were authorized for full-time CPT, so that this time will not count against your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Do I need to submit proof of enrollment for the past academic year?

No. ISSS will verify your enrollment history through the University Registrar's Office. However, if you recently transferred to WVU and wish to begin work on CPT prior to having been enrolled at WVU for one academic year, you will need to provide us with transcripts from your previous school to show that you have fulfilled the enrollment requirement.

How do I know that I am authorized for CPT? And when may I begin work?

Prior to beginning your training you must be in possession of an updated Form I-20, which will be properly endorsed with the CPT authorization on page three. Employment before or after your authorized dates of training is considered ILLEGAL employment with immigration ramifications.


Note: Keep ALL original copies of any CPT I-20’s given to you. These will be required for future USCIS benefit applications such as for H-1Bs, Permanent Residency etc.