Overview of CPT

The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) defines Curricular Practical Training (CPT) as an alternative study, internship, cooperative education, or other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by a sponsoring employer through a U.S. College or University.  

CPT is only available for current F-1 students when it is part of an established curriculum within a school. CPT must be integral to your major program of study. It cannot be authorized for work related to your minor, concentration, or previous major.

CPT is not intended for general, ongoing work authorization, or as a bridge to employment after graduation. True volunteer work (i.e., at a food bank or animal shelter) does not require CPT. However, any internship, whether it is paid or unpaid, requires CPT authorization.

If authorized, CPT authorization is for specific dates, a specific employer, and specific location. Any practical training or employment that begins prior to the authorized start date or occurs after the authorized end date is considered unauthorized employment and will result in the loss of your legal status inside the US. This include “volunteering” and participating in orientation, training, or welcome sessions with a prospective employer. ISS requires 10 business days to process a CPT application, so please plan accordingly.

All international students enrolled at Purdue University are required to comply with the mandatory health insurance policy.

 Source: [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)]


Who Is Eligible to Apply for CPT

You may be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) if you:

  • Are currently in valid F-1 student status;
  • Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year (i.e. two full consecutive fall/spring or spring/fall semesters) and have not had any gaps in required enrollment or status since your last date of enrollment.
    • Exceptions to the one academic year requirement are provided for students enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in curricular practical training. If your degree program requires employment authorization before you have met the one full academic year requirements, please see an ISS immigration counselor.
    • Note: if you’ve had a gap in study or a status violation, the one academic year is recalculated from the date you have reestablished valid F-1 status, or resumed your full-time enrollment.
  • Have a job offer for a job directly related to your major field of study
    • The job offer must be an official job offer letter on the organization's letterhead, must be signed by the prospective employer and must include the following: company name; employer's official address; the physical address where you will be working; the exact start and exact end dates of employment; the number of hours per week; and a description of your job duties.
  • Are pursuing major for which a degree may be awarded (undergraduate students who have not declared a major are not yet eligible for CPT)

Types of CPT

ISS can only authorize CPT if you meet all eligibility requirements, and the proposed employment is directly related to your major field of study and meets one of the two conditions below:

  • Required for Degree Completion
    • For students in programs which require practical training to earn a degree. This requirement must be formally documented in your department’s publications. Included in this category is employment in a required internship or practicum. There are only a few academic programs at Purdue which require off-campus employment for all degree candidates.

  • Recommended for Academic Credit

    • For students in programs which do not require practical training, but for whom the training is being used to fulfill electives or to complete research, and would be highly recommended. This may include:

      • Graduate students in dissertation or thesis status where the student’s research involves innovative technology only available at a particular corporation or research facility, or where the employment involves collecting data essential for completing the dissertation/thesis.

      • Students completing requirements for a course that is a part of their established curriculum.

      • CPT that is recommended for academic credit, and which is not required for degree completion is generally limited to a maximum of two semesters.

Course/Credit Requirement for CPT - Read Me!

Failure to enroll in, pay for, and complete the associated course or research credit during the semester you participate in the practical training will result in a violation (and termination of) of your lawful visa status. Please read the information below carefully.

 

All students authorized for CPT (regardless of whether it is required or a recommended elective) must enroll in, pay for, and complete the course or research credit associated with the CPT authorization. The course or research credit must appear on the student's academic transcript, and the student must receive a completed grade in the course. The course or research credit must appear on the schedule/transcript in the same semester for which the student is authorized to participate in CPT.

The specific course or research credit required for CPT varies by academic department. Students must discuss the course or research credit requirement with their academic/faculty advisor or graduate coordinator. The number of credit hours may also vary from zero to three or more.

How is CPT Authorized?

A request for authorization for curricular practical training must be made to the ISS office: authorization for CPT is granted by a Designated School Official (DSO) (a/k/a Immigration Counselor). A student may begin curricular practical training ONLY after receiving her/his I-20 with the DSO endorsement/authorization for CPT. The CPT authorization will be printed on page 2 of the I-20.  Students will need to provide their original I-20, with CPT authorization to the employer to prove employment eligibility or eligibility to participate in the internship/practicum experience. 

The CPT authorization is very specific to the employer, location, and start and end dates provided in your offer letter. The authorization is also based on the specific course or research credit associated with the CPT authorization. If anything about your employment or the course or research credit is going to change, students MUST receive authorization from ISS before the change occurs.  Students must obtain documentation in advance from the employer to request changes to an authorization. Any requests to change a CPT authorization should be provided to the DSO that authorized the original CPT, a minimum of ten business days in advance of the effective date of the change.

 

Important Note: Working beyond the scope of the authorized employment may be a very serious violation of your F1 status.

 

  • Example of Correct Procedure for changes to a CPT authorization: You have been authorized to work at Employer A from 5/18/16 – 8/10/16. Close to the end of your internship, your supervisor asks you to stay an extra week until 8/17/16 to finish a project. For you to be able to do this, your employer must document the request in writing so you can forward it to the designated school official that authorized your CPT indicating the exact new end date of the CPT.  Your DSO will then advise you on any additional steps before making the adjustment to your CPT authorization. You finish your project and internship on good terms.

 

  • Example of Incorrect Procedure in CPT Change: You have been authorized to work at Employer A from 5/18/16 – 8/10/16. Close to the end of your internship, your supervisor asks you to stay an extra week until 8/17/16 to finish a project. You are too busy working and forget to do anything. You remember on 8/11/16 and call ISS to inform them your CPT needs to be extended. Unfortunately, you have already worked one extra day beyond your CPT authorization, so you are already in violation of your student visa status. ISS informs you that this violation jeopardizes your ability to remain in the US and that you should come in to the office to discuss your options. 

Health Insurance Requirements

All international students are required to purchase and/or maintain the Purdue sponsored health insurance benefits while enrolled at Purdue University.  Because CPT is integral to your established curriculum and is associated with a course or research credit which you must enroll in, pay for, and receive a completed grade for, you must purchase/maintain your Purdue sponsored health insurance benefits while participating in CPT in the United States.

When to Apply for CPT and When is CPT Authorized?

When to Apply

You may apply for CPT up to 90 days before the end of the semester prior to when you would like to begin working on CPT. You must apply no later than 10 business days prior to your intended start date to give ISS sufficient time to process your application.

  • Ex. You have a summer internship offer and intend to start in May. You may begin the CPT application process as early as February.

When is CPT Authorized 

CPT can be authorized for fall, spring, and summer semesters, and is authorized on a semester-by-semester basis. A new CPT application (including all necessary application documents and registration of CPT course/research credit) is required for each semester, including summer sessions. If you exceed one year of full-time CPT, you become ineligible to for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Undergraduates and Master’s Non-Thesis students may not participate in CPT in their final semester unless the practical training is required for degree completion.

CPT may be part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week).

  • Full-time CPT:
    • Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time. If you accumulate more than one year of full-time CPT authorization, you lose your eligibility to apply for OPT.
    • Full-time CPT authorization and enrollment in your CPT course meet the normal full-time registration requirement during fall and spring semesters if
      • the number of working hours per week is equal to or greater than 32 hours.  Working 21 - 31 hours per week does NOT meet the full-time enrollment requirement and must be combined with other coursework to meet full-time enrollment requirements.
      • For start and end dates that don't cover the entire semester, the number of unemployment days in the semester must be less than 30 days. For example, if the semester starts Jan 13th, then the latest CPT can start is Feb 12th if the end date is on the last day of classes or later.
  • Part-time CPT: Employment for 20 hours per week or less is considered part-time. There is no penalty for the length of time you may participate in part-time CPT, as long as it continues to meet all requirements for CPT authorization and is integral to the program's established curriculum (see types of CPT). Part-time CPT does not impact eligibility for OPT. If you are authorized for part-time CPT during a fall or spring semester, you must also be registered full-time as a student (12 hours for undergraduates, 8 hours for graduate students) and taking the classes on campus.

How to Apply for CPT

Step 1: Obtain job offer letter

Find a job and obtain an official offer letter. The letter must be on company letterhead that is signed by the prospective employer. The letter must include the company name, the physical address where you will be working, the start and end dates of employment, the hours per week, and your job duties. Circle the required information on the offer letter. If your offer letter is missing any of this information, you may obtain an email with the additional information from the company and include the email with the offer letter in your CPT application.

Step 2: Receive departmental approval for CPT from Academic Advisor, Co-Op Coordinator, Department Head, or Dean

You must discuss your practical training opportunity and course or research requirement with your academic advisor, Co-Op Coordinator, Department Head, or Dean and receive departmental approval before proceeding. If you are unsure who to meet with, please contact your department for instructions.

Step 3: Complete “CPT Statement of Understanding” and “Offer Letter Verification” e-forms

As your first step in the online application process, you will log in to myISS at https://connect.iss.purdue.edu and navigate to the “F-1 and J-1 Student Services” category. Find the “Curricular Practical Training (CPT)” e-form and click on it. Follow the instructions to complete the “CPT Statement of Understanding” e-form and the “Offer Letter Verification” e-form. You will get an email confirmation upon submission of the job offer letter. ISS will evaluate your job offer letter to confirm it contains all required information. This typically takes three business days.

Step 4: Register for CPT course or research credit

Register for your CPT course or research credit. You can find the course description in MyPurdue.

Step 5: Complete “Immigration Documents Upload” and “CPT Course and Academic Advisor Verification” e-forms

Once ISS has verified your job offer letter contains the required information, you will be granted access to the next step in your application. You will log back in to myISS to upload your passport and I-94 Arrival Record using the link provided by ISS. Then you will navigate back to your CPT application e-form. Do not “start a new request.” Instead, click on your previous submission to continue the application. Click on the “CPT Course and Academic Advisor Verification” e-form and fill in the appropriate information.

Step 6: Wait for processing

Upon submission of these e-forms, your academic advisor will be notified and required to submit their recommendation before we may begin evaluating the request. You will receive email notification from ISS when your advisor has submitted their recommendation. At that time, your application will be forwarded to ISS for processing. ISS processing time will take approximately 5 business days from the date we receive all required e-forms and documents, and your academic advisor's recommendation.

To be fair to all students, ISS processes requests in the order in which they are received and cannot accommodate expedite requests. Do not work in any capacity, paid or unpaid, until you receive authorization from ISS.

Step 7: Receive your I-20 from ISS

If all eligibility requirements are met, ISS will create a new I-20 reflecting the authorization. ISS will contact you via email after your I-20 has been created and is ready to be picked up. The CPT authorization will be printed on page 2 of your I-20. Do not participate in any activities with the employer until the start date of the CPT authorization as shown on page 2 of the new I-20.  Make sure you sign and date your new I-20.

Changes in or Extension of CPT Authorization

CPT is authorized for specific dates, so if those dates need to change, you must receive authorization for the change beforehand. You must give ISS 10 business to process any changes to your CPT authorization. 

 

To Extend Your CPT Authorization Within a Semester:

If you wish to extend your CPT authorization for a few days within a semester, your employer must provide written confirmation in the form of a new offer letter or email specifying the new end date. You must provide this verification to the official who authorized your CPT 10 business days prior to the current end date. 

 

To Extend Your CPT Authorization for Another Semester:

If you wish to extend your CPT authorization for another semester, you must apply for a new period of CPT authorization, as CPT is authorized on a semester-by-semester basis. You must apply a minimum of 10 business days before your current CPT expiration to avoid any gap in employment.

 

To Shorten CPT End Date:

Your employer must provide written confirmation in the form of a new offer letter or email specifying the new end date. You must provide this verification to the official who authorized your CPT 10 business days prior to the new end date. 

 

To Cancel CPT:

If you wish to cancel your CPT authorization before it begins, your employer must provide written confirmation that you have not worked for them. Please provide this verification to the official who processed your CPT before your CPT start date, allow up to 10 business days to process the change.

If you have worked any time with your employer but wish to stop your employment and cancel the rest of your CPT authorization, please see the instructions above for shortening your CPT end date, and discuss your plans to maintain your immigration status with an Immigration Counselor in the ISS office.

Cooperative Education (Co-Op) Programs

Cooperative Education (Co-Op) programs can provide a strong and meaningful complement to the formal education of students. International students may be eligible for co-op programs. It is important to note that international students must apply for CPT for the work authorization to work during their co-op sessions. Acceptance into a Co-Op program is not employment authorization.

3-Session Co-Op: Typically, international students are able to complete a 3-session co-op using three semesters of CPT authorization. If you complete your 3 sessions using less than one year of full-time CPT authorization, you should still be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after you graduate.

5-Session Co-Op: International students can participate in 5-session co-ops, but it requires detailed, advanced planning. There are several options to navigate the work authorization necessary to complete a 5-session co-op.

  • One option is to use CPT authorization for all five sessions: this option means you would exceed one year of full-time CPT and would not be eligible for OPT after you graduate.

  • A second option is to use a combination of CPT and pre-completion OPT. Students typically use CPT for three regular semesters (fall and spring semesters) and pre-completion OPT for two summer sessions. Note that every month of pre-completion OPT used takes away one month of post-completion OPT. So, for example, if you use a total of 6 months pre-completion OPT to complete your co-op program, you would only have 6 months of post-completion OPT left after you graduate. Please note that applications for pre-completion OPT must be submitted to USCIS for adjudication, and it is recommended that you apply at least three months before your intended start date.

If you have been accepted into a Co-Op program, ISS highly encourages you to make an appointment with an Immigration Counselor before you even begin your co-op in order to make a plan of how you can acquire work authorization to participate in all sessions.

Please see the Office of Professional Practice website for more information on Co-Op programs.

Social Security Information

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued by the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and temporary non-residents who are lawfully present, and authorized for employment. SSNs are used to track individual income for taxation purposes. The SSN is not used for identification purposes.

In addition to obtaining authorization for employment, international students must obtain a Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Currently, SSNs are only issued to non-residents who have been granted employment authorization. Dependents with F-2 status are not eligible for a SSN because they are not authorized or permitted to work in the United States

Once issued, your Social Security Number is yours for life. Keep your card in a safe place along with your other important documents. If you lose your SSN card, you must apply for a replacement card and show proof of current employment.

The SSA provides information for international students on how to apply for a SSN here: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10181.pdf

FAQs

1.  What happens if I don't enroll in the course or research credit that is used to substantiate the curricular nature of my practical training (practicum, clinical, internship or co-op)?

Completion of the course or research credit during the semester you participate in the practical training experience is REQUIRED.  Failure to complete the course or research credit during the semester you participate in the practical training experience is a violation of your student visa status and will result in a termination of your SEVIS record and lawful status in the United States.

2.  What happens if I have problems registering for my course or research credit.

Please refer registration errors to your academic/faculty advisor or your graduate coordinator.

3.  I just realized that I didn't register for (or complete) the course or research credit associated with my practical training experience.  What are my options?

Visit ISS during walk-in hours to learn more about options and next steps when a violation of status has occurred.

4.  I began my practical training experience before I had written authorization from an ISS official, what should I do?

Cease all employment and contact ISS immediately.  CPT can not be authorized retroactively, therefore a violation of status has occurred.  ISS will counsel you on options and next steps.

5.  Why are there limits on the number of CPT experiences I can participate in?

The purpose for the F-1 visa is to allow potential students to pursue educational objectives in the United States.  The Curricular Practical Training benefit was provided to allow students participating in academic programs that required practical, field, or clinical experiences to complete degree requirements.  Elective practical training experiences that are built into academic programs and offered to all students may be utilized to gain experience in applying classroom principles to real world challenges from a curricular perspective, but they may not extend the time needed to complete the degree.

The need for Curricular Practical Training must be driven by each student's established curriculum; not the student's desire to be employed, or the employer's desire to employ the student.  There are very few academic programs at Purdue University that have more than 2 required or elective internship or practical training elements designed into the established curriculum.

6.  Why can't I participate in CPT in my final semester?

CPT may not be used as a bridge to OPT, neither may it be used to "fill time" when students are not otherwise engaged in completing final degree requirements.  There are rare occurrences when CPT is required in a student's final semester to complete degree requirements.  These are the only programs for which CPT may be authorized in the student's final semester.

7.  Can I use CPT after I graduate?

No, please see Post-Completion Optional Practical Training.

8. I plan to leave the US and conduct an overseas internship related to my degree. Do I need to report this internship to maintain my F-1 status?

If the internship is in the summer, you needn't report it to ISS as your F-1 status is maintained as long as you were fulltime in spring and plan to be fulltime in the fall.

If the internship is in the fall or spring, you can maintain your F-1 status with fulltime registration by registering that semester for the course that requires an internship for at least 32 hours a week during that semester. Please submit the MyISS CPT eforms with information on the overseas internship: where it asks for a US state, please select "Indiana." You will obtain a new I-20 stating on page one that you are considered fulltime that semester while conducting a fulltime overseas internship.


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