Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for F-1 Students
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined as employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including: “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” Source: [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)]. CPT is available only prior to the completion of your degree program and you must have a job offer at the time of application. CPT employment may not delay completion of the academic program.
Types of CPT
There are two types of CPT: required for the academic program and non-required. For CPT that is required, the academic program mandates practical work experience in the field of study to graduate. For CPT that is a non-required part of the program, the practical work experience is for credit and directly related to your field of study.
Requirements for Non-Required CPT
Part-Time vs. Full-Time CPT
Part-time CPT: Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time. Though there is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in part-time CPT, you must be simultaneously enrolled in classes full-time in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.
Full-time CPT: Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time. Please be aware that 12 months or more of full-time CPT will invalidate your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). During the academic year (fall and winter semesters), you must be simultaneously enrolled full-time in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.
To be eligible for CPT, you must:
NOTE: CPT is processed and authorized term by term. Contact your academic department regarding your department's specific guidelines and follow those guidelines for CPT applications. Please note that your department has discretion in recommending CPT.
CPT and Full-Time Enrollment Requirement
If you are engaged in CPT during the academic year (fall and winter semesters), you must be simultaneously enrolled full-time in order to maintain lawful F-1 status, unless it is your last term of enrollment. Students are allowed to be enrolled part-time in their last term before program completion, but only if they receive Reduced Course Load (RCL) authorization from the International Center. Please see Completion of Course of Study section on our web site for more information. Please note that non-required CPT is only allowed in your final term if you are registered for other courses which are required for the completion of your academic program.
If the fall or winter term during which you are engaged in CPT is not your last term of enrollment, you must be registered in full-time coursework, in addition to any CPT courses. Full-time enrollment means 12 credit hours for undergraduate students and 8 credit hours for graduate students. Please note that Rackham 998 course is only 1 credit hour and is NOT an equivalent of full-time enrollment.
The full-time enrollment requirement means that most students have to limit their CPT during the academic year to local jobs or to working for their employer remotely, usually on a part-time basis. There are some exceptions, notably PhD students who have completed all their coursework and are now registered for dissertation/research hours only. However, such exceptions are rare. So even though full-time CPT is allowed during the fall and winter semesters, the full-time enrollment requirement is likely to make employment outside of the Ann Arbor area highly impractical in most situations.
Documentation Needed to Apply
How to Apply for CPT
NOTE: You are authorized to be employed only for the employer, location, and time period specified on the new I-20. Documents that will help you to establish your work eligibility are, for example, your valid passport, Form I-94 and the SEVIS I-20 with CPT work authorization.
NOTE: It is possible to extend or shorten your CPT within the term of authorization. If you would like to edit your CPT end date email the U-M International Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitting Your Request for a CPT I-20
Once you have your CPT I-20 Course Completion Certificate and compiled all of the required documentation for a CPT I-20, you may submit your request to an International Student Advisor during afternoon Quick-Question Walk-In advising hours.
If, after completing the required CPT Online Certification Course, you still have questions, you should first refer back to the CPT Online Review Course. The review course is for reference only, there are no quizzes and it will not produce a Certificate of Completion. You may also discuss your questions with an immigration advisor through email at email@example.com during Quick Question Advising or by scheduling an appointment.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Address Notification Requirement
You are required to update your address in Wolverine Access within 10 days of any change while you are in F-1 status.
CPT and Unpaid Internships
It is not uncommon for students to confuse unpaid internships with volunteering (and therefore conclude that no work authorization is necessary for engaging in an unpaid internship). However, 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. For more information about volunteering please see “Employment vs. Volunteering” (link) section on the IC web site. Internships, both paid and unpaid, are primarily offered by the private sector and related to the intern’s major field of study. The U.S. Department of Labor has guidelines for those seeking an unpaid internship: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm
The following six criteria must be met for an internship to be considered a legitimate unpaid internship (and not employment below minimum wage, in violation of Department of Labor laws):
Do F-1 students need CPT authorization to participate in unpaid internship?
CPT authorization is recommended for unpaid internships, whether the student does or does not need to provide employment authorization documents to the company. The F-1 regulations are written in such a way that CPT is an authorization to do practical training as part of the curriculum for the academic program, and as such is significant in more ways than simply for the employer to verify employment eligibility. CPT authorization is more than just a permission to get paid.
According to U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there are multiple reasons for officially authorizing CPT:
Based on the above, we recommend that you apply for CPT authorization if you have an internship offer (paid or unpaid) that meets CPT eligibility criteria.
If the position is unpaid and for some reason it is not possible for you to obtain CPT authorization, please make sure that your prospective supervisor is aware of U.S. Department of Labor regulations concerning unpaid internships and that you have assurances (preferably written) to that effect before you accept the position. We also recommend that at the end of your internship you ask your employer to provide you with a letter confirming that there was no remuneration or any other type of compensation provided in any form during the dates you were participating in the internship. Please keep such a letter for your permanent records.
Last reviewed: 11/13