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F1-CPT: What is it and how does it differ from F1-OPT?

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Ed Zaleck | Jul 06, 2023 Visas

As an international student, you may want to pursue employment at some point either during or after your studies. Much like applying for the student visa itself, getting authorized to work in the US can also be a complicated process. Though F1-OPT tends to be the more popular option for students, the amount of those applying for F1-CPT is growing.

In this article, we will explain what F1-CPT is and how it differs from F1-OPT to better help you understand your full range of options as you consider your next moves during your time in the US.

What is F1-CPT?

F1-CPT, or Curricular Practical Training, is a type of work authorization that allows international students to engage in practical training as an integral part of their curriculum or academic program. This status is designed to provide students with practical experience in real-world settings that complement their coursework. This cannot be done outside of the designated dates listed on I-20 for your academic program so this is strictly for positions such as internships or training programs which take place at the same time as your studies.

CPT can be done on a full-time (20+ hours a week) or part-time basis (less than 20 hours a week). Please note that being full-time for a full year will make you ineligible to apply for F1-OPT after graduating. It authorizes you to work off-campus in the US and get compensated for the work that you do, though unpaid positions are also accepted.

Differences between OPT and CPT

Review the items listed below for an overview of some of the key differences between CPT and OPT:

  • Timing in relation to academic studies
  • The main difference between CPT and OPT is the timing of the work authorization, as OPT is typically pursued after the completion of the academic program (though there is also the option for pre-completion), while CPT is exclusively during your program.
  • When you can apply
  • CPT can be applied for at any time after at least one year of your academic program has been completed (unless CPT is an immediate program requirement). OPT can only be applied for 90 days prior to graduation and 60 days after.
  • Permit
  • Under CPT, you will receive an updated version of your I-20 which notes you are authorized to work under CPT. Those on OPT will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card separate from the I-20.
  • Duration
  • Another crucial distinction between CPT and OPT lies in the duration of work authorization. OPT is granted for a maximum of 12 months for most students, with an additional 24-month extension available for students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. On the other hand, F1-CPT does not have a predefined time limit. Students can engage in practical training for the duration specified by their academic program.
  • Job offer
  • CPT requires students to have a job offer or an internship offer directly related to their field of study before applying for work authorization. This means that students need to secure a practical training opportunity in advance, which can sometimes pose a challenge. In contrast, OPT allows students to search for employment opportunities after being approved, giving them more flexibility and time to find a job that aligns with their career goals.

How to apply for CPT

#1 - Confirm CPT Eligibility with Your Academic Program

Check with your academic program to ensure that they offer CPT opportunities and determine if the practical training aligns with your course of study. Some programs have specific guidelines and prerequisites for CPT participation.

#2 - Consult Your Designated School Official

Speak with the international student advisor or DSO at your educational institution. They will guide you through the CPT application process and provide specific instructions and requirements based on your institution's policies.

#3- Secure an Internship or Job Offer

Find an internship or job opportunity related to your field of study. You can search for positions through your university's career services, online job portals, networking, or contacting potential employers directly. Ensure that the position meets the CPT requirements set by your institution.

#4 - Complete the CPT Application

Obtain the necessary CPT application form from your DSO and fill it out accurately. You may need to provide details about your employer, the duration of the training, the work hours, and a description of the practical training experience. Make sure to include any supporting documentation required by your institution, such as a job offer letter.

#5 - Submit the Application to Your DSO

Once you have completed the application form and gathered all the required documents, submit them to your DSO. They will review your application, verify your eligibility, and issue a new Form I-20 with the CPT authorization if everything is in order.

#6 - Receive the CPT Authorization

If your CPT application is approved, your DSO will provide you with an updated Form I-20 that includes the CPT authorization. This document is crucial for proving your eligibility to work legally in the United States as an F-1 student.

#7 - Start Your CPT

Begin your practical training on the specified start date mentioned in your CPT authorization. Ensure that you adhere to the employment terms and any reporting requirements set by your institution.

What should I do for insurance on F1 CPT?

ISO plans are eligible for those on F1 CPT. You can review our affordable plan offerings starting at $31/month on the front page of our website isoa.org. Input your school’s name and list yourself as “international student” when enrolling to get access to the plan options available at your school.

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About ISO Student Health Insurance

Founded in 1958, ISO prides itself on being the leader in providing international students with affordable insurance plans. Administered by former and current international students, we are able to assist our member with multilingual customer service in Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and more. ISO serves over 3,200 schools/colleges and more than 150,000 insured students every year.

For more information, please visit www.isoa.org and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn.

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