The U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations state that Curricular Practical Training (CPT) must be directly related to the major and an integral part of an established curriculum.
CPT is defined as "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." Thus, CPT for F-1 students is intended to provide work experience in the U.S. in situations where the work serves as an integral part of a student's academic program and an established curriculum, prior to completion of that program.
- The student must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year before being eligible for CPT.
- An exception exists for graduate students whose programs require immediate participation in an internship, a practicum, or other employment.
- It is available only while the student is in valid F-1 status and before the completion of his/her program.
- Students in English language programs are not eligible for CPT.
If the student had a gap in study or a status violation, the one academic year waiting period may need to be recalculated once the student has again obtained valid F-1 status.
ISSS can authorize CPT if it can be clearly documented that the proposed employment is directly related to the major and meets one of the two conditions below.
- The training employment is required of all degree candidates in the program and is necessary for the awarding of the degree. Included in this category is employment in a required internship or practicum. There are only a few academic programs at Penn which require a period of off-campus employment for all degree candidates. This requirement must be formally documented in school publications.
- The training employment will result in the awarding of academic credit. Included in this category is employment for a course specifically designed to award academic credit for an employment experience. This may include graduate students in dissertation/thesis status where the training opportunity is an integral component of the student’s dissertation/thesis. In both of these cases, you must register and complete the CPT-related course during the semester that you are working under CPT authorization. For example, if you will be working in the summer, you must register and complete the CPT-related course in the same summer semester.
If CPT is for your last semester, you must have at least one other remaining degree-required course for which to register, in addition to the CPT course unless the CPT course is the degree-required course.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time CPT
- During the school year while classes are in session, students can engage in CPT on a part-time basis, limited to no more than 20 hours per week.
- A student can engage in full-time CPT during official University breaks and vacation. A PhD student can also engage in full-time CPT during his /her dissertation and CPT authorization ends when the student defends dissertation. Full-time CPT allows the student to work more than 20 hours per week. If you participate in 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training, you will not be eligible for post-completion optional practical training (OPT).