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.
 

Eligibility Requirements

  • 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.
     

Criteria

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

  • Part-Time Training
    • 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.
  • Full-Time Training
    • 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).

Application & Authorization

  • How to Apply for CPT?
    1. Before applying for CPT, you should register for the CPT course if applicable.
    2. Obtain a copy of your official offer letter on company letterhead that is signed by the prospective employer.  A photocopy is acceptable.  The letter should include the employer's name, full address, dates of employment, and duties.
    3. The CPT electronic request form is available in iPenn. After you log in with your Pennkey, you will find "CPT Request" under Student Services in the left menu.
    4. As part of your iPenn eform submission, scan and upload the following:
      • Copy of your current I-20
      • Copy of your passport
      • Photocopy of your I-94 card (front and back if issued paper I-94) or US entry/admission stamp in passport  (if issued electronic I-94)
        Refer to the automated I-94 process at http://global.upenn.edu/isss/travel
      • Copy of your official offer letter as described in step 2 above
    5. You must consult the appropriate school advisor to apply for CPT.  Refer to the eform in iPenn to determine which advisor to consult.  Your advisor may require you to meet in person.
    6. Your CPT request will be electronically sent to your school advisor via email for review and recommendation.  If your school advisor recommends your CPT request, it will be forwarded to an ISSS advisor for final approval.  Without your school advisor’s recommendation, ISSS is unable to process this request.  
    7. If you are eligible and have the documentation required for CPT, an ISSS advisor will authorize CPT by issuing an updated I-20, and you will receive an email when it is ready for pickup. ISSS processing time is 3-5 business days from receipt of your school advisor’s review/recommendation.  During the peak/high-volume period, processing may take longer.
    8. You may engage in CPT employment only after you have received the I-20 with your CPT authorization from ISSS. This work authorization is valid only for the specific employer, location, time period and on a part-time or full-time basis as approved and recorded by an ISSS advisor as evidenced on your I-20 issued for CPT.
    9. You must not continue employment beyond the date authorized unless you apply and are granted an extension of your permission to work from ISSS. To do so would be a violation of your nonimmigrant student status, and such violation would jeopardize your ability to remain in the US.

Other Important Information

  • Failure to Comply with Regulations
  • It is your responsibility to comply with all immigration regulations which apply to F-1 students, including employment regulations. Working without the proper authorization is a serious violation of your nonimmigrant status in the US. If you fail to comply with your responsibilities, you may not be eligible for benefits normally granted to F-1 students and may jeopardize your stay in the US. Prior to accepting any employment in the US, we advise you to consult with ISSS.

  • Taxes
    • In general, F-1 students who have been in the US for no more than five different calendar years are exempt from social security taxes.
    • You should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws.
    • Students in F-1 status are subject to all other taxes that may apply, including federal, state and local.
    • For more information, please consult with a tax professional and/or Publication 519 of the Internal Revenue Service (http://www.irs.gov/).