International Student Services

Curricular Practical Training

What is CPT?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is temporary authorization for practical training directly related to your major field of study—paid or unpaid.

“Practical training” can include:

  • Employment
  • Internship experience (paid or unpaid)
  • Cooperative (co-op) education experience
  • Practicum participation

CPT is authorized by the ISS office.

Hours

CPT authorization can be:

  • Part-time (20 hours per week or less)
  • Full-time (more than 20 hours per week)
  • During the regular academic year (you must also register for full-time credits)
  • During your annual vacation quarter

If you accumulate 12 months (365 or more days) of full-time CPT authorization, you lose your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Part-time CPT authorization, or fewer than 12 months of full-time CPT authorization, does not affect your OPT eligibility.

Eligibility

You may be eligible to apply for CPT if you:

  • Are currently in valid F-1 status
  • Have been enrolled full-time at a college or university in the U.S. for at least one academic year
    • “One academic year” at UW is defined as three full-time quarters per the academic calendar, including final exams week.
    • An exception to the academic year rule is provided for graduate students whose programs require immediate participation in CPT. The program requirement must be for all students in the program and listed in the program’s online curriculum description.
    • Students who transferred their SEVIS records directly to UW from a previous college in the U.S. may count study time at the previous school.
  • Are in a major
    • Premajor students are not eligible for CPT
    • CPT cannot be authorized based on a minor or certificate program
  • Will earn internship course credits in your academic department for the CPT experience
    • See more details in the “Credit Requirement” section below
    • Consult your academic department adviser about internship credits
    • If your degree *requires* internship experience of all students for graduation, ISS does not require you to earn internship course credit.
  • Will earn your degree from UW (visiting exchange students are not eligible for CPT).
  • Have a job or internship offer (Don’t start the job before getting CPT approval; CPT authorization is specific to the training position)

Course Credit Requirement

ISS advisers can authorize CPT for an activity that is “integral to your established curriculum,” as allowed by the immigration rules. How do we assess this?

A training activity must be either:

  • Required for all students in your degree program for graduation (the requirement must be clearly outlined in the curriculum description online) OR
  • Optional and credit-bearing; this means you have checked with your academic department and confirmed you can earn internship credits in your academic department according to the rules below.

Credit requirement for optional CPT:

  • This is an ISS requirement: even if your academic department does not require you to earn credit for optional training/work experience, ISS requires the credit.
  • The credit could be an internship, cooperative education program, practicum, independent study, or similar course through your academic department—your department adviser can help identify the appropriate course. Internship courses outside of your academic department usually do not qualify for CPT (such as General Studies 350).
  • The credit must be earned in the same quarter for which CPT is authorized, though exceptions may be granted for students pursuing CPT during their vacation quarter.
  • You must earn at least one CPT-related credit for each quarter of authorization granted.
  • Graduate students may not use thesis or dissertation credit to fulfill the CPT credit requirement.
  • If you apply for CPT authorization in your final quarter, you must register for at least one additional course in addition to your CPT-credit. CPT-credit cannot be the only credit on your final quarter schedule unless it is fulfilling a degree requirement.
  • Multiple CPT positions in one quarter: if you apply for CPT authorization for two different overlapping positions, you must register for a separate CPT-credit for each position. If the two positions do not overlap, no additional credit is required–the sequential positions can be linked to one CPT credit.

Who is your “department adviser”? What is their role in the CPT application?

Your “department adviser” must assist with your CPT application and help you identify internship course credit.

Every department and college on campus handles internship credits differently.

Your “department adviser” might be your:

  • Major academic adviser
  • Graduate program coordinator
  • Department career center adviser (examples):
    –Career Center @ Engineering (CC@E)
    –Evans School Career Development Team

Your homework is to find out how your academic department manages internship credit.

The department adviser will need to complete the “Adviser Section” of the CPT application on your behalf; this person should be familiar with your degree program and job/internship offer.

Provide your department adviser with this information before you apply for CPT through ISS:

  • Expected graduation quarter/year
  • Course number of credit you will earn for CPT (unless the work is required for all students in your degree program)
  • Number of credits you will earn per quarter of CPT authorization
  • Which quarters you will register for CPT-related credit
    (Example: if your proposed employment is from January 20 to April 15, you must earn CPT-related credit in winter and spring quarters.)
    (Vacation quarters: if you will apply for CPT during your annual vacation quarter, it may be possible to defer your CPT credit to the immediate following quarter; consult your department adviser)
  • Brief description of proposed work experience and how it relates to your major/field of study
  • Name of your employer (Caution! If you are working for a staffing or recruiting agency, such as PRO Unlimited, confirm with them if they must be listed as your employer).
  • Employer’s (work site) address: street address, city, state, and zip code
  • Notify adviser to expect an email invitation to complete the “Adviser Section” of your CPT application.

How to Apply

Do not start a job or internship until you receive CPT authorization from ISS (new I-20).

Allow three weeks for processing.

Application Overview:

  1. Confirm eligibility for CPT
  2. Contact your department adviser to learn about the internship course credit policy in your academic department.
  3. Find a job/internship offer
  4. Coordinate with department adviser to ensure they have all the necessary info to complete the “Adviser” section of the CPT application
  5. Submit “Student Section” of CPT application (see “Apply for CPT” button below)
    Use the correct email for your department adviser; an incorrect email will delay processing!
    Your application will route to department adviser email for “Adviser Section” completion
  6. Wait for notification email that confirms when your department adviser submits final application to ISS
  7. Allow three weeks for processing:
    –Time for your department adviser to complete “Adviser Section”
    –Plus 10 business days for ISS processing. Do not start job/internship before approval! Expedited processing is rarely possible.

Apply for CPT

After you submit the student section:

  • The application will route to your department adviser, who will complete the department adviser section
  • The department adviser submits the final application to ISS on your behalf.
  • You will receive a confirmation email when your department adviser completes their section and submits the application to ISS. If you do not receive this email, contact your department/academic advisor! They should check their spam/junk email folder if they do not receive the link to complete.
  • ISS requires 10 business days for processing from date we receive the completed CPT application from your department adviser, not the date you submit the student section.
  • Do not begin working until (a) you have received your I-20 endorsed for CPT and (b) the date listed on page 2 of your new I-20.
  • You might need to contact your employer/CPT supervisor to defer your start date if you don’t allow enough time for ISS processing.
  • You will receive an email notification from ISS when your CPT approval (new I-20) is ready.

After CPT Approval

  1. Review your CPT authorization (printed on page 2 of your new I-20).
  2. Think of your CPT application and authorization as a contract. Follow the rules of the authorization; don’t work outside of the start and end dates.
  3. Register for the required CPT-credits indicated in your CPT application. If you forget, you will not be eligible for future CPT or OPT.
  4. Notify ISS of any changes, such as ending the training position early, not doing the job, etc.
  5. If your CPT position is paid, apply for a Social Security Number if you don’t already have an SSN.
  6. If your CPT position is paid, use your new I-20 with CPT approval, together with your passport and I-94 record, as proof of your eligibility to work. These documents may be used to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 that all U.S. employers are required to complete.

CPT extensions:

Extension vs. new application?

Extension = If the new requested end date is before the start of the next academic quarter. For extensions, ask your department adviser to email uwiss@uw.edu to request the extended CPT end date. Your department adviser should copy you on the email request so you know ISS received the request.

New Application = If the new requested end date overlaps with the next academic quarter, this is not an extension. You must submit a new online CPT application.

CPT shortened end dates:

If you stop your position early, notify ISS immediately. You will still be required to register for and earn CPT-related credit according to the application.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

CPT is employment that is an integral part of your major curriculum and allows you to participate in an internship, practicum or cooperative education program. CPT must be required or, if not required, you must receive course credit. CPT is employer specific and must be done before you graduate. OPT is optional for any student who meets the eligibility requirements and you do not need to earn credit. OPT is not employer specific and may be done before or after you graduate. Please refer to our handout regarding the differences.

Do I have to be registered while on CPT?

You must maintain F-1 student status, which generally requires full-time registration. Most students are required to register as full-time students while on CPT. In some cases, graduate students may be considered as full-time students with fewer than 10 credits while on full-time CPT. This includes students registered for Engineering Co-op credits and student registered for thesis or dissertation credits along with their CPT-related credit.

Does CPT usage affect OPT eligibility?

You may use as much CPT as is required for your degree program. However, if you use a total of 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you are not eligible for OPT. Part-time CPT does not affect OPT in any way.

Do I need to have a job to apply for CPT?

You must have an offer of employment to apply for CPT since the authorization is for a specific employer.

Can I change the number of hours I work?

You can change within the limits of part-time or full-time. For example, you may change from 10 hours per week to 15 hours per week without a new authorization. However, if you change from part-time to full-time (or vice versa) you must request a new authorization.

Can I change employers?

Since CPT is employer specific you must apply for a new CPT authorization before you work for the new employer.

Can I extend my CPT?

You are authorized for specific dates of employment on your I-20. You may not begin before the start date or continue after the end date. You must apply for an extension in sufficient time to allow your ISS adviser to issue a new CPT authorization before you can continue beyond the end date of your current CPT.

For CPT extensions:

  • If the new requested end date is prior to the start of the next academic quarter, ask your academic adviser to email uwiss@uw.edu to request the extended CPT end date. Your academic adviser should copy you on the email request so you know ISS received the request.
  • If the new requested end date overlaps with the next academic quarter, you must submit a new online CPT application.

Do I need a Social Security number?

Yes, you will need a Social Security number in order to receive payment from your employer.

Will I be required to pay Social Security and other taxes?

In general, as an F-1 student you will be exempt from Social Security (FICA) taxes for your first five years in the U.S. as long as you continue to declare nonresident status for tax purposes.

Unless you qualify under a tax treaty between the U.S. and your home government, your earnings as an F-1 student will be subject to applicable federal, state and local taxes, and employers are required to withhold those taxes from your paychecks. For more information on taxes, consult the Internal Revenue Service.

Will I receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?

No. The CPT authorization on page 2 of your I-20 is your proof of employment eligibility and together with your I-94 record may be used to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 required by your employer.

If you employer has questions about documentation required for I-9 purposes, please refer them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ “I-9 Central” page, including the section about international students with training authorization.