March 7, 2009

Curricular Practical Training for F1 students in the U.S.A

Curricular Practical Training is a category of off-campus employment granted to international students in the United States with the F1 type of visa. Such students must be in valid F1 status in order to be granted this category of student employment (see this page for description of F class of student visa).

The CPT is an option when the student's practical training is an integral part of his established curriculum or academic program. This form of off-campus student employment is defined by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) as “alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.”

To qualify for the Curricular Practical Training, the intended work experience to be gained in the employment must be required for the student's degree, or academic credit have to be awarded in the end. Aside this requirement, students are also meant to get paid for the CPT employment.

As with most categories of student employment in the United States, prior authorization by the school’s international Student Office and notification to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is required.

Eligibility for the CPT employment include:
  • intending student must have been enrolled in school full-time for one year on valid F1 status (except for graduate students where the program requires immediate CPT)
  • the CPT employment must be an integral part of the student's degree program or requirement for a course for which the student is to receive academic credit
  • the student must have received a job offer that qualifies before he/she submits their CPT authorization request
  • the job offer must be in that student's major or field of study
The International Student Office must essentially have to authorize the student for CPT employment. Once the CPT authorization is received, the student can only work for the specific employer and for the specific dates authorized (unlike with the OPT or the severe economic hardship categories of student off-campus employment, where the student can work anywhere in the United States).

Carefully note that the Curricular Practical Training authorization will specify whether a student is approved for part-time (translating to 20 hours work per week or less) or for full-time (translating to more than 20 hours of work per week) CPT employment. While in school, the student can only be approved for part-time CPT.

Regardless of whether a student is approved for full or for part-time on the CPT employment category, there is no limit as to how long he/she can work. However, if the student is working full-time on the CPT for a period of 12 months or more, that student is not eligible for OPT.

However, if that student is working part-time on the CPT employment category, or full-time on this same category for a period of less than 12 months, that student still remains eligible for all of their allowable OPT. So a good advise to students would be to ensure that they watch the dates and the hours closely – in other words, do not jeopardize your OPT!

As with all employment categories, students are expected to work very closely with their International Student Office because the general rules that guide their employment will usually apply somewhat differently to whether they are undergraduates, graduate students and/or PhD candidates. The usually well-informed advisors in the student school's International Student Office will ably guide them.

The International Student Office can help students to determine their eligibility for the Curricular Practical Training, ensure that the student's job offer qualifies, and also that all necessary steps are followed and adhered to in applying to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, USCIS since they are very knowledgeable in the USCIS laws as it applies to student employment.

The International Student Office also has to authorize the student's CPT application, so that students in reality have no choice than to work with them in their quest for off-campus employments.

In summary and as stated on the USCIS website, "a nonimmigrant (F-1) student who is in valid nonimmigrant student status and pursuant to 8 CFR 214.2(f) seeking Curricular Practical Training (internships, cooperative training programs, or work-study programs which are part of an established curriculum) after having been enrolled full-time in a Service approved institution for one full academic year" is "authorized to be employed in the United States by the specific employer and subject to the restrictions described in the section(s) of this chapter indicated as a condition of their admission in, or subsequent change to, such classification. Curricular practical training (part-time or full-time) is authorized by the Designated School Official on the student's Form I-20" [words of the USCIS: see section 274a. 12(b)(6) of the Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations (8 CFR § 274a.12(b)(6))].

Related: Off Campus Rules for U.S.A bound international students

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