Curricular Practical Training (CPT) & Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What's the difference? Which do you qualify for? Here's a comparison chart to help you know the differences and make an informed decision. 

Note: Part-time is anything up to 20 hours per week (except for during breaks); full-time is anything over 20 hours per week, but is typically 40 hours.

Download an application for:  CPT and OPT by clicking on the links.  

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) 

You must have already found a job before you can apply for CPT. Student may engage in CPT only for the specific employer, location and period approved and recorded by the DSO in SEVIS. Each internship must be related to student's major and receive class credit for it. ERC can help locate internships. These can be either paid or unpaid.

Is directly related to your major and is a particular job offer. You have received a job/training offer from a prospective employer or through ERC or an employee you have contacted personally. Students may engage in CPT only for the specific employer, location and period approved and recorded by the DSO in SEVIS.

Is a required or optional part of the established curriculum for your major, as listed in the course catalog as an internship, practicum, work experience, or ERC opportunity and you must be registered for such course throughout your CPT.

Must be done while you are enrolled as a full-time student in a degree-seeking program; you may get permission to register less-than-full-time during your graduating semester.

There is no time limit, though one year full-time CPT will replace your eligibility for OPT. (Any amount of part-time CPT will have no effect on your eligibility for OPT).

CPT is approved in the Student Life office by the DSO.


Optional Practical Training (OPT) 

You should not plan on being able to begin work earlier than 90 days after you send your recommendation packet to USCIS. You may be able to, but there is no guarantee and no way to expedite.

Is not directly related to a particular job, but must be within your major. It doesn't matter whether or not you have received a job offer. 

Is directly related to your major, but is not part of the curriculum.

Is typically done following completion of at least course requirements, usually following completion of all degree requirements.

One year allowed per person, per degree level (Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate) as you progress. You may not, for example, get OPT for a second Bachelor's degree after beginning a Master's degree program. Normally last for 12 months but may for certain majors be for 29 months. 

OPT is approved by the USCIS and could take up to 3 months after it is sent to the USCIS to be approved or denied. Note: you are required to depart the country 60 days after graduation unless you have been approved by USCIS for OPT. 

Section 7.2.1 of the most recent SEVP policy guidance of 4/23/2010 for details on what type of work is allowed on OPT, including volunteer work . link: 

Unpaid employment. A student may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for a student on post-completion OPT. A student must be able to provide evidence acquired from the student’s employer to verify that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.