CPT and OPT are two training programs you may have heard of being a prospective international student. These two programs allow international students in the USA to work off campus. After their first academic year, they earn work experience through the two training programs.
CPT or Career Practical Training is a work authorization provided to students on an F-1 visa by the Institute. However, there are certain conditions attached to the authorization.
Institutes allow the student to work only for 12 months. Students need to work in a field directly related to their majors. They can receive training through an internship, a co-op, or a practicum.
Eligibility for CPT
Students with an F-1 immigration visa can take part in CPT after completion of their first academic year in a full-time degree program. The graduate students with F-1 status do not have the one-year rule of CPT if the major mandates participation in CPT.
There are regular requirements for maintaining proper F-1 visa status and having training only in a job directly related to the majors. However, with no strict rules about eligibility, institutes often frame their own eligibility conditions.
“CPT policies are likely to differ from institute to institute. So you should not judge the eligibility based on your friend’s experience or your own prior experience” says Samantha McCabe, assistant director for SEVIS compliance with the University of Wisconsin—Madison. You should inquire at the school’s student-aid office or refer their website for eligibility requirements of CPT.
The application process is also customized by institutions as per their convenience. Usually, the procedure begins when an eligible student receives a work offer from an Internship or employment firm. The students have to fill a CPT form and submit it to the designated college department.
Christina Luther, director of the school’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services, advises students to submit the application two to three weeks before the first day at work.
Luther says that the job offer or submitted application often contains incomplete information that requires additional follow-ups with the student. This takes up additional time; Hence, the two-week period is suggested.
Once approved, students can gain precious work experience at their chosen firm.
Can CPT Impact Your OPT?
Students can complete a CPT only before graduating. An OPT does not have any such time limit. Students can opt for OPT after graduation too. Another difference between the two is that OPT can be completed in any firm related to your career field. OPT comes with more freedom.
CPT can affect your OPT under a condition. Students can work in CPT part-time or full-time for 12 months. However, if you work in CPT full-time for 12 months, your eligibility for OPT will be eliminated. Students delivering over 20 hours of work per week are full time in CPT. Institutes caution students and remind them to not overdo their CPT.
For international students studying in the USA, it is crucial to understand both CPT and OPT programs thoroughly for a great career ahead.