Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for Graduate Students

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Overview

CPT is a type of work authorization that allows F-1 students to participate in an off-campus employment opportunity to gain work experience in a field related to their major.  CPT permits students to work during their program of study once they meet the eligibility requirements.  The Center for International Programs can authorize international students for CPT, and there is no need to submit an application to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Eligibility for Graduate Students

Graduate students are eligible for CPT if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • must have valid F-1 status at the time of requesting CPT
  • must have been in valid F-1 status for a full academic year, unless stated otherwise by studnt's academic program requirements*
    • Saint Mary's defines one academic year as either 2 semesters or 3 quarters
    • Students who transfer their SEVIS record from another institution may count all time spent in F-1 status towards their CPT eligibility at Saint Mary's
  • must have a job offer letter for a position that is directly related to the field of study
  • must receive acadmic credit for the internship or practicum experience
  • internship or practicum must be an integral part of the student's academic program

*If a student's academic program requires them to work off campus before they have been in F-1 stauts for one academic year, the Center for International Programs can authorize them to work off campus.  Students whose academic programs do not require an internship or practicum within the first year will need to wait at least one academic year before they are eligible for CPT authorization.

When to Apply

Students must apply for CPT before the add/drop deadline of the semester or quarter in which they intend to work.  Since students must always recieve academic credit for the off-campus work experience, they must be able to enroll in a course during the same term that they will be working off campus.  The student must also secure a position that is directly related to their field before they apply for CPT with the Center for International Programs.  It is preferrable that students apply at least 2 - 4 weeks before the start of a new semester or quarter. 

How to Apply

Step 1: Speak with your Program Director or Academic Advisor

  • Talk about the off-campus opportunity that you're interested in and/or are interviewing for including the job description, duties, company, title, and learning outcomes
  • Confirm the availability of an internship course or another credit-bearing course
  • Get the approval of the necessary director or advisor to pursue off-campus employment

Step 2: Secure a job offer for a position related to the academic program

  • To be eligible for CPT, students must always work in a field or a position related to their degree
  • Must provide a job offer letter to the Center for International Programs

Step 3: Complete the CPT Request Form & enroll in an internship course or credit-bearing course

  • Must be completed and signed by the student and the Program Director or Academic Advisor
  • It is the student's responsibility to enroll in an internship course or other credit-bearing course
  • CPT Request Form

Step 4: Submit the completed CPT Request Form and job offer letter to the Center for International Programs

  • Complete Section A of the form and forward it to the Program Director or Academic Advisor to complete Section B

Step 5: Collect your new I-20 with CPT authorization from the Center for International Programs

  • Cannot start working without the new CPT I-20
  • The CPT I-20 acts as legal authorization to work off campus

Application & Required Documents 

  • Completed and signed CPT Request Form (with signatures from the student and Program Director or Academic Advisor)
  • Job offer letter
  • Proof of enrollment in an internship course or some other credit-bearing course during the same term as the off-campus work experience

Working on CPT

Students may begin working on their approved CPT start date as long as they have collected their new CPT I-20 from the Center for International Programs.  Students may not work unless they have the CPT I-20 in-hand as proof that they have been authorized to work off campus.

While working on CPT is it important for students to keep the following in mind:

  • CPT is employer specific - students can only work for the employer that is listed on their CPT I-20
  • Students can only work for their authorized employer for the duration of time listed on their CPT I-20
  • Students must report any changes in employment to the Center for International Programs

CPT can be authorized for:

  • Part-time (20 hours per week or less)
  • Full-time (21 hours per week or more)
  • During school breaks (21 hours per week or more)

Students who accumulate one year (365 days/12 months) or more of full-time CPT authorization are ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) upon graduation.  Part-time CPT authorization or less than one year of full-time CPT authorization will not impact a student's eligibility for OPT.

Employment Options

  • Regular paid employment
  • Internships (paid or unpaid)
  • Practicums (paid or unpaid)

Even if students are not being paid for their time and work, they will still need approval from the Center for International Programs to work off campus.  Working for an organization without receiving pay can be considered an unpaid internship which still requires the student to secure work authorization before engaging in the opportunity.

Important Reminders

  • Keep a copy of the completed CPT Request Form
  • Students must maintain full-time enrollment during their CPT authorization period
  • CPT is authorized for one term at a time
  • Keep a copy of all job-related materials as proof of employment and proper work authorization