Practical Training (PT) is a benefit available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled in a Department of Homeland Security approved academic institution. Students who have been granted PT may accept employment in the US to work in their field of study in order to enhance and put into practice what they have learned in the classroom. There are two types of PT available- Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Requirements and limitations vary for each of these types of PT.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT):
Students may be authorized for CPT to engage in for-credit training programs which are an integral, but not necessarily required, part of an established curriculum. To be eligible students must:
Authorization to work on CPT is given by the DSO in the Center for International Education office. Once CPT has been approved and a new I-20 issued with the work authorization noted, students may begin working. Students MUST NOT WORK UNTIL I-20 WITH CPT AUTHORIZATION HAS BEEN ISSUED!
Students taking MORE than 12 months of full-time CPT are not eligible for OPT. Students who have taken less than 12 months may be eligible for the full 12 months of post-completion OPT. Participation in part-time CPT will not affect eligibility for optional practical training.
Optional Practical Training (OPT):
Students may be authorized to work in the US for up to 12 months in paid professional-level employment that is directly related to their degree program (a very limited number of degree programs allow for longer OPT periods, see CIE). It is not necessary to have a job to apply for OPT and while on OPT students may change jobs without penalty or without having to reapply for work authorization. To be eligible for OPT, students must:
Please note: Authorization to work on OPT is given by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), based on the recommendation of the DSO in CIE. Obtaining the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, proof of authorization to work in the US, from USCIS takes approximately 90-120 days from the time the application is received in the USCIS office. Therefore, it is recommended that students apply early in the semester before completion of study.
Travel outside of the US and reentry to the country:
Students on practical training may leave the country and reenter while on OPT after being employed. To reenter the country after a trip abroad, students must present to the Customs and Border Protection inspector at the port of entry a valid passport, a valid F-1 visa stamp, I-20 validated by the DSO's signatures within the last 6 months, a valid EAD card, and a letter of employment.
Students may not want to travel outside the US before receiving the EAD card from USCIS!
Caution: Students who are outside the US for more than five consecutive months will be considered to have abandoned their status, thus voiding the OPT and rendering them ineligible to work in the US even if their work authorization date has not yet expired.