CPT Frequently Asked Questions
General CPT and Eligibility Questions
In short, CPT is employment that is directly related to the student’s major and required to successfully complete a course. OPT is employment that is directly related to the student’s major but not part of the student’s curriculum.
Students must be enrolled in the practicum course requiring CPT work authorization to be eligible. Students can only take practicum one (1) credit at a time, leaving the opportunity to take practicum 3 times (1 credit each time). If you wish to take more than 1 credit of practicum at a time, then you need to contact the Office of Graduate Academics and Student Success (GASS) for special permission.
The only exception to students taking 1 credit of practicum is for students participating in the Cooperative (Co-Op) Education Program. Students in this program must be enrolled in the appropriate Co-Op course for their major, which is worth zero (0) credits.
Since CPT is for any work done as an integral part of the curriculum and directly related to your major, CPT is required. It does not matter if the work is paid or unpaid. This is also to protect your immigration future. If the federal government determines that your unpaid experience should have had practical training authorization, you could face immigration consequences in the future including, but not limited to denial of your USCIS application for OPT, potential accrual of unlawful presence, ineligibility for future visas that allow for work authorization, such as H-1B, O-1, TN, or permanent residency.
Students that transfer their SEVIS record to Stevens will be eligible for CPT after one (1) semester in their new degree program.
Students that were issued a Change of Level I-20 to pursue another degree program at Stevens will be eligible for CPT after one (1) semester in their new degree program.
Yes, students in thesis/dissertation status are permitted to participate in CPT as long as CPT does not delay completion of your studies and the proposed CPT employment is integral to your thesis or dissertation research. Your academic advisor will need to explain to ISSS how the CPT work will contribute to your thesis/dissertation. Failure to make normal progress on your dissertation/thesis as a result of CPT work may result in the cancellation of your CPT or the denial of a future program extension request. Students also need to enroll in D-999 in addition to the Practicum course in order to maintain full-time enrollment.
As long as you have been enrolled as a full-time student (9 credits for graduate students, 12 for undergraduate students) for at least one academic year (fall and spring semester) and will be in F-1 status and will maintain F-1 status throughout CPT, you will be eligible for CPT.
Students are permitted to engage in practical training experience that is offered remotely. In addition to the regularly requested details on the offer letter, the offer letter needs to include:
You can only work remotely for a U.S. company as a U.S. company address is required.
State that the work is being offered remotely (or hybrid)
Your Supervisor's Name
Details on how you will be supervised remotely (zoom, phone calls, etc.)
In general, students interested in completing an internship or co-op during the Spring, Summer or Fall semester will be eligible to enroll in the practicum course. Please keep in mind that if an offer letter states a position is a co-op position, it may not qualify for the co-op program at Stevens, and instead actually may be a practicum experience.
Students with internship or co-op opportunities that are significantly outside the standard semester dates outlined on the academic calendar may contact the Office of Graduate Academics and Student Success to discuss eligibility for the Graduate Co-Op Program. Please keep in mind that students participating in the Graduate Co-Op Program are not allowed to enroll in any courses during the semester(s) that they are participating in the program.
Extension of CPT Employment
If you have already been approved for CPT work authorization, you will need to obtain an extension letter from your employer. The letter must indicate that you have received an extension of the original terms of your offer and indicate your new end date. The new end date must be on or before the last day of the final exam period for the term. If your application is still pending with ISSS, please submit an updated offer letter with an updated end date to [email protected] for your Immigration Advisor to process. If you are applying for an extension of CPT for the same semester, you do not need to re-register for the CPT course.
To apply for CPT in a following semester, you will need to enroll in the CPT course for the next semester and submit a new CPT application. The application process is the same as your original application, so please be sure to submit your application materials at least 2 weeks prior to your intended start date. As a reminder, the earliest you may begin working is the first day of class for the semester. If there is a gap between the end of the current semester and the beginning of the following semester, and you would like to continue working without interruption, you will need to apply for pre-completion OPT. Guidance for pre-completion OPT can be found on the ISSS website.
Students who would like to continue working for their employer after they have completed their program must apply for post-completion OPT. Please visit the ISSS website for more details regarding OPT eligibility and the application process.
Changing or Cancelling CPT Employment
If you have been offered an alternate position while your CPT application is pending with ISSS, please reach out to your Practicum Course Instructor to confirm that the position meets the requirements for CPT. If so, please email [email protected] immediately to cancel your current CPT application. At the same time, you will need to complete a new Practicum Request Form and submit the completed form, along with your new offer letter to ISSS. The ISSS office will review the application, and if approved, will issue a new Form I-20 with CPT authorization on the second page. It is imperative that you cancel your current CPT application prior to ISSS approval. Once your application has been approved and the start date on the CPT segment has begun, you cannot cancel the CPT.
Yes, you may but only under certain circumstances and with your CPT Advisor’s recommendation. In order to change jobs, you must submit the following:
A new completed CPT Application Request
New job offer letter
Letter from your previous employer that states the last day of employment.
The ISSS office will review your application and if approved, you will be issued a new Form I-20 with CPT authorization on the second page. This CPT authorization will reflect your new employer and new start and end dates. You may only begin working for your new employer once your request has been approved, you have your new Form I-20 in hand, and the start date on the CPT authorization has been reached. Please note that you do not need to re-register for the Practicum course.
If you decide not to participate in CPT BEFORE the authorized employment start date listed on your I-20, please contact [email protected] to request cancellation of your CPT authorization in SEVIS.
ISSS will need a letter from the employer that confirms that you will not begin working. If you decide not to participate in CPT AFTER the employment start date on your I-20 but before you have actually begun your work, ISSS is not able to cancel the authorization. ISSS will still require a letter from the employer stating that you did not work. Once the start date has commenced, ISSS can only update an end date in SEVIS. This means if you contact ISSS AFTER your CPT work authorization has already begun, ISSS can only update the end date of employment.
CPT employment authorization cannot be cancelled once you have begun working—even if you work only one day—so consider this carefully if you have concerns about your ability to work and handle your academic responsibilities at the same time.
If your CPT employment is ending or ended prior to your last date of authorization, you should contact [email protected] immediately so that ISSS can update your SEVIS record with your new end date. You will need to provide a letter from your employer that states the new end date of employment.
If you have already begun your CPT employment you cannot drop the practicum course. Since CPT employment requires registration in the practicum course or Co-op, dropping the course would render that past employment illegal and would result in the loss of your immigration status. A student may take an incomplete in the practicum course, but the student is still required to complete the the practicum assignments and receive a grade prior to graduation. Students should keep in mind that failure to receive a grade in the practicum before graduating will be reflected on their academic transcripts, which may be requested by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as part of applications for certain immigration benefits (such as OPT or H-1B), and could adversely affect a student’s ability to receive such benefits.
CPT and Course Enrollment
Students can only be authorized for Part-Time CPT during the fall and spring semesters. Students can be authorized for full-time or part-time CPT during the summer semester.
Students MUST continue to engage in a full-course load (9 credits for graduates, 12 credits for undergraduates) each fall and spring semester, unless it is their final semester and they have less than the full-course load credits remaining in their program.
Final Semester and CPT Work Authorization
Students in their final semester that have less than 9 credits remaining and have an approved Final Semester Reduced Course Load (RCL) from ISSS are permitted to engage in full-time work authorization during the fall or spring semester.
Students in their final semester that have 9 or more credits remaining will only be able to engage in part-time CPT work authorization.
What is Part-Time vs. Full-Time CPT Work Authorization?
Part-Time CPT: Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered part-time CPT. Though there is no limit to the length of time you may participate in part-time CPT, you must be enrolled in a course requiring the CPT employment for every semester you participate. Part-time CPT authorization does not affect OPT eligibility.
Full-Time CPT: Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time CPT. Please be aware that more than 364 days of full-time CPT will cancel your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). All Cooperative Education (Co-op) jobs are full-time CPT.
NOTE: If you are not attending your classes or your academic work is suffering because of your job, you may not be able to participate in CPT in the future if your GPA slips below the required minimum or be approved for a program extension on the sole basis that you need more time because your grades slipped due to CPT.
No, students cannot only enroll in the practicum course. The practicum course is considered distance learning, it is not an on-campus course and therefore cannot be the only course you take in your last semester. If you require just one course or credit to graduate, you must take a course on campus in your last semester. You may take the practicum course in addition to the other course, if you like.
Please note that if you are in your final semester and taking less than a full-time course load (9 credits for graduates and 12 credits for undergraduates), then you must also submit the Final Semester Request in Workday with your CPT application.
This depends on how many other courses you are taking and for how many credits you will take the practicum course. The practicum course is considered distance learning, which means it cannot count as one of your on-campus courses. In a semester in which you must be enrolled full-time (minimum 9 credits for graduates, 12 credits for undergraduates), a practicum course may count towards the full-time minimum as long as the course is required for your degree (as either elective or core credits) and the other remaining credits you take are on-campus.
If you require less than a full course load in your last semester in order to graduate, a CPT course may count toward your full course load requirement as long as the rest of your required courses are taken on-campus.
If you will be completing your degree program during the Summer Session, you must abide by the on-campus requirements for the final semester. As the practicum course is considered a distance learning course, all your other courses must be on-campus to maintain your status and retain eligibility for OPT. If you only have one course left and will be completing during the Summer Session, then that course must be on-campus. You may take the practicum course in addition to this course, if you like.
No, this is not permitted. Once you can or have completed all degree requirements, you must do so and move on to the next phase of your F-1 status (apply for OPT, change degree levels, etc.) regardless of when your I-20 end date is. You may not continue taking courses that are not required to complete your program; to do so would negatively affect your F-1 status.
No, you cannot extend your I-20 just to take a practicum course if you have met all your degree requirements. Even if you do require an extra semester(s) to complete your degree, you would have to take on-campus courses in order to maintain your status; you could not just take a practicum course. If you wish to continue working after you have met your degree requirements, then you will need to apply for OPT.
CPT and Other Work Authorization
Students who will be engaging in an off-campus CPT work experience will not be able to also work on campus**. Students that wish to have an off-campus CPT work experience will need to cease working in their on-campus job prior to the start of their CPT work authorization. As a reminder, you cannot work more than 20 hours per week on campus while school is in session.
**This does not apply to students who will be participating as a Graduate Student Life Peer Leader for orientation.
U.S. regulations do not explicitly restrict students to only doing one CPT authorization per semester. Therefore, ISSS recommends that students who wish to engage in employment with two employers in a semester should apply for part-time CPT (20 hours or less) for BOTH employers, as to not exceed 40 hours of work combined. The justification is that if a student can be authorized for one full-time CPT, then two part-time CPTs would equal one full-time authorization.
Students will need to work with their CPT course instructor to determine the number of credits they should be earning to engage in two part-time CPT authorizations in a semester.
Yes, this is permitted. CPT is processed by the ISSS office, and OPT is processed by both ISSS and USCIS. Applying for both at the same time or one while the other is pending will have no detrimental effect. However, you will not be approved for CPT that will push you beyond the 364-day full-time CPT limit if you have pending OPT with USCIS.