F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a type of authorization for off-campus experiential learning and academic activities that are directly related and integral to your major field of study. Examples of experiential learning include an internship, practicum, cooperative education, or fieldwork.
CPT experiences can be paid or unpaid but must be related to your major. It must be approved by an academic advisor or faculty member in your department and authorized by the International Center. CPT authorization must always be granted BEFORE starting or extending employment - the International Center cannot approve CPT for a start date that has already passed. Failure to obtain authorization before starting any CPT experience may be viewed as unauthorized employment, leading to a loss of F-1 status.
Read here for information about virtual internships, including internships taking place remotely while outside the US
Beware of Internship or Job Scams
All students should be aware of the possibility of job or internship scams. Scams may include getting offers from companies that seem but are in fact not real. Many job scams are designed to get you to pay a fee as a condition of getting the job or internship. If you have to pay a fee upfront, even if you are promised "reimbursement" at a later time, your internship is likely not legitimate. Read more about how to recognize job scams.
Eligibility Requirements for Curricular Practical Training
To qualify for CPT, you must be in valid F-1 student status. In addition:
You must have completed at least one academic year (two semesters) of full-time academic study in the US before you can start your CPT training experience
Time spent in non-academic (e.g., English language training programs) or primarily online or overseas programs does not count toward the academic year requirement
A Leave of Absence of 5 months or more will reset the two semesters qualifying period. For example, a student that completes two semesters of full-time study then takes a leave of absence, must (in most cases) complete an additional two semesters of full-time study before becoming eligible for CPT once again.
An exception to the one-year waiting period is available to graduate students who are in programs that require a first-year internship, practicum, fieldwork, or related activity
You must be in good academic standing and making normal academic progress toward your degree
You must have a training or job offer that provides you with an experiential learning opportunity directly related to your major
CPT is a pre-completion option for training experiences in your major. Once you have completed your degree requirements (i.e., you have no further academic work you need to complete), you are no longer eligible for CPT.
Types of CPT
CPT may be authorized for the following types of experiential learning:
Training that is required for all students in your program (e.g., an internship or practicum requirement)
Training that is not required, but available for students in your major (e.g., an internship elective) - registration for internship or practicum credit is required
Training that is integral to the completion of a department-approved thesis, capstone, or dissertation topic (students must have completed all coursework requirements except for the thesis, capstone, or dissertation. Fletcher students must engage in such internships during the regular academic semester, not during the extended period based on a Capstone extension.)
CPT-Related Issues and Questions
Required Practicums, Fieldwork, and Internships
If a student's degree program has a practicum or fieldwork requirement (i.e., all students must complete a certain number of hours in a practicum or fieldwork setting in order to qualify for the degree), then CPT is:
Required if any part of the experience will lead to payment or compensation
Strongly recommended even for unpaid experiences, to ensure that participation in the practicum / fieldwork is included in the student's immigration record as academically required and approved
Part-time versus Full-time CPT
CPT is usually done on a part-time (20 hours per week or less) during the fall and spring semesters. Full-time CPT (over 20 hours per week) is permitted during the summer vacation period.
Full-time CPT (over 20 hours per week) is generally not granted during the fall and spring semesters.
Undergraduate students are restricted to part-time CPT only during the academic year at all times.
Graduate students are eligible for full-time CPT during the academic year only if full-time internship or practicum experience is required for the degree; or for all-but-thesis or dissertation students for whom full-time CPT is needed to complete the thesis / dissertation. In other rare cases, graduate students may request approval from an academic dean to engage in full-time CPT.
Any student who is authorized for one full year or more (365+ days) of full-time CPT loses eligibility for OPT at their degree level.
Unpaid Internships and CPT
F-1 students engaged in paid internships must have CPT or another form of employment authorization. However, even for unpaid internships, the International Center strongly recommends students to apply for CPT. By obtaining CPT authorization even for unpaid training or internship activities, a student:
is able to demonstrate to US immigration authorities that the activities were reviewed and approved by the student's academic department and International Center, and certified as integral to their academic program and as appropriate academic activity
is given the flexibility to accept compensation or payment or other forms of material benefits that would not otherwise be approvable or allowed without CPT authorization
will have reassurance that any activities carried out that could be considered employment under US labor definitions (see below) were authorized
Note that in many cases internship providers will also require students to obtain CPT approval as a condition of participating in the unpaid internship, in order to demonstrate that the interns are engaged in academic activities rather than employment.
Unpaid Internships Defined. It is also important to realize that the US Department of Labor has set out several criteria that identify when an internship may be legitimately unpaid. Employers who fail to meet the criteria for unpaid internships may be expected to offer paid employment instead, and the interns may be expected to have appropriate authorization. Because an unpaid internship may actually be employment under Department of Labor guidelines, CPT authorization is strongly recommended for that purpose as well. The main criteria that determine whether an internship may be unpaid include the following factors:
The internship, even though it includes actual operation on the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship
If all of the criteria are satisfied then the internship may be considered a legitimate unpaid internship. However, in the event of any uncertainty, then obtaining authorization is recommended.
If you are planning to include an unpaid internship experience as a part of your employment history (i.e., on your resume or CV), then we strongly recommend obtaining a letter from your internship provider that verifies the dates and location of your internship, that your internship was unpaid, and a brief description of the duties and objectives associated with the internship. This information may be useful in the event that you are ever asked to document that the activities were appropriately structured as an unpaid internship.
Impact of CPT on Optional Practical Training
Under current US federal government practice, CPT approval has an impact on your OPT only in the rare case if you do one full year (12 months or more) of full-time CPT. If this happens, you will lose your eligibility for OPT. Part-time CPT or full-time CPT under 12 months should not have an effect on your OPT eligibility.
CPT Authorization Dates and Extensions
CPT is authorized on a term-by-term basis and cannot extend past the start of a new term. Any practical training experience that extends into a new term will require a new CPT application and authorization. Exception: graduate students who have a multi-term internship or practicum requirement, or who are approved for CPT for research activities that are deemed integral to an approved thesis or dissertation requirement, can be authorized for CPT that extends beyond one term. However, students in this situation are obligated to continue to register for internship or research credits and maintain full-time enrollment each term.
You cannot begin or continue CPT unless you have a Form I-20 from the International Center with CPT approval with active dates
Retroactive CPT authorizations cannot be issued, i.e., the International Center cannot approve CPT that has already started and/or completed
If you start CPT without getting International Center approval first, you may be considered to be working without authorization
CPT in the Final Term
You can be authorized to engage in CPT in your final term as long as the following requirements are met:
You must still be working toward your degree requirements in your final term
Your CPT experience must either be required or optional training in your major (if the experience is optional, you must do the CPT for internship credit)
CPT is limited to part-time (20 hours or less) if taking place during the fall or spring semesters
For certain graduate programs full-time CPT may be permitted; see the section above on Part-time versus Full-time CPT
Pre-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) versus CPT
Some students who are considering CPT may want to think about pre-completion OPT instead. Like CPT, pre-completion OPT allows for work related to your major. However, there some advantages and disadvantages, depending on each student's plans. See the table below. While pre-completion OPT requires preparation well in advance, it does not need a job offer to get started and does not require registration for internship credit, which is a typical requirement for most CPT requests.
Curricular Practical Training
Requires application to USCIS which may take 3 months processing time
Approved by International Center once academic department approves the internship experience
Job Offer Requirement
Does not require job offer to apply
Requires internship offer
Internship Credit Registration
Registration for at least 1 internship credit is required if CPT is done for optional (non-required) internship experiences; mandatory internships needed for degree may or may not require internship credit, depending on academic program's policies and procedures
Impact on Post-Completion OPT
Used time is deducted from overall 12 months of OPT eligibility; e.g., 3 months of pre-completion OPT will leave 9 months of post-completion OPT eligibility
No impact on post-completion OPT unless student is authorized for 12 months or more of full-time (20+ hours per week) CPT
CPT Application Steps
Step 1: Obtain an Internship Offer Letter
To qualify for CPT, you must have a job offer from an internship provider. The internship site should provide a letter written on company letterhead that provides the following information:
Name of the company or internship site
Address where your training will take place (internship site address)
Supervisor name and contact information
Detailed description of internship or job duties
Start and end dates of your internship
Expected hours per week
Salary information, if paid
A statement from the employer declaring their support and cooperation to fulfill the curricular purposes of the employment/training
Step 2: Meet with Advisor and Register for Internship Credit
Once you have an internship offer, it must be reviewed by an academic advisor or faculty member in your department. For Fletcher School students, please complete this form for review by the Office of Career Services and the Registrar.
The academic advisor must determine if the training provides an appropriate learning experience in your major. If your department approves of the experience, they will assist you in registering for internship credit. Registration for internship credit is mandatory (except for programs that have a non-credit internship requirement) and must be completed before requesting CPT approval from the International Center.
Summer Internship Registration (A&S, Engineering, and SMFA Students Only)
Step 3: Submit Your CPT Request to the International Center
Submit your request for CPT to the International Center by the following deadlines:
Fall Semester Deadline
Winter Break Deadline
Spring Semester Deadline
Summer Semester Deadline
End of the add period
End of the add period
A&S & E students - before the first day of either summer session 1 or 2
All other schools- by the end of the add period
End of late registration period
End of late registration period
Six weeks prior to the start date of Fall classes
Students in all schools (except Fletcher) should contact their International Student Advisor if they have an exceptional circumstance that allows enrollment in a CPT-qualifying course after the standard deadline.
Access the online International Center Portal and access the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Request through the Request Center. Follow the instructions provided on the application. The International Center will review your request within 5 - 7 days. If there are any questions, we will contact you.
Summer CPT Registration and Fee Reminder
Remember as indicated above in Step 2, most CPT authorizations require registration for internship credit in the same term when the internship is taking place. This includes the summer session.
A&S, SOE, and SMFA undergraduate students should remember that they will be enrolled in one SHU of internship credit through the Tufts Summer Session and charged $990 (with certain students on high-need financial aid eligibility for a subsidy). A&S, SOE, and SMFA graduate students will be charged tuition in accordance with school and program policies. See the "School-based CPT Policies" section below for more information about summer CPT fees.
Step 4: Receive Your Updated I-20 from the International Center
Once the International Center approves your request, you will be notified to pick up a new I-20 that contains your curricular practical training authorization (on page 2 of the new form). Sign the I-20 at the bottom of page 1. Also, review the I-20 to ensure that name of your CPT employer and the CPT dates are correct. Talk to your International Center advisor if you have any questions.
Show your new I-20 to your CPT employer, especially if your CPT experience is paid, so that they have verification of your authorization to be employed with them
If you do not already have a Social Security Number, you can apply for one after you have received your updated I-20 to apply following our Social Security instructions
School-Based CPT Policies
Tufts Summer Session (Arts & Sciences, Engineering, and SMFA)
Summer CPT Course Registration
Between May and August, graduate and undergraduate students in the School of Arts and Sciences, SMFA, and Engineering must register for an internship (or similarly appropriate course) through Tufts Summer Session in order to obtain CPT authorization. Students should not register for a Summer CPT course through SIS. To do so, you must complete the Summer CPT Online Registration Form. Once your CPT application has been reviewed and approved by the International Center, the Registrar will be notified, and they will add your course in SIS.
Summer session courses for CPT can range from 1-3 SHUs. The International Center staff cannot advise on the number of SHUs earned for a course related to CPT; but for most departments an internship course over the summer requires at least one SHU. Please consult with your academic advisor and department or program regarding the number of SHUs required for your summer internship course.
*Graduate students applying for CPT to satisfy a degree requirement do not need to complete the Summer CPT Online Registration Form. Consult with your department or program for course information related to the degree requirement.
Students must register before the first day of either first summer session or second summer session, or a late fee will be applied.
Students enrolling in an FMS internship course for CPT should contact the FMS department. FMS is available in the summer for 2- or 4 SHUs. There is no 1 SHU option for FMS99.
Summer Session Fees
Undergraduate students will be charged $990 per SHU for the internship course. Undergraduate students who are currently receiving financial aid based on high needs may be eligible for subsidy tuition. Make sure to answer the financial aid question on the registration form. You will be notified if you qualify for the subsidy.
Graduate students will be charged per their program policies.
Fletcher School (Academic Requirement, CPT Ineligibility in the Extended I-20 Period)
In order to meet the academic requirements to engage in CPT, Fletcher School students need to complete the Professional Development Program (PDP) prior to the date of the CPT application submission.
Fletcher School students authorized to engage in CPT must submit a final summary paper about the CPT experience and learning outcomes to the Office of Career Services each time they engage in CPT. Students who fail to submit the summary paper for the appropriate IR CPT course will get an NP (Non-Pass) grade and are ineligible to apply for CPT in the following semester.
Ineligibility to Engage in CPT in the Extended I-20 Period
If you request a program (I-20) extension based on the Capstone/Course Extension, you are not eligible to engage in an off-campus internship or seek CPT authorization. Since CPT is an optional academic activity for Fletcher students except for the MATA (Master of Atlantic Affairs) degree students, CPT engagement needs to be completed during your initial I-20 duration as one of the academic courses to take. However, you may work on-campus as long as you are maintaining full-time status during your I-20 program dates.
All students must submit the CPT Request through the International Center Portal and submit this form for review by the Office of Career Services and the Registrar.
Internships, regardless of full-time or part-time status, must be longer than 5 weeks to be approved.
CPT applications are due on the late registration deadline as determined by the Fletcher Academic Calendar each semester. Under special circumstances, an application may be approved prior to the last day to add courses in the second half module session deadline. Under no circumstances will a CPT application be approved after the last day to add courses in the second half module session.
As Summer does not have a second half module session, six weeks prior to the first day of classes for the Fall semester will be considered the deadline for CPT applications in the Summer.
Candidates must give at minimum seven business days’ notice between submitting their application to the International Center and the requested start date. There will be no exceptions, and any CPT application with a start date less than seven business days from the request date will be denied.
CPT extensions requested after the current CPT authorization’s end date will not be approved.