Off-Campus Employment for F-visa student - Practical Training

A F-1 student may engage in temporary employment (paid or unpaid) if the work is related to one's program of study. The purpose of Practical Training is to gain hands-on experiences that compliment the classroom learning. There are two types of Practical Training- Curricular Practical Training (during your program of study) and Optional Practical Training (after your program of study).

Please click the links below to view details of the employment options:

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT 17 month Stem Extension
H1-B Cap Gap

What is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

An F-1 student may be authorized by the university to participate in CPT program that is an integral part of his or her established curriculum. CPT is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum.

Students are required to attend a CPT seminar before applying for CPT. Please allow for 5-7 business days for processing after submitting your completed CPT forms to the OIS front desk. You are required to have CPT authorization on your I-20 prior to beginning the employment. The OIS cannot authorize CPT with a start date in the past; please plan accordingly and submit your paperwork in a timely manner!

For additional information, please read the CPT packet.


  • F-1 students who are legally maintaining their status; and
  • Who have been enrolled full-time for at least 8 months (one academic year) at a U.S. college or university. Exception: Graduate students who have internship requirements within their first academic year.
  • Students must be registered full-time during the academic year (fall and winter terms) to participate in CPT. Exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis ONLY if the student has an approved Reduced Hours Form. Students must be enrolled in at least 1 course which directly relates to their employment to be eligible for CPT during the summer term.
  • Students on Probation 1 may have part-time CPT for one term only. Students on Probation 2 or higher are ineligible for CPT.
  • Students that are full-time Graduate Assistants (100%) or full-time student employees on campus (20 hours) are only eligible for part-time CPT. Students that are part-time Graduate Assistants or part-time student employees are eligible for either part or full-time CPT.
  • F-1 students must have a job offer on letterhead.

Types of CPT

  1. Required for your degree program. Required means that all students in your degree program are required to complete an internship or practicum in order to receive the degree.
  2. Cooperative Education (co-op). The work is considered as EMU co-op credit under the Academic Advising and Career Development Center (UACDC, 200 McKenny Hall).
  3. Integral part of an established curriculum. If the internship is not required for the degree, it must be taken for academic credit and connected to a relevant class that has similar educational objectives. To be approved, the professor needs to confirm the work serves as an "integral part of the student's curriculum" and describe how the work is directly relevant to the academic objectives of the class.

Application Process

  • Come to the mandatory CPT seminar. Register at
  • Find appropriate employment opportunities for your degree and program of study. Utilize university resources such as the University Academic Advising and Career Development Center (UACDC). Discuss options with your academic advisor to ensure that the employment directly relates to your degree program.
  • Obtain an offer letter on letterhead stationary from your place of employment. See the template included in this informational packet.
  • Complete the student section of the "Curricular Practical Training Authorization Form"
  • Bring your CPT authorization form with your offer letter to your academic advisor. Your academic advisor should complete the advisor section and include:
    • Whether you have finished the degree requirements. If indicated "yes", you are ineligible for CPT and should apply for OPT instead.
    • Your expected degree requirement completion date
    • The type of CPT work (see "Types of CPT" on page 1 for additional information)
  • If the CPT type is co-op (2), take the form to UACDC in 200 McKenny Hall and ask the co-op advisor to complete the co-op section. You will need to complete additional co-op forms with UACDC.
  • If the CPT type is for a relevant class (3), take the form to your professor and ask him/her to complete the course section.
  • After all signatures are gathered and the form is complete, bring it to the OIS front desk with your offer letter.
  • The OIS will process your CPT authorization and send you an email when your new CPT I-20 is ready for pick up. Remember to submit your CPT request at least 5 to 7 business days BEFORE the employment start date.
  • Upon completion of your CPT, submit a completed evaluation to the OIS front desk. You must submit the evaluation before another CPT authorization can be granted.

Note that out-of-state CPT during the last term of study is not allowed, unless an internship is degree-required. Also, full-time CPT for 12 cumulative months cancels the student's Optional Practical Training (OPT).

If you would like to earn internship credit for your employment, you should contact Career Services in McKenny Hall to learn more about the cooperative education procedure.

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

OPT is practical work experience in your field of study (typically after completion of a degree) and Initial OPT can last up to 12 months. Students on OPT are still considered to be F-1 students at EMU even if working elsewhere in the U.S. The Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is not a working permit; it is an extension of your F1 status for the purposes of practical training.


  • F-1 students who are legally maintaining their status; and
  • Who have been enrolled full-time for at least 8 months; and
  • Who will be completing a course of study this term; and
  • Whose proposed OPT employment will be directly related to their course of study

When to File?

Students can apply for OPT up to 90 days before, and 60 days after, the program completion date on their I-20. Program completion is the last day of the term during which you're registered for all the necessary credits for your program. It does not mean graduation nor does it mean that you can delay your OPT application until fulfilling incomplete credits.

It is currently taking 2 -3 months for USCIS to process applications and you must have your EAD card in-hand in order to start work. Your OPT may end no later than 14 months after your program completion date.

Application Process

  • Attend a mandatory OPT seminar to learn about OPT regulations and how to apply. You are required to come to a seminar before applying. To view seminar dates and to register to come, see the OIS calendar.
  • Then, read the OPT packet. The OPT packet contains detailed instructions for preparing your OPT application; please follow these instructions to avoid delay of your application. The packet includes:
    • The OPT application procedure
    • List of required documents to bring to your OIS advising appointment
    • A final checklist to review prior to mailing your application
    • Information for tracking your application status
    • Detailed photo specifications

What is the 17-month OPT STEM extension?

Students that are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) majors may be eligible to apply for a 17-month extension of OPT.  Approved STEM fields are based on CIP codes that relate to the program of study. You can find the CIP code for your major on page 3 of your I-20. To see if your program of study is approved for the STEM extension, please see the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website for the current list. This list was updated effective 5/11/2012 and now includes the EMU major Clinical Research Administration (CIP 51.2006) , however the EMU major Information Systems (CIP 52.1201) is NOT included and is NOT eligible for the extension.


  • Students must have their degree conferred in a field included on the STEM designated majors list found on the DHS website (see above).
  • Students must be currently on an approved, 12 month initial OPT authorization
  • Student Employer must be enrolled in the U.S. government's E-Verify program. Click to view the E-verify Employers Search Tool.
  • Student employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to OIS within 48 hours, by providing the required employer letter
  • Students must demonstrate proof of employment during initial OPT period; this is best proven with copies of the first and last pay stub you received from each employer.
  • Student must not have accrued more than 90 days of unemployment during the Initial OPT period
  • Work must be directly related to the student's current major area of study
  • Work must be at a level commensurate with the student's degree level

Application Process

  • Must apply for STEM extension before the initial OPT's end date
  • See the "forms->employment" section of the OIS website for additional information and application materials

Changing STEM Employers

It is possible to change employers while on STEM OPT, but specific procedures need to be followed. You can find additional information here.

What is H-1B "Cap Gap"

Duration of status and any post-completion OPT work authorization is automatically extended for an F-1 student who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1. "Cap Gap" is the period of time when an F-1's status and work authorization expire through the start date of their approved H-1B employment period. Current regulations allow F-1 students with pending or approved H-1B petitions to remain in F-1 status during this Cap-Gap period.

Requesting an I-20 with Cap Gap authorization

To obtain proof of continuing status, a student should give OIS evidence of a timely filed H-1B petition (indicating a request for change of status rather than for consular processing), such as a copy of the petition and a FedEx, UPS, or USPS Express/certified mail receipt. The OIS will issue a preliminary Cap-Gap I-20 showing an extension until June 1.

If the H-1B petition is selected for adjudication, students should give the OIS a copy of the petitioning employer's Form I-797, Notice of Action, with a valid receipt number, indicating that the petition was filed and accepted. The OIS will issue a new Cap-Gap I-20 indicating the continued extension of F-1 status.

Cap-Gap Resources:

Cap-Gap Fact sheet for employers:

Cap-Gap Practice Advisory for F-1 students:

USCIS Cap-Gap Q & A:

Policy Guidance F-1 Students and OPT:


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