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)
Can I volunteer without CPT approval?
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!
Types of CPT
There is a common misconception on what is considered "volunteering" and what needs CPT authorization from the OIS. Receiving a paycheck has nothing to do with whether or not you need CPT approval. We suggest all students who are working (paid or unpaid) obtain CPT authorization. However, there may be some opportunities which are truly volunteer, and you may not necessarily need CPT authorization.
According to the Department of Labor (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2011-title29-vol3/pdf/CFR-2011-title29-vol3-sec553-101.pdf ), a volunteer is an "individual who performs hours of service… for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered." Such volunteering examples in a non-profit setting are working at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
Appropriate volunteering at a for-profit, private sector company is much more complicated. To meet the Department of Labor's standards of volunteering at a for-profit company, you must meet all their six criteria on Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs (http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.pdf). If you and your company can confirm you meet these six criteria, your work is considered as volunteering and you are not required to apply for CPT. However, it is still recommended by the OIS to obtain CPT authorization as these criteria are difficult to meet, subject to interpretation, and may be scrutinized in future benefit application, such as OPT and H1B.