Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

An 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 complement classroom learning. CPT is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum. Students must receive a new I-20 with CPT authorization prior to beginning employment. Students who begin training before obtaining an I-20 with CPT may be considered to be participating in unauthorized employment, which may result in termination. 

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.

Please allow at least 10 business days for processing after your request is submitted. OISS cannot authorize CPT with a start date in the past; plan accordingly and submit your paperwork in a timely manner!

Types of CPT

  1. Required CPT: Required means that all students in your degree program are required to complete an internship or practicum in order to receive the degree.
  2. Non-Required CPT: 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 that 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.
  3. Cooperative Education (co-op) CPT: The work is considered as EMU co-op credit under the Academic Advising and Career Development Center (UACDC). Undergraduate students only.


To be eligible for CPT, you must:

  • Be in lawful F-1 status.
    • If you are enrolled in your final term and need less than full-time credits to complete your degree, please see the ‘CPT During Your Final Semester’ section below.
  • Have been enrolled full-time for at least 8 months (one academic year) at Eastern Michigan University. 
    • Exception: Graduate students who have internship requirements within their first academic year.
  • Be registered for at least one course for which you will receive academic credit for the training that is completed through CPT.
  • Be in good academic standing.
    • Graduates: at least a 3.0 GPA
    • Undergraduates: at least a 2.0 GPA

Important Note: Students with full-time on-campus employment (20 hours) are only eligible for part-time CPT. Students with part-time on-campus employment are eligible for either part (20 hours or less) or full-time (21 hours or more) CPT.

Steps for Obtaining CPT Authorization from the OISS

Step 1: Attend an OISS CPT seminar. 

Please check the OISS newsletter and website for details regarding dates and times. Students must attend a CPT seminar at least once per degree level in order to be considered for CPT authorization.

Step 2: Make sure that you are registered for a course that is directly related to your work experience and is required in your program of study.  

You must be enrolled in the course during the same semester that you will complete the off-campus training. CPT cannot be authorized for a course taken in a previous or future term.

Step 3 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 or professor to ensure that the employment directly relates to your course curriculum. 

After receiving a job offer, you will need to work with your employer to obtain an official offer letter. The offer letter must be on company letterhead and contain the information found in our example letter:

CPT Fillable Offer Letter (PDF)

CPT Fillable Offer Letter (Word)

Step 4: After obtaining an offer letter from your employer, complete the CPT recommendation form.

Step 5: Submit your CPT application.

Your application must be submitted through the CPT Request Form. You must allowat least 10 business days for processing after we receive all completed documentation. Requests will be processed in the order that they are received. We do not expedite requests based on the start date of training. If you have not received CPT approval by your anticipated start date, you should work with your employer to delay your start date until after you’ve received your new I-20 with CPT approval.

Important Information about Applying for CPT: 

  • If you accumulate 12 or more months of full-time CPT, you are no longer eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Part-time CPT does NOT eliminate eligibility for OPT. 
  • You are only authorized to work at your specific employer during the dates and amount of hours (part-time or full-time) listed on your I-20. If you work before or after the authorized dates or hours, it is unlawful and you risk losing your F-1 status and having your SEVIS record terminated. 
  • CPT is only authorized for one semester at a time and in accordance with the semester dates. Students must submit a new CPT request each semester, even if they plan to continue their CPT training for multiple semesters.
  • Should you want to extend your CPT end date to the end of the current semester, you need to submit a new CPT offer letter and a new request form (Student section only).

CPT During Your Final Semester

Students in their final term with less than a full course load must have an approved Reduced Course Load to be eligible for CPT. Additionally, during their final term, they must be physically present in class. If a graduate student only has an independent study, research, thesis, or degree-required practicum remaining to complete their final term, they must complete the Request for Non-Face-to-Face Class in Final Term form in addition to your CPT request.

Volunteering and Unpaid Internships

There is a common misconception on what is considered "volunteering" and what needs CPT authorization from the OISS. Receiving a paycheck has nothing to do with whether or not you need CPT approval. We strongly recommend all students who are working (paid or unpaid) obtain CPT authorization. However, there may be some opportunities that are truly volunteer, and you may not necessarily need CPT authorization.

According to the Department of Labor, 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." For example, 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 [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 OISS to obtain CPT authorization as these criteria are difficult to meet, subject to interpretation, and may be scrutinized in future benefit applications, such as OPT and H-1B.

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