Next Up: F-1 OPT
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is temporary employment authorization that allows F-1 students to work legally off campus. F-1 is a student visa—not a work visa—so F-1 students are normally limited to on-campus work done for and paid by Cornell.
To qualify for CPT, the proposed work must be directly related to your major area of study and have a curricular requirement. CPT is only available while you're pursuing your degree. If you've completed your degree requirements, apply for OPT instead.
How long does a CPT application take?
Will my CPT affect my eligibility for OPT?
Timing: Summer CPT Is Most Common!
Summer is the most popular time to use CPT. If you're a continuing student, full-time employment (more than 20 hours per week) is allowed in the summer. You can begin work the day after spring classes end for the University and work up to the last day of the summer—the day before fall classes begin. For full-time summer CPT, plan to take the related course the following fall.
Fall and Spring CPT
Employment is limited to part-time (no more than 20 hours per week) during the fall and spring semesters. Occasionally students take a leave of absence for a semester to pursue an internship required for the degree program. If you are on leave of absence and meet the other CPT eligibility criteria, you may be authorized for full-time CPT in the fall or spring. Students on full-time CPT during a leave of absence must return for at least one full semester of enrollment after completing the internship.
Check Your CPT Eligibility
CPT is not available to every F-1 student because it depends on academic program requirements. Learn more about the criteria you must meet—and a few exceptions only for graduate and transfer students.
Exceptions to the Two-Semester Enrollment Requirement
If you're a graduate student whose degree requires immediate participation in an internship, you can apply for CPT before you've met the one academic year requirement. Graduate students with the following program codes may apply before completing two full semesters:
- PUBHAC-MPH and PUBHLT-MPH
- BADM-MBA and MGMBA-MBA (for summer internships only)
If you're a transfer student who attended your previous SEVP-approved institution for two semesters, you are eligible for part-time CPT after completing your first semester at Cornell or returning from a leave of absence of less than five months. You can apply for full-time CPT for the following summer if you are not enrolled in courses for credit.
Questions? Email us.
You must have a curricular requirement to qualify for CPT. Your off-campus employment must fulfill one or more of these curriculum requirements:
An internship is required for your degree. All students in your program must complete an internship to obtain the degree.
- An internship is a required part of your dissertation or thesis. The employment needs to be an integral research component of your dissertation or thesis project. It can't merely be related to your topic.
- Employment is required to earn credits for a specific class. One credit must be completed for each semester of approved CPT. Full-time, credit-based CPT is rarely approved for the fall and spring terms, as F-1 students must pursue a full course of study while on CPT. To qualify, the CPT experience must be considered equal to full-time enrollment.
- You're participating in an established co-op program. A leave of absence is not required for your semester of co-op CPT, but you must provide a co-op acceptance agreement signed by your college or school's co-op office.
Can I get CPT now to fulfill a past course requirement?
Courses that require employment to earn credit must be taken at the same time as the employment or in the semester immediately after it. You may not enroll in the course before your employment.
Can I get CPT for work related to my graduate thesis topic?
To fulfill a dissertation or graduate thesis requirement, the CPT must be a required research component of your topic.
How to Apply for CPT
Be sure to apply at least two business weeks before you want to start CPT employment. Your CPT application must be approved before you start working.
Throughout the application process, you'll connect with your academic advisor or program administrator, as well as immigration advisors on your campus. Ithaca students work with Office of Global Learning immigration advisors. Cornell Tech students work with advisors in Student and Academic Affairs.
Let's get started!
1Make a CPT plan! Determine your timing and eligibility.
You'll choose the best time for CPT based on your curriculum requirements and course timing. Remember that summer is the most common CPT timing. The amount you can work depends on whether you are registered for classes. Your CPT can be either full-time or part-time:
Over the summer and winter break, you may work full-time (more than 20 hours per week) if you are not registered for classes.
- When the university is in session and you are registered for classes, you may only work part-time (no more than 20 hours per week). If you're a Cornell Tech master's student, you must get permission from your program director to work more than 10 hours per week.
As an F-1 student, you must either be enrolled full-time or participate in full-time CPT to maintain your status. There is no flexibility on this policy.
You may want to do CPT more than once during your time at Cornell! You can apply for a total of 12 months of full-time CPT during your degree. You must file a new application for each CPT experience. Full-time CPT is offered on a per-semester basis, and you must apply separately for CPT for each new internship or employer.
My authorization is based on a course. When do I take the course credit related to my CPT?
For summer CPT: Take the course credit the following fall.
- For spring and fall semester part-time CPT: Take the course credit at the same time as your employment or the following semester.
- For winter break full-time CPT: Take the course credit in the spring.
When can I register for Law 6730, NMI 5100/5101, or ILR 5990?
If you are a graduate-level Law School, Johnson Graduate School of Management, or Industrial and Labor Relations student, you can register for Law 6730, NMI 5100/5101, or ILR 5990 when your college or school opens registration. These courses are not available to undergraduates.
Can I use CPT outside the United States?
Yes, if your employer has an office outside the U.S. or if the employer can assess your engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically.
Can I take a leave of absence to work?
If the internship is required for your degree program, you may take a leave of absence for a semester in order to work full-time, so long as you meet all other criteria for CPT. Your academic department must confirm that the work experience is equal to a full course of study for that semester.
If you are participating in full-time CPT during a semester in which you are on a leave of absence, your employment dates must span the entirety of the semester. You must start work no later than the first day of classes and end no earlier than the last day of classes.
The position must be with a U.S.-based employer and directly related to your major area of study.
Found a position? Congratulations! Now request an employment offer letter on company letterhead that includes this mandatory information:
Specific start and end dates (see step 3)
- Specific number of work hours per week
- Detailed description of the work you'll perform
- Employer's U.S. street address
- Employer's signature and date
Make sure the letter is on your employer's letterhead and includes all five of the items above before you complete the online application (step 4).
You and your employer need to agree on your start and end dates. These dates must appear in your employment offer letter (see step 2).
If you're planning on full-time CPT over the summer or winter break, your earliest CPT start date is the day after the semester officially ends on the academic calendar. The last possible end date for full-time CPT is the day before Cornell starts classes. Your CPT application must be approved before you start working.
When should I start and end my summer internship?
Your summer work can start no earlier than the day after spring semester ends. It can continue only until the day before classes start in the fall, based on the academic calendar.
Can I start my job before I get CPT authorization?
No. You must complete the application process and receive CPT authorization with a new CPT I-20 before you begin working.
Apply for CPT through the myStatus portal. The application form will prompt you to upload your CPT employment offer letter and select your academic advisor or program administrator.
Your academic advisor or program administrator will automatically receive a request to verify curricular eligibility. If the program verifies your eligibility, your application will be automatically forwarded to an immigration advisor for a final decision.
The complete review process typically takes one to two weeks. You'll hear from an immigration advisor if you need to supply more information or as soon as a decision is made.
If your CPT request is approved, your immigration advisor will create an updated I-20 with a recommendation for CPT. You'll receive your new CPT I-20 by your chosen method of delivery. Review, sign, and date your new I-20 as soon as you receive it.
Your CPT I-20 authorizes you for specific dates of employment. You cannot begin work before the listed start date or continue working after the end date. If you work past the end date, you are working illegally and could lose your immigration status.
You may use your new CPT I-20 for travel. The travel signature is valid for 12 months or until your program end date, whichever is earlier.
Help! I need to work past my I-20's CPT end date.
Can I do CPT after I graduate from my program?
If you have graduated, you do not qualify for CPT—but you may qualify for OPT after graduation.
Ready to Apply?
Apply for CPT through the myStatus portal. Cornell Tech students: Visit the Cornell Tech header to locate your CPT request form.