Curricular Practical Training [CPT]

Table of Contents:

What is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

“…Curricular practical training is defined to be alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.”              [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)]

Curricular Practical Training is not a means of simply gaining employment eligibility or a stepping stone to be able to work until Optional Practical Training begins.


Who is eligible for CPT?

Students who are in F-1 status and have been enrolled full-time at the University of Iowa for at least one full academic year in the current degree program (unless the internship is required by the program of study) are eligible for Curricular Practical Training before completion of all semester hours required for the degree.  CPT can be done during the regular academic year or during the summer or winter break.

Who is not eligible for CPT?

  1. Students who have received a program extension to extend the end date on the I-20; the ISSS advisor will need to discuss the nature of your program extension to determine whether CPT will further delay your completion of studies.
  2. After completion of all semester hours required for a degree.  There are only four exceptions:
    1. an unusual opportunity of short duration, such as a weekend performance in a symphony orchestra or one-day participation in a workshop or research study; OR
    2. the internship is required by the program of study as documented by information published in the UI General Catalog, department catalogs, etc.; OR
    3. the internship will contribute directly to the student’s thesis or dissertation (ex.: data gained through internship is used in thesis); OR
    4. the student is a PhD candidate who is ABD and who is registered for PhD Continuous Registration, in which case may be eligible for CPT following completion of all required semester hours but prior to submitting the first deposit of the thesis in the Graduate College. PhD and Master's thesis students who have submitted the first draft of the thesis/dissertation, or Master's non-thesis students who have completed the final project or final comprehensives for the program are not eligible. 
  3. After graduation or completion of a course of study.
  4. While enrolled in a Professional Improvement or Non-Degree course of study.
  5. Based on a course of study for a Certificate or Minor degree.
  6. After applying for OPT.
  7. After resuming studies following a period of OPT, unless starting a new degree program and the established curriculum requires immediate participation in CPT; otherwise the student entering a new degree program after OPT will be eligible for CPT after one academic year in the new program of study.
  8. After returning to finish the current degree program following completion of OPT.
  9. While participating in Concurrent Enrollment.
  10. Anyone who has fallen out of status for any reason, including not maintaining full-time registration or working without proper authorization.

Note: ISSS reserves the right to review and deny CPT applications, particularly if staff feel the student is trying to delay graduation.


Frequently Asked Questions

When can I apply and when can I begin CPT?

You are eligible to apply up to 90 days before the end of your first year of study.  The actual CPT employment cannot begin until the first academic year is complete.  You CANNOT begin to work before you obtain your CPT authorization from ISSS or continue to work after your authorization expires or you graduate.  If you do, you will be engaged in unlawful employment (i.e., you will be “working illegally”). Generally, it is best to apply for CPT authorization 1-4 weeks prior to the start of employment.  When you apply, you must be able to demonstrate you will continue to work towards your degree.  Therefore, you should be able to demonstrate you are registered and continuing to make academic progress for the academic term in which you will on CPT.  For example, if you are applying during the fall semester for CPT with a Spring semester start date, you should be registered in classes for the Spring semester.  The only exception to this policy is for CPT taking place in the summer, during which enrollment is generally not required for international students.

Do I need to apply to the USCIS for CPT authorization?

No.  You do not need to apply to the USCIS.  In fact, only ISSS can authorize CPT for eligible UI students.

When can I begin my CPT employment?

You may begin working immediately after you receive your I-20 authorizing you for CPT from ISSS, and as soon as the start date requested on the I-20 arrives.  DO NOT begin your employment before you receive the CPT authorization from ISSS, or you will be working illegally!

What if I want to do CPT for more than one semester?

ISSS will require you to renew your CPT application each semester.  This means you must plan in advance to renew your authorization before your current semester’s authorization expires if you wish to continue working.  Remember, you must also be able to demonstrate you are registered and continuing to make academic progress for the future semester at the time of application, unless you will be applying to extend your CPT into the summer.

Can I use CPT to engage in self-employment or open a business?

No, it is not possible to use CPT for these purposes.

Will I be eligible to extend my I-20 if I do full-time CPT?

In most cases, no.  While you may be eligible to be approved for full-time CPT, you are still expected to be making normal progress on your degree.  Unless your CPT is required by your program, ISSS will not be willing to extend an I-20 if a student did one semester or more of full-time CPT and then cannot graduate on time.  If you believe you may find yourself in this situation, please talk to an ISSS advisor before applying for full-time CPT.

Do I have to be registered when I am participating in CPT in the Fall/Spring?

Yes, you must always be registered as a student at the University of Iowa during the Fall/Spring semester.  If you are participating in part-time CPT, you must maintain full-time enrollment (12 s.h. for undergraduates or 9 s.h. for graduate students, or 6 s.h. for grad students with assistantships of 25%-time or greater).  If you are participating in full-time CPT (more than 20 hours/week), graduate students must be registered for at least 0-2 s.h. through your academic department (signing up for the Cooperative Education internship alone does not satisfy this requirement).  Undergraduate students must still be registered for 12 s.h. while doing full-time CPT.

What is the difference between Optional Practical Training (OPT) and CPT?

OPT permits employment after completion of a course of study.  You don’t need a job offer to apply for OPT.  There is no time limit to CPT, while full-time OPT is limited to one year.  It is possible to do part-time OPT while still in the middle of a program of study, but most students are also eligible for CPT so it is very rare for students to apply for OPT before they complete their required semester hours.

If I do CPT, can I still do OPT later?

Yes, as long as you do not engage in full-time CPT (that is, more than 20 hours/week) for a cumulative total of 12 months.  Part-time CPT (20 hours or less per week) has no impact on subsequent eligibility for OPT, even if you work for more than a year.

Can I change employers if I have CPT authorization?  Can I work full-time instead of part-time, or vice-versa?

Yes, but only with prior authorization from ISSS.  If you change employers, or if you change from part-time to full-time employment, you MUST re-apply for a new CPT authorization.  You cannot make the change until you have obtained a new CPT authorization I-20, or you will be working without authorization (i.e., “working illegally”).  If you change from full-time to part-time employment, you should let ISSS know so that your employment will not affect your eligibility for OPT.

Am I eligible for CPT if I am or ever have been a part-time student?

If you have ever been enrolled as a part-time student, you must have an ISSS “Reduced Course Load Request" on file for the semester(s) you were under-enrolled.  Otherwise, CPT cannot be authorized.

If I have an internship or other work opportunity which is unpaid, do I still need CPT authorization?

Yes, if the internship, work, or volunteer opportunity is related to your major field of study, you should still apply for CPT authorization even if you will not receive payment.  You are strongly encouraged to apply for CPT authorization prior to beginning the volunteer opportunity. 

Can I travel outside the USA if I have been authorized for CPT?

Yes.  For further information on traveling outside the USA and carrying proper documentation, please review the travel information section of our website.

If I am authorized for CPT employment and I decide not to use it, can I file another CPT application later?

Yes, unless you are ineligible due to one of the factors listed previously in this packet. However, please ask ISSS to notify the USCIS of the cancellation of your CPT as soon as you know you will not use the entire period authorized.


CPT Application Instructions:

  1. Get a job offer letter from your employer. The job offer letter must include all of the following information: be on letterhead , contain your employer’s name and full address and specify an EXACTstart date of employment and the number of hours per week you will work (Exception for MBA/Engineering Students ONLY if your coop-ed forms list the complete employer address, including zip code)
  2. List your internship with the appropriate Career Center:
    1. College of Engineering Students—Apply with Career Services office, 3124 SC
    2. MBA students—Apply with Career Services office, C432PC (you will find the online internship application form on your Simplicity homepage)
    3. All other programs of study— Pomerantz Career Center website - Follow the instructions on this website to list your internship information with the Career Center.  Make sure this is done before you visit an ISSS advisor.  Registering the internship is required and satisfies federal government conditions for CPT.  Beginning for Fall 2012 registrations, a $50 course fee will be charged for adding the 0 credit hour internship course. 
    • If your internship is for 10 or more hours per week and will last at least 10 weeks during the fall or spring or 8 weeks during the summer, the Career Center will then send you a department and course number to register for. You MUST log on to ISIS to then register this internship so it appears on your transcript.
    • If your internship is for less than 10 hours/week or for short duration, no department and course number will be sent to you by the Career Center.
  3. Note: If you are a graduate student with a 50% assistantship requesting permission to work more than 20 hours/week on campus during the fall or spring semester in either the same or a second assistantship position, you must first receive permission from the Graduate College to do so.  Meet with your academic advisor to request a recommendation letter or email, addressed to Dean Berkowitz, supporting your request to work more than 50%.  Have the letter mailed or emailed to Dan Berkowitz, Associate Dean, Graduate College, 205 Gilmore Hall or .  Dean Berkowitz will review the recommendation letter based on the following criteria as stated by the academic advisor:  (1) the additional position has more than a monetary benefit, (2) the position won’t interfere with progress towards the degree, (3) the student is making good progress towards degree completion.  If the Graduate College denies the request, you will not receive CPT authorization from ISSS.  If the Graduate College approves the request, bring a copy of the approval email or letter to ISSS along with the rest of the CPT application material listed.
  4. Complete the CPT Application on iHawk:
    • Log in to your iHawk account (click the blue login button) using your HawkID and password. Go to "F-1 Practical Training" and complete the e-form "Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Request."
    • Once you complete the e-form, your academic advisor will need to review it. Your advisor will receive an email message from ISSS which will provide a link to review your request. Your advisor will be asked to comment on your request.
    • If you are advised by the Academic Advising Center, you must make an appointment to meet with your advisor before they will approve the e-form request.
    • If you are advised in an academic department, your departmental advisor may also prefer that you schedule an appointment to meet with them; it is a good idea to inform your academic advisor that he/she has been sent an email from the ISSS that will need to be reviewed and approved.
    • After your advisor comments on your e-form request, you will receive an e-mail from ISSS telling you that we have received it. An ISSS advisor will review the application and will then contact you by e-mail to inform you of the decision or if additional information is needed. If approved, you will be instructed that you can come to ISSS to pick up your new I-20 authorizing the CPT.
  5. Students who listed the internship with the Pomerantz Career Center only:  Next you must register for your internship following the instructions in an email that will be sent by the Pomerantz Career Center as long as it is still within the registration deadlines for that semester.  Failure to do so is a violation of the terms of your CPT agreement and your CPT may be canceled and additional CPT not authorized in the future.