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 for graduate/professional students only:
    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 deposit of the thesis in the Graduate College. PhD and Master's thesis students who have deposited 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. For situations involving self-employment, contract work, to begin your own startup, or work for a startup run by other students.
  4. For new majors added recently - ISSS requires a student to have declared and been pursuing a major for at least one full semester AND have taken at least 9 s.h. of coursework toward that major
  5. After graduation or completion of a course of study.
  6. While enrolled in a Professional Improvement or Non-Degree course of study.
  7. Based on a course of study for a Certificate or Minor degree.
  8. After applying for OPT.
  9. 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.
  10. After returning to finish the current degree program following completion of OPT.
  11. While participating in Concurrent Enrollment.
  12. 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 can begin only after the first academic year is complete.
    • If your program requires an internship/practicum or other experience in your first academic year, you are eligible for CPT and do require CPT authorization from ISSS.
  • 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”) and your immigration status will be terminated.
  • Generally, it is best to apply for CPT authorization no later than 2-4 weeks prior to the start of employment to ensure ISSS has sufficient time to process your request.
  • 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 be authorized for 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 for tuition-bearing credit - an internship registration that carries no tuition is not sufficient by itself.

  • 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 who have completed all coursework must be registered for at least 0-2 s.h. through your academic department. Undergraduate students and graduate students who are still completing coursework/pre-comps must still be registered for 12 or 9 s.h. while doing full-time CPT.

It is your responsibility to determine with your academic advisor what it is appropriate for you to register for.

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. The definition of "employment" in immigration terms does not necessarily equate with being paid, and Homeland Security expects international students engaged in even unpaid internships to be authorized for CPT. This includes students who may be registering for internship credit through their academic department.

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:

Please follow these instructions carefully and in the order provided!

1. Get a job offer letter from your employer.

  • The job offer letter must include all of the following information: be on the employer’s letterhead contain your employer’s name and full address and specify an EXACT start date of employment and the number of hours per week you will work (Exception for Engineering Students ONLY if your cooperative education forms list the complete employer address, including zip code)

2. Begin the CPT application process in iHawk.

  • Log in to your iHawk account (click the blue login button) using your HawkID and password. Go to "F-1 Practical Training" and begin the e-form checklist "Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Request."
  • Enter the email address of your primary academic advisor in the CPT e-form application. Your academic advisor will receive an emailing asking them to comment on whether the experience is related to your program of study and to provide information on your current academic progress.
    • 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.

3. Watch your email inbox for an automated email from iHawk.

  • Once your academic advisor has approved the e-form, you will receive an automated email from iHawk instructing you to next list the experience with the appropriate Career Center office. Federal law requires you to register for an internship course for a CPT experience.
  • Please DO NOT list your internship experience on the Handshake website until you receive this email! If you do it before receiving this email, your listing will "time out" and cause further delays as you'll have to wait to have the Handshake entry reactivated.

4. After you receive the automated email from iHawk with further instructions, list your experience with the appropriate Career Center:

  • College of Engineering Students—Apply with Engineering Career Services, 3612 SC
  • Tippie College of Business and Pre-Business Students Undergraduate Students-- Follow the instructions on the BUS:3100 website to request to enroll in this internship course by completing the BUS:3100 Enrollment Request Form. Make sure this is done before you submit your CPT e-form to ISSS. The Tippie internship coordinator will email you once your request is reviewed and you are approved to enroll in BUS:3100. You MUST then log on to MyUI to register for the course so it appears on your transcript. Registering for an internship course is required and satisfies federal government conditions for CPT.
  • All other programs of study (including Masters and PhD programs outside the College of Engineering) — First, review the requirements of your reporting options on the Pomerantz Career Center website. Next, log in to Handshake. Click on "Career Center -> Experiences -> Request an Experience" and complete the appropriate form (F-1 and J-1 Zero Credit Hour for CPT Requirement, CCP:1201 Academic Internship 1-3 Credit Hours, or Field Experience for CPT Requirement.)
  • Note: If you are a graduate student with a 50% assistantship requesting permission to work more than 20 hours/week n 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 Associate Dean Campo, supporting your request to work more than 50% in a graduate assistantship. Have the letter emailed to Associate Dean Shelly Campo at shelly-campo@uiowa.edu Associate Dean Campo 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, upload a copy of the approval into iHawk along with the rest of the CPT application material listed.

5. Upload evidence that you have listed your experience with the appropriate Career Center into the iHawk system.

  • 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." Then submit the “Career Center Registration” e-form where you can upload your Career Center information.

6. Meet with an ISSS advisor during walk-in hours.

  • An ISSS advisor will review the application and will let you know if additional information is needed. If approved, you will receive your new I-20 authorizing the CPT.

7. Students who listed the experience with the Pomerantz Career Center or Tippie College of Business only:

  • Your final step is to register your experience on MyUI using the instructions you should have received in an email from the Pomerantz Career Center** or Tippie College of Business. If you haven’t received information for registering on MyUI, please contact the Career Center (careercenter@uiowa.edu) 319-335-1023 or the Tippie College of Business (business-undergrad@uiowa.edu) 319-335-1037. This registration IS required by both federal law as well as your college; not registering may result in your CPT authorization being canceled and/or denied in future, or loss of legal immigration status.

**If your experience is for less than 10 hours/week or for short duration and thus you submitted it through the Pomerantz Career Center’s Field Experience for CPT Requirement form, no department and course number will be sent to you by the Career Center.