Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Curricular practical training (CPT) is distinct from Optional Practical Training (OPT), but there are areas in which the two types of employment may affect each other.

CPT is a type of work authorization that allows students to gain practical experience in their field of study. According to F-1 regulations, CPT is off-campus employment which is required either for:

At TTIC, we do not have a CPT employment requirement for all students in the degree program. Therefore, CPT employment may be approved for a course that leads to your degree. This course is TTIC 57000 Computer Science Internship. You must register for this course during the quarter that you work, and you will receive a grade for the course from your advisor at the end of the quarter.

CPT is available only before completion of the student’s program, not after graduation.

Optional practical training (OPT) allows for off-campus employment directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study during the degree program or after graduation. A total of 12 months per educational level is allowed.

The inter-relationship between CPT and OPT are as follows:

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT is a type of work authorization that allows students to gain practical experience in their field of study. According to F-1 regulations, CPT is off-campus employment which is required either for:

At TTIC, we do not have a CPT employment requirement for all students in the degree program. Therefore, CPT employment may be approved for a course that leads to your degree. This course is TTIC 57000 Computer Science Internship. You must register for this course during the quarter that you work, and you will receive a grade for the course from your advisor at the end of the quarter

Authorization for CPT comes from TTIC’s International Office (Human Resources), rather than from a government agency. There is no application fee. To be eligible, you must be in valid F-1 status at time of application and have been lawfully enrolled in a degree program on a full-time basis for one academic year before application.

A student in valid F-1 status may engage in CPT during the school year on a part time basis, limited to no more than 20 hours per week. There is no limit on the length of time you may participate in part-time CPT.

Typically, full-time CPT may be engaged in only during official TTIC breaks and vacation (between quarters and during Summer Quarter). On occasion, internships requiring full-time CPT may extend for a short period into another quarter. An extension of full-time CPT may be granted to students for these short time periods outside the usual quarter. If a student is registered in a course (other than Independent Research or Reading,) and wants to begin CPT prior to the end of the quarter, or will return to TTIC from CPT after a course has started, the student must receive written confirmation from the course’s instructor that it is appropriate to be absent. This written confirmation should be submitted to the TTIC International Affairs office along with other CPT application materials at the time of CPT request.

There is no limit on how long you can participate in full time CPT, however, if you participate in 12 months or more of CPT you become ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Application Procedure

Allow at least one week for approval of CPT. Forward the following three items to Human Resources:

  1. Student’s Request for Work Authorization Form
  2. Copy of your official offer letter, on company letterhead, with the prospective employer’s signature. The letter must include:

    • the exact location of the work (company location name and full address),
    • begin and end dates of employment,
    • whether it is Part Time (20 hours or less per week) or Full Time,
    • job title and a brief description of the work.
  3. Recommendation of CPT Form from your advisor stating the course you will register for (TTIC Field Research) and confirming that your employment will meet the requirements of that course.

Once approved, a new I-20 will be issued and forwarded to you. Please Note: working even one day of CPT prior to authorization or after the authorized period is a serious violation of your F-1 status in the U.S. It is also a violation to work full time if your work authorization is for part time, and vice versa. Such violations can jeopardize your ability to stay in the U.S.

Rules while on CPT

Extension of CPT - It is possible to receive an extension of your CPT period. Contact Human Resources if an extension is being considered.

Taxes - If you have been in the U.S. for no more than five calendar years, notify your employer that as an F-1 student you are exempt from FICA taxes (Medicare and social security taxes). Some employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws.

Pre/Post Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows students in F-1 status to partake in off-campus employment. OPT can be approved for both part time and full time employment, and for employment prior to completion of the academic program as well as post- completion.


A student applying for OPT must be registered as a full time student for at least one academic year prior to application. They must be physically present in the U.S. in valid F-1 status at the time of application. The optional practical training must be related to the student’s area of study and commensurate with their degree level.

Students are allowed a total of 12 months OPT at each academic level. So, if a student uses 12 months of OPT while pursuing their master’s degree they are allowed to take another 12 months while pursuing their Ph.D. This applies only to a terminal master’s degree, it does not apply to TTIC’s masters within the Ph.D. degree.

Part time OPT is counted at 50% toward this 12-month total. So, if a student works 4 months of part time OPT, only two months is counted toward the 12-month total.

Also please note that students who have been on full time Curricular practical training (CPT) for 12 months or more are ineligible for OPT.

Full time and Part Time OPT

Part time OPT is considered 20 hours or less per week. Students who are completing the course requirements for a Ph.D. degree may only work part time during the regular academic year. Students who have completed the course requirements and are working on their thesis may partake in either part time or full time employment, during the regular academic year. During break periods, such as the summer months, all eligible students may work full time. In addition, once a student has completed the academic program and received their degree, only full time work may be approved for OPT.


A student may apply for OPT without a specific offer of employment having been made or accepted. It is not employer-specific. Once the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is issued, however, the student must be actively searching for a job. A student on OPT can be on unemployment compensation no more than 90 days within the 12-month period.

When it is received, a copy of the EAD card must be provided to TTIC’s International Office/Human Resources (IO/HR). For changes to F-1 status during OPT, such as to an H1-B, documentation must be provided to IO/HR so that the SEVIS record can be updated.

While on OPT, a student must notify TTIC’s IO/HR of the following changes to their information and status within ten days of the change:

Travel Outside the U.S. While OPT is Pending

Travel Outside the U.S., Once OPT is Approved

If you have completed the academic program, have received your EAD card and secured employment you may depart and re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status provided you have:

Travel Outside the U.S. - F-2 Dependents

Necessary documents:

As Well as Copies of:

Application Procedure - OPT

Following is an outline of the procedure to apply for part time or full time pre-completion and post-completion OPT. More detailed instructions are found below.

1. Complete the TTIC Request for Work Authorization Form
For post-completion OPT, the start date can be anytime during the 60-day grace period after the academic program end date. For example, if the student’s academic program ends June 13, OPT can start any time between June 14 and August 12.

2. Complete the I-765 form:
This is the official application form sent to the USCIS for work authorization. It is best to complete it online and then print it. DO NOT file electronically! You need to mail this form and other documentation requested, so you do not want to file it electronically.

Instructions for the Form I-765:

Mark the first box, “I am applying for: permission to accept employment”

Item #1 - Print your entire name as it appears in your passport and on Form I-20. Last name only in capital letters. Do not use initials!

Item #3 - Enter your current U.S. address. If you live in an apartment, please put “APT” in front of your apartment number. If you will not be at that address for the next 3-4 months, then consider using the address of a friend or relative

NOTE: Do not use TTIC’s address for completion of this form.

Item #10 - Enter 11-digit number on I-94 card

Item #11 - If you have submitted an application for work authorization in the past, check “yes”. CPT or H1B does not count as having previously applied for work authorization (they are asking about previous EADs).

Item #12 - Enter the date of your last entry to the U.S. (should be stamped on your I-94 card).

Item #13 - Enter the port of entry you last came through (on the entry stamp on your I-94 card).

Item #15 - Enter “F-1 student”. If you have changed status since your last entry, include a copy of your Form I-797 Approval Notice as proof that you are now in F-1 status.

Item #16 -

*****SIGN and date the Form I-765! *****

3. Submit the Work Authorization Request form and the completed, signed I-765 to IO/HR. Allow one week for processing. IO/HR will issue a new I-20 that notes your proposed period of OPT on page 3. You will receive back the I-20 and the original proof-read I-765.

4. Apply to USCIS.
USCIS will accept applications for Post Completion OPT:
No earlier than 90 days prior to your program end date and no later than 60 days after your program end date. AND, USCIS must receive the application materials within 30 days of the IO/HR signature and date on the new I-20.

USCIS will accept applications for Pre Completion OPT:
If you are in your 1st year, no earlier than 90 days prior to OPT start date.
If you are in your 2nd year or higher, no earlier than 120 days prior to the OPT start date.
AND, USCIS must receive the application materials within 30 days of the IO/HR signature and date on the new I-20.

Mail the following documents to USCIS:
1. Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” with fee and photographs stapled to it (see items #2 and #3 below).

2. Two passport style photos in color. On campus, satisfactory photos are available, for a charge, at the ID Card Office located in Regenstein Library. On the back of each photo, print your name lightly with a pencil. Put the photos into a small plastic bag or envelope and staple it to the top of Form I-765. Make sure the photos are recent and have not been used in any previous application, such as for your visa, or your application will be delayed as USCIS will ask for new photos.

3. A check for the filing fee payable to “Department of Homeland Security.” Current filing fee information is available at It is better to use a personal check than a money order. Staple your completed and signed check to the front of the I-765.

4. A photocopy of your Form I-20 (the one with the OPT recommendation on it), all pages. DO NOT SEND ORIGINAL! The IO/HR signature must be less than 30 days old at the time the application is received by USCIS.

5. A photocopy of your I-94 Departure Record card, front and back.

6. Screen shots from SEVIS of OPT and CPT use (you will get this from IO/HR with your new I-20).

7. Photocopies, front and back, of all previous EAD(s) issued to you for OPT.

8. Photocopies, front and back, of all I-20s from any previous U.S. institution before TTIC.

9. Photocopies of the identity pages of your passport. This includes the page that has your photograph and biographic information.

10. Optional document: Form G-1145, “E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance,” if you want to be notified by email and/or text message when your application is received. See for form and filing instructions.

Post-completion OPT applications must be received by USCIS within 60 days of the program end date listed on the Form I-20. Any application received by USCIS after the 60 day grace period will be rejected and cause you to lose your OPT eligibility!

Mailing Instructions: We recommend using a form of secure mail that provides a return receipt, such as U.S. Postal Service Certified Return Receipt.

Mail to:
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Checking on your application

How can I check the status of my application?

If you filed Form G-1145 (see above), you should receive an initial email or text from the USCIS Lockbox in Arizona confirming that your application was received, and providing you with a receipt number.

If you paid the application fee with a personal check, you will be able to check your online banking account to see the image of the cashed check once USCIS cashes it. On the back of your check you will see “LIN…” and a series of numbers. You can use this to search your case status in the below link.

Within a month of mailing your application you will receive a Receipt Notice from USCIS. The Receipt Notice contains an LIN number that you can use to check the status of your application on-line at the USCIS Case Status Search Page.

Special Issues

1) What if I need to cancel my application?

You must contact IO/HR immediately, as this can be problematic.

2) What if I don’t graduate as planned?

Notify IO/HR as soon as you are aware of a potential problem. Students who apply for post-completion OPT and do not graduate as indicated on the application are subject to different OPT rules.

3) What if I move after sending my application to USCIS?

Contact IO/HR immediately to have your address updated. DO NOT UPDATE ONLINE!

Extensions to OPT and Other Special Circumstances/Regulations