CPT: Off-Campus Work Authorization

CPT, or Curricular Practical Training, is the work authorization available to F-1 international students to work off-campus in paid positions. CPT requires an application completed by the student, which can be submitted via the ISSS Portal.  Once approved, ISSS will add CPT work authorization to the student’s immigration record, and issue a new Form I-20 noting the work authorization.

 

Eligibility

To be eligible for CPT, an F-1 international student must:

  1. complete a full academic year of full-time study physically present at a US university.
    • an academic year is defined as two semesters, not including summer or winter sessions.
    • ISSS recognizes previous semesters of full-time enrollment, even if undertaken in a different immigration status, such as H-4, or at a different school or degree level in F-1 status.  Previous enrollment cannot satisfy this requirement if the student has left the US and returned with a different SEVIS ID number.
  2. be offered a paid position that is directly related to their UMBC degree program
    • Unpaid positions do not require CPT authorization, but a student may still choose to apply for CPT for an unpaid experience.
    • CPT can only be approved for one semester or session at a time.

Graduate programs that require a student to participate in a work experience in their first year can provide proof of this requirement using published program documentation. If applicable, the student can take advantage of CPT before having enrolled for one full academic year.

Remember that there are many scams with fraudulent job offers that target international students!  Keep yourself safe by learning the signs of fraudulent job offers and scams!  Here are a few of the most common signs of a scam:

  • Someone offers you a job without you applying for it first.
  • After sending your resume they offer you the job without interviewing you first.
  • The job entails distributing money – whereby they send you a fake check, you deposit the check, keep a set amount, then wire funds to certain “charities.”
  • The FROM address and REPLY-TO address are from different domains. Such as the FROM address being “@umbc.edu” and REPLY-TO being “@yahoo.com”. Or the from/reply-to address does not match the domain of the company the emailer claims to represent.

Read more about job offer scams here: Scam Jobs

More information on scams in general can be found here: Scams and Safety

Application Process

Requirements

Immigration regulations describe CPT as work that is “established as part of the curriculum” of study. The CPT application is designed to show that the work being done meets this requirement. Three pieces of information are required to provide this proof:

  1. Proof of employment opportunity: A copy of your job offer letter from the position you intend to undertake on CPT.
  2. Proof that the work is related to your academic program:  The CPT application asks the student to describe how the job is related to their academic program. The student’s academic advisor must confirm that the job is related to the degree program by completing the required electronic recommendation form.  Graduate students must also get the approval of their Graduate Program Director (GPD) through the ISSS Portal.
  3. Proof that the work will be recorded on your academic record: To ensure that the work experience is part of the curriculum, students must enroll either in academic credit or the Internship Success Practicum (PRAC), either of which will appear on the student’s UMBC transcript.
    • Academic credit requires enrollment in, and payment for, regular academic credit, such as an internship credit or independent study approved by the academic advisor.
    • “PRAC” is the Intern Success Practicum managed by the Career Center.  PRAC does not have any academic credits associated with it; rather it is a non-credit transcript notation. As such, it has no cost, but it also cannot be used to satifsy full-time enrollment requirements. PRAC appears on the transcript with a pass/fail grade and has minimal requirements to participate.
      • Read more and enroll in PRAC here.  Remember to allow five business days for your PRAC enrollment to be approved by the Career Center.

ISSS cannot approve CPT for dates in the past. You will only be authorized for CPT once your complete application is submitted, approved by ISSS, and a new Form I-20 is issued.

*It is absolutely imperative that CPT is approved before you being your work experience, or before you continue an existing job whose CPT authorization is expiring!  You are not legally allowed to work in the US without active CPT authorization on your Form I-20.  While employers might not notice and might hire you or allow you to continue working after the CPT expires, these kinds of discrepancies could cause you very significant problems in later immigration applications, such as H-1b or Permanent Resident applications.  Please take responsibility for your immigration status and make sure you are aware of the end of your CPT authorization. Working without proper authorization in the US will cause you to lose your immigration status.

Students applying for a continuation of approved CPT need to submit the CPT application again for each new semester or session.

If the offer of employment clearly covers both a semester and session (for example, fall and winter), ISSS can approve as much as a semester AND a session with one application.

Your academic advisor or PRAC coordinator can also email their support to ISSS if you are applying for CPT to continue with a position that was previously approved.

 

Submitting your CPT Application

  1. Login to your ISSS Portal 
  2. Click on “Search Forms” in the top right corner of the page
  3. Choose the relevant request – Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  4. Read the directions and complete all sections of the application
  5. Please note that CPT often requires enrollment in the Career Center’s “Internship Success Practicum (PRAC).”  Please upload the email confirmation of your enrollment to meet this requirement.
    NOTE: If you are using PRAC, do NOT submit your application until your PRAC is approved and you are able to upload your PRAC approval email.
  6. The application requires the support of your academic advisor.  Please follow the directions under the “Recommendations” section to invite your advisor to provide their support electronically.  For Graduate Students, you will need to do the process a second time to get your Graduate Program Director (GPD)’s approval as well.
  7. Only click submit after you have uploaded all requirements.
    NOTE: Once you have invited your academic advisor (all students) and GPD (graduate students only), you can submit the application without waiting for the recommendations to be completed.
  8. ISSS advisors will review your application and contact you within 2-3 business days after your advisor (and GPD, if applicable) recommendation is received.

 

Deadlines

Deadlines for the CPT application depend on how the experience will appear on your transcript.

Academic Credit

The deadline to enroll in academic credit for CPT is the same as the regular deadline to enroll in any courses each semester.

The deadlines for each semester and session can be found here.

Intership Success Practicum (PRAC)

These deadlines vary by semester, and should be verified with the Career Center, but are typically near the following dates:

Fall semester: approximately October 1
Winter session: approximately January 2
Spring semester: approximately March 1
Summer Session I or II: approximately July 1

 

Full-Time vs. Part-Time CPT

CPT can be approved as part-time (maximum 20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week).

Part-time CPT  is not limited, and can be used as many semesters or sessions as a student likes, as long as it is approved for each new semester or session.

Full-time CPT is limited to a maximum of 12 months total throughout your degree program.  There are no consequences for full-time CPT use up to 12 months, but after 12 months of approved full-time CPT, the student is no longer eligible for OPT post-graduation work.

Full-time CPT can only be approved in the following instances:

  1. During a summer or winter session when course enrollment is not required
  2. In a student’s last semester before graduation, as long as they are enrolled in 4 or fewer credits.
  3. For graduate students enrolled only in research credits (e.g. 898 or 899) and who have completed all their other coursework.

CPT and Taxes

Paid work in the US is almost always taxed.  Your employer’s Human Resources (HR) staff will work with you to review your immigration and personal identifying documents to ensure that you are allowed to work in the US (including your I-20 with the CPT authorization on it), and will help you complete tax forms for the money you will earn working for them.

Typically, your employer will ask you to complete a Form I-9, which verifies your authorization to work in the US, and a W-4 form, that indicates how taxes will be withheld from your paycheck. You can read more about these documents here.

Please note: International students are usually exempt from paying certain kinds of taxes, namely Social Security and Medicare taxes.  You can reference this law to employers here.  However, if an individual has been in the US more than 5 years, they usually become a “resident for tax purposes,” and their tax rates change to include these additional tax categories.