Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Current federal guidance still permits the IPO to sign I-20s electronically and email them to you.

If you encounter an E-Form access issue and have tried accessing the E-form in multiple web browsers, please email iss[at]umass[dot]edu


The information below is for students in F-1 status. It provides information about off-campus employment authorization called Curricular Practical Training (CPT), which is "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." 

CPT is a benefit of F-1 status. You are not guaranteed CPT and must meet all eligibility requirements to be authorized.

Students wishing to learn more about CPT, RSVP on Eventbrite for the Fall 2021 CPT workshops for current F-1 students via Zoom. Please refer to our CPT Presentation available here along with the information below for more information. If you have any additional questions, please email your IPO advisor.

Please be aware that CPT opportunities vary within UMass. Some programs may allow CPT while school is in session, while others only permit CPT during summer and/or winter terms. Students should determine this by contacting the appropriate person in their college (see “CPT Application Steps” below).

  • Using CPT to extend time to completion of studies when there is no academic need/course requirement to do so is not permitted. CPT must be an integral part of your degree program. You should not be using CPT just for off-campus work authorization.
  • Employment for the sole purpose of earning extra money or to gain work experience is not an acceptable use of CPT. CPT must be part of your degree.
  • CPT is not required for on-campus (UMass Amherst) employment. Employment at one of the Five Colleges of an academic nature (teaching, research, etc.) is considered on-campus and does not need CPT approval. Other employment (office work, athletics, etc.) is not permitted at the Five Colleges without authorization. Check with your IPO advisor if you are unsure.
  • CPT is not required for employment outside of the U.S., or employment in the U.S. that is not compensated (i.e. volunteer or non-salaried). However, there may be situations where CPT authorization is beneficial even if you are outside the U.S. (i.e. outside the U.S. but being paid inside the U.S.). Check with your IPO advisor if you are unsure.
  • You must apply for and be authorized by the IPO for CPT authorization BEFORE you begin working (but you may accept the job offer before CPT approval). Failure to be approved for CPT before beginning employment is a violation of F-1 immigration status.

 

ISS Critical Updates

Students must meet certain requirements before being eligible for CPT:

  • You must be in active F-1 status for one full academic year (two semesters)
  • You have been enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year (two semesters)
    • The one academic year requirement may be waived if your degree program requires immediate participation or you have been in certain other immigration statuses. Check with your IPO advisor if you are unsure.
  • Your training is "an integral part of an established curriculum"
  • Your training is "directly related to the student's major area of study"
  • You will continue to be enrolled full-time during CPT if authorized during Fall and Spring terms
  • You should continue to make progress in your academic program while on CPT
  • You are NOT eligible for CPT once you have finished all degree requirements and after you have completed your program of study (i.e. course registration is no longer required, all academic requirements met, you have defended your thesis/dissertation, etc.)

If you engage in CPT during a semester, you must maintain your full-time student status/enrollment at UMass by making the necessary arrangements with the Career Development Hub and your department.

If you currently have CPT and wish to continue the same position without interruption following your completion of studies, you must apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) at least 3 months before your completion of studies date. Unlike CPT, OPT applications take approximately 3 to 4 months for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process an OPT application, so plan accordingly by attending one of the IPO’s OPT workshops the term before you plan to graduate.

Important note: Students who engage in a cumulative 12-months of full-time CPT will not be eligible for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). Part-time CPT is unlimited and will not impact future OPT eligibility nor will it be subtracted from your initial 12-months of OPT eligibility.

The CPT application process does not start with the IPO. Once you receive an internship/co-op offer, you must consult with your academic/faculty advisor or your college’s Career Services representative to determine if your proposed training opportunity is integral to your degree and if you will receive academic credit or be on a co-op. You will also need to acquire an approved Handshake contract from the Career Development Hub. Once these steps are done, you may submit your CPT Request Form for processing by the IPO by following the CPT Application Steps below. 

Please note: CPT authorization is not automatic and will be denied if the IPO determines that the proposed employment does not meet the specific criteria for CPT outlined above and/or we determine that your proposed training is not an appropriate use of CPTYou must still be making progress in your academic program while on CPT. 

 

You will need to follow the CPT application steps below precisely. Incorrect information or incomplete submissions will result in a delay of your CPT request. Given the time sensitive nature of CPT requests, the IPO recommends starting the process as soon as possible once enrolled in the appropriate course and you have the required paperwork or at least 2 weeks prior to your preferred CPT start date. Errors in the application process may require the IPO to push back your intended CPT start date.

You can accept your internship offer without CPT approval but you cannot start your internship until the IPO has authorized your CPT.

After receiving a paid training offer, ensure your offer letter meets the following requirements:

Step 1: Offer letter on company letterhead (with complete mailing address) which must contain ALL the following information:

  • Job title
  • A brief description of your job duties
  • Number of hours you will work per week
  • An exact employment start and end date
  • Location where you will be working
  • Your Salary and related compensation

Step 2: If your offer letter meets the requirements above, consult with your academic advisor or your college’s Career Services office to ensure your proposed training is integral to your degree.

Acquire the appropriate paperwork and enroll in the appropriate course or complete co-op paperwork. If your proposed CPT overlaps more than one semester, then you will need to enroll in multiple courses unless part of an approved co-op. (For example, your training occurs in the last 3-weeks of the summer term and all of the fall semester term. You are required to enroll in the appropriate course in the summer term and the fall semester term.)

Step 3: You must meet one of the following requirements for your CPT to be “integral:”Review the Career Development Hub information here: 

Specific Information for some colleges are here:

  1. Training is formally required for your degree program completion.  An internship, practicum, etc. that is required for degree program completion and enrollment in a course. Very few programs require practical training.
  2. Training is part of a Cooperative Education Experience (Co-op must approved by the Career Development Hub by submitting an online contract. The Co-op process is available here.
  3. Training is credit-earning (internship or independent study)​ Your Career Advisor or Academic/Faculty Advisor should determine which course best suits your program’s needs. The IPO does not determine this.

Step 4: Complete the Handshake agreement with the Career Development Hub. Please contact internships[at]umass[dot]edu to begin the process. The IPO does not oversee the Handshake portal and cannot advise on it. All students need to complete this step.

Step 5: Once you have completed Steps 1-4, proceed to the CPT Request E-Form and upload your job offer letter, approved Handshake contract, and a screen shot of your course enrollment (or your co-op*/externship paperwork) for the term(s) you are requesting CPT:

*Co-op students need to submit their departmental permission form and the course registration email you receive from the Career Development Hub.

Step 6: Allow 5 business days for IPO processing—you may not begin your CPT until you have been approved.

Full list of documents required to be uploaded:

  1. Job Offer Letter on company letterhead (with complete mailing address) which must contain ALL of the following information:
    • Salary and related compensation
    • An exact employment start and end date
    • Number of hours student will work per week
    • A brief description of job duties
    • Job title
  2. Proof of Course Enrollment/Departmental Permission Form (for Co-ops) a screen shot of your SPIRE enrollment if in a credited course)
    • You must remain enrolled in this course for the duration of your CPT. Withdrawal may be considered a violation that could jeopardize your immigration status.
    • Graduate Students: 999 Continuous Enrollment cannot be used for CPT purposes. If you are in a 999 course, you must enroll in a credit-bearing course of at least 1 credit before CPT will be issued.
  3. Your approved Handshake contract from the Career Development Hub

If you are missing any of the items above, your CPT request form will be delayed until the IPO has all of the items. You may not begin working until your CPT is approved and your CPT I-20 has been issued. The IPO processes CPT requests in the order received and cannot expedite requests.

Step 7: Assuming that the proposed training meets the criteria for CPT, the IPO will grant CPT authorization by issuing an updated I-20 form with a specific CPT endorsement for the named employer, location, and for the term dates indicated by the University’s Academic Calendar (unless on an approved Co-op contract).

Please note that it will take 5 business days to process your CPT I-20. CPT approval emails occasionally go into your Spam/Junk folder. Please check this folder if 5 business days have passed and you have not received the approval email yet.

Can I work for a company other than my CPT employer or outside of the authorized dates?

No. CPT is authorized for a specific employer/placement company and location and is date-specific. Changing your employer, dates, full-time/part-time hours all requires IPO approval. Submit a new CPT request as outlined in Application Steps if your employer or hours change. See the next FAQ for date changes.

Can I extend my CPT?

Yes, but with certain conditions:

If you are extending in the same term, please send an updated job offer letter to your IPO advisor and email confirmation from your Academic Advisor. Extension requests take 5 business days to process.

If you are extending into a new academic term, you must submit a new CPT Request Form by following the CPT Application Steps.

I was approved for 20-hours of CPT (part-time), may I work more than 20 hours (full-time)?

No. Since you were only approved for part-time CPT, you must gain approval for full-time CPT and resubmit the CPT Request form under CPT Application Steps.

I would like to work full-time for the next two years. Is this possible?

Yes—with the following warnings:

  • Regulations state that 12-months or more of full-time CPT will eliminate ALL OPT eligibility. The IPO does not recommend using 12-months or more of full-time CPT.
  • You will need to meet the CPT eligibility requirements and follow the application process for each academic term’s CPT. This will require multiple CPT requests.

Does part-time CPT affect my OPT eligibility?

No, you are eligible for unlimited part-time CPT as long as you meet the CPT eligibility requirements and follow the application steps for each academic term’s CPT.

Is there an application fee for CPT?

No.

Do I need CPT authorization for an unpaid internship or unpaid training opportunity outside the U.S.?

No. You should consult with your Career Services Office to ensure your opportunity is registered with them.

​I was offered a job at one of the Five Colleges, do I need CPT?

Employment of an academic nature (teaching, research, etc.) at the Five Colleges is considered on-campus and does not need CPT approval. Other employment (office work, athletics, etc.) is not permitted at the Five Colleges without authorization. Check with your IPO advisor if you are unsure.

Do I need to update my address if I will be living someone else while on CPT?

YES!! Update it in SPIRE within 10-days of relocating for your CPT employment (internship, etc.). Failure to do so could be considered a violation of your immigration status. You should also update the Career Development Hub so it is updated on your Handshake Contract.

Can I apply for a Social Security Number?

Yes. If you have not already obtained an SSN, you will be able to apply using your new CPT I-20 and your offer letter within 30-days of your employment starting date. See SSN instructions here.

Do I have to pay taxes while on CPT?

Maybe. The IPO cannot advise on taxes so you should consult with your HR’s payroll, the VITA Tax Clinic at Isenberg (February through April), or a tax professional proficient in non-resident tax status questions. We also highly recommend consulting these Internal Revenue Service guidelines on non-resident tax status questions. We also highly recommend consulting these Internal Revenue Service guidelines here and here

The IPO also partners with other UMass offices to provide a tax workshop for non-resident aliens.

Can I have CPT if I was at a previous academic level?

It depends:

  • Students who finished their degree and then immediately begin a new degree program (i.e. bachelor’s to masters) are eligible for CPT. Usage of full-time CPT resets at each degree level.
  • Students who finished their degree and then were on OPT are not eligible for CPT until after 9 months of full-time enrollment in F-1 status (unless the new degree program requires immediate participation).
  • Students who were at a previous institution and/or in another immigration status may be eligible for CPT. Check with your IPO advisor if you are unsure.

How many hours per week can I work on-campus while on CPT off-campus?

CPT combined with other on-campus employment is considered a gray area of the regulations as DHS’ guidance is not clear. The decision to have CPT and on-campus employment is ultimately up to you. You should consider your course load with your on-campus work, in addition to your CPT, and personal commitments in deciding to combine CPT with on-campus employment. Remember that you are a student first and that not meeting your academic or professional obligations can have long-term consequences.

Up to 20 hours per week is considered part time; anything more than 20 hours per week is considered full time for CPT purposes.