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.

CPT Workshops: You can find our CPT Workshops on our events page.  Please refer to our CPT Presentation 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.
  • You will not be authorized for CPT after the add/drop date in your final term.
  • 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 CPT

Eligibility

Students must meet certain requirements before being eligible for CPT:

  • You must be in active F-1 status and enrolled for 9 months (two semesters)
    • The 9-month requirement noted above may be waived if you are a graduate student and your degree program requires immediate participation in CPT.
    • The 9-month requirement noted above may be waived if you have been in certain other immigration statuses immediately before your F-1 status began. Check with your IPO advisor if you have been in another immigration status before.
  • You will not be authorized for CPT after the add/drop date in your final term.
  • 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 your CPT if authorized during Fall and Spring terms.
     
    • 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 your department.
  • 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., all academic requirements met, you have defended your thesis/dissertation, etc.).

If you currently have CPT and wish to continue in 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, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicate OPT applications so may take more time once you provide them with your new OPT I-20. Plan accordingly and attend 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 (20 hours or more) will not be eligible for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). Part-time CPT (20 hours or less) is unlimited and will not impact future OPT eligibility nor will it reduce your initial 12-months of OPT eligibility.

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 and/or we determine that your proposed training is not an appropriate use of CPT.

Application Steps

You will need to follow the CPT application steps below to ensure there are no delays with your request. Incorrect information or incomplete submissions will result in a delay and may require the IPO to push back your intended CPT start date.

You will not be authorized for CPT after the add/drop date in your final term. Given the time sensitive nature of CPT requests, the IPO recommends starting the process as soon as possible or no later than 15 business days prior to your preferred 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.

NOTE: The CPT application process does not start with the IPO. Steps 1-4 can be completed simultaneously, but you must ensure all approvals are done before beginning Steps 5-7.

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) that contains 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:

You must meet one of the following requirements for your CPT to be “integral.”

  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. Your department typically requires enrollment in a specific course each term you need CPT.
  2. Training is part of an Undergraduate Cooperative Education Experience* (Co-op must be approved by the Career Development Hub. *Undergraduate students ONLY.
  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 and Career Development Hub do not determine this.
  4. Training is on an approved Graduate School Externship. The Externship must be approved by the Graduate School to acquire the required paperwork. *Graduate Students ONLY.

Step 3: If your offer letter meets the requirements above and you believe your internship meets one of the options above, consult with your academic advisor or your college’s Career Services office to ensure your proposed training is integral to your degree and get enrolled in at least one credit for that semester.

Each College has different CPT procedures for awarding credit and completing the required paperwork. Please review your college below. If your college is not listed and you are unsure of who your advisor is, please reach out to the Career Development Hub for assistance.    

Acquire the appropriate paperwork and get enrolled in the appropriate course or complete co-op paperwork (undergraduate students only).

If your proposed CPT overlaps more than one term, then you will need to be enrolled in one credit in each term unless part of an approved co-op.* (For example, your training occurs in the last 3-weeks of the summer term and all the fall semester term. You are required to be enrolled in the appropriate course in the summer term and the fall semester term.)

CPT will only be approved for the registered terms.  If you cannot register for a specific term because the registration period has not opened yet, you will need to wait to submit an additional CPT request once the registration period opens and you have been enrolled.

*Undergraduate Co-op Students will be coded as a Co-op in SPIRE and do not need to enroll in any credit but should provide their Department Permission Form with all needed terms marked as approved.

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.  This can include Thesis (699) or Dissertation (899) credit if the internship is related to your research. Check with your GPD for the appropriate course number.

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.

Specific Information for some colleges is here:

Step 4: Complete the Handshake Contract with the Career Development Hub. You may submit your Handshake Contract before you have been enrolled in credit.  Upload your offer letter and a signed Field Experience Acknowledgment Form (for an onsite internship) to the Handshake Contract. The IPO does not oversee the Handshake portal and cannot advise on it. Please contact internships[at]umass[dot]edu if you have any questions. All students need to complete this step. The Handshake Contract can take at least 5 business days to be processed and approved. Do not submit your CPT request until Steps 1-4 are complete.

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

Step 6: Allow 10 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 that meets all requirements noted in Step 1.
    • You may upload an addendum to the offer letter, job description, or additional email confirmation to meet the requirements as long as you have an official job offer letter.
  2. Proof of Course Enrollment(s)/Co-op/Externship Permission Form. To get the correct course enrollment screenshot, go to SPIRE>Manage Classes>View My Classes>Printable page. Save this as a .pdf or .jpeg to upload to the E-Form. Co-op and externship students need to upload their approval paperwork.
  3. 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.
  4. Your approved Handshake contract(s) from the Career Development Hub.

If you are missing any of the items above, your CPT request will be delayed. 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: If the proposed training meets the criteria for CPT, the IPO will grant CPT authorization by issuing a CPT I-20 with a specific CPT endorsement for the named employer, location, and for the term dates.

Please note that it will take 10 business days to process your CPT I-20. CPT approval emails occasionally go into your Spam/Junk folder; remember to check that folder as well. Please do not email requesting an expedited approval.

Extension Request

During your internship, your company may request that you extend your time with them. If this occurs and your academic program agrees it is necessary, you need a CPT extension authorized by the IPO (remember CPT is date, location, and company specific). You can only work up to the authorized date on your CPT I-20. You may need to stop working while you wait for the extension.

Extension requests may take up to 10 business days to process. Please plan accordingly.

Determine which process you need to follow:

For example: Your internship was originally supposed to end on March 15 (before the end of the spring term), but you are now requesting your CPT to end on July 30 (in the summer term).

  1. You are extending your CPT in the current term only.

    For example, your internship was originally supposed to end on March 15, but you are extending to April 20, which is still in the spring term. Since your new CPT end date is still within the same term and you have an associated CPT credit, you do not need to submit a new CPT. Follow the process below:

    • Get an updated offer letter with the new end date. It should meet the requirements listed above in CPT Application Steps.
    • Request that your existing Handshake contract is updated with the new end date. Submit a CPT request with your updated documents (found in Step 5 of the Application Steps). Your academic advisor will receive an email requesting confirmation that the extension is appropriate. Once approved by your academic advisor, it will enter the IPO processing queue; it may take up to 10 business days for a CPT I-20 extension and you may need to stop working during this time. You will receive an email once your updated CPT I-20 is ready.
  2. You are extending your CPT into the next academic term.
    • Get an updated offer letter with the new end date. It should meet the requirements listed above in CPT Application Steps.
    • Update your existing Handshake contract and request a new one for the summer term.
    • Enroll in credit for the summer term.
      • Submit a CPT request (found in step 5 of CPT Application Steps). Your academic advisor will receive an email requesting confirmation that the extension is appropriate. Once approved by your academic advisor, it will enter the IPO processing queue; it may take up to 10 business days for a CPT I-20 extension and you may need to stop working during this time. You will receive an email once your updated CPT I-20 is ready.
Frequently Asked Questions

Who is my sponsor while on CPT?

UMass Amherst is your immigration sponsor while on CPT. We will assist you with the needed work authorization for your employment. No additional sponsorship beyond your CPT authorization is required at this time.

Can I have CPT in my final term? I'd like to start my OPT job prior to the end of the term.

CPT must be authorized prior to the add/drop deadline in your final term. Since CPT is curricular, it must be part of your degree. Presumably, you would have enrolled in all required credits by add/drop and thus do not need CPT to graduate. If you’d like to start your OPT job immediately after the term ends, apply for OPT.  

Can I have CPT after I graduate, while waiting for my OPT to be approved?

No, CPT can only be used before your completion of studies date or your defense date. CPT is part of your degree, not just for work authorization.

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

No. CPT authorization is specific. Changing your employer, dates, full-time/part-time hours, etc. from what is on your I-20 requires IPO approval. If you are extending our internship dates, please see the CPT Extension Request section. If you are changing your employer, you need a new CPT request and should follow the CPT Application Steps above.

Can I do more than one job on CPT?
Yes, but you must request a separate CPT authorization using the process above for EACH employer.

Can I be self-employed under CPT and work for myself or creating a startup?
No.

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 E-form under CPT Application Steps.

What if my CPT is cancelled or shortened?

Please contact your IPO advisor immediately so we can amend your CPT.

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. Full-time CPT is considered 20 hours or more per week.
  • You will need to meet the CPT eligibility requirements each term and complete the application process for each academic term’s CPT. This will require multiple CPT requests.

My internship is abroad. Do I need CPT?

It depends. In some situations, we would recommend that you apply for CPT even if you are abroad. Please review the questions below and reach out to your IPO Advisor with your answers so we can help you determine if you need CPT.

  1. Will you be in the U.S. at any point of your internship?
  2. Is the internship company located in the U.S. or outside of the U.S.?
  3. Are you being paid in U.S. dollars? Are you being paid in a U.S. bank account?
  4. Where is the internship company located?
  5. What internship location will you put on your CV/resume?

All students interning abroad (even if you do not need CPT) must get approval from the Education Abroad office in the IPO. Please email abroad[at]umass[dot]edu to ensure all UMass travel protocols are met.

Does part-time (20 hours or less) CPT affect my OPT eligibility?

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

​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 if you remain under the 20 hour/week limit at both UMass and the Five Colleges. If you will work more than 20 hours on-campus and at a Five College, please contact your IPO Advisor. Other employment (office work, athletics, etc.) at the Five Colleges is not permitted.

You may need a separate letter from the IPO for the other institution’s HR and the SSN process.

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

Yes. Update your address 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.

Can I apply for a Social Security Number?

Yes. If you need an SSN, you can apply within 30-days of your employment starting date using your new CPT I-20 and your offer letter. See the SSN instructions for those on CPT here.

Do I have to pay taxes while on CPT?

The IPO cannot advise on taxes so you should consult with your company’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 here and here

Can I travel while on CPT?

Yes, please review our travel information here to ensure you have all the needed documents to return to the U.S.  Your CPT I-20 will already be signed for travel on page 2 of your I-20 so there is no need to request an additional signature unless it is more than 12 months old.

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 graduate 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.

Can the IPO back date my CPT approval?

No. You can only start working once the IPO has provided your new CPT I-20. Starting prior to your approved start date will be a violation of the immigration regulations and may jeopardize your immigration status.

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.