Student Resources

Practical Training: CPT and OPT

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)


The student:

  • must have studied at least 9 months on their current I-20
  • must have secured a training position/offer letter before applying for CPT
  • must still be enrolled in a degree program (not ESL)
  • must not be in their first semester at UWest

Sample CPT schedule for an MBA student:

  • First semester: no CPT
  • Second and third semesters: CPT
  • Last semester: Internship (MBA 590) *see Howard* And apply for OPT before graduation (more about OPT later)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT Frequently Asked Questions

F-1 OPT regulations require students on post-completion Optional Practical Training to report to the ISSO any changes to your status.

Steps to Apply for CPT
  1. Obtain a signed offer letter from your employer on company letterhead, specifying
    • The student’s full legal name
    • The starting and ending dates (must be within the semester dates
    • Location (address where you will be working)
    • Hours per week (cannot exceed 20 hours/week during the semester; but may be full time in summer)
    • Salary (per hour or per week/month) or unpaid
    • Nature of the employment (short description of your job duties/responsibilities—must be directly related to your course of studies)
  2. Show the offer letter to your Department Chair; your chair will complete the “Application for Curricular Practical Training” on your behalf if he/she deems that the employment supports your academic preparation.
  3. Register for the one-unit course (If you are applying for summer CPT and not taking any other courses, be aware that you will need to pay for the one unit and the part time comprehensive fees.)
  4. Schedule an appointment with International Student Advisor (DSO) and bring the following:
    • the completed “Application for Curricular Practical Training” with required attachments
    • the offer letter from your employer
    • your valid, unexpired passport, and
    • your current I-20 Form

If everything is complete and in order, DSO will add the CPT authorization to your SEVIS record. That means that your I-20 will show the CPT authorization.

Important Notes:

  • You must have a social security card before working in a paid position.
  • You may start work only when you receive your new I-20 with CPT authorization
  • CPT is good only for the work authorized on your I-20; if you change employers, you need to re-apply.
  • CPT is not meant to let F-1 students work, but is part of their program.
  • Failure to comply with CPT regulations will result in the termination of your I-20, without the opportunity for reinstatement.
  • CPT is a fantastic opportunity to work in your chosen field, earn credit and gain valuable experience!
  1. What is OPT?
    • Optional Practical Training is a way to get job experience in your field of study. OPT lasts for 12 months. While Curricular Practical Training (CPT) takes place during your study program, OPT is usually post-completion.
  2. What kind of job can I hold with OPT?
    • OPT jobs must be in your field of study (see OPT Reporting Form), meaning directly related to your major and level of education. OPT work will be more than 20 hours per week, and may be paid or volunteer/an internship. You may work an OPT job anywhere in the US.
  3. Am I eligible for OPT?
    • You may apply for OPT: if you have been in lawful F-1 status for at least 9 months (one academic year); if you took part in full-time CPT for less than 365 days; if you are completing an academic level (even if you were on OPT after a previous academic level).
  4. When does my F-1 status expire?
    • Your F-1 status expires 60 days after the date you complete your degree requirements. This may not be the date on your I-20. So it is important for the DSO to make note of the completion date on your I-20 before you apply for OPT. After you petition to graduate, talk to your DSO.
  5. When can I apply for OPT?
    • You may apply for OPT as early as 90 days before you complete your degree requirements. OPT may begin as early as the day after your graduation date, but no more than 60 days after the graduation date (i.e. during the 60-day grace period).
  6. Why should I apply so early?
    • Because you want to make the most of your OPT time! If your EAD card is issued after the 60th day, USCIS will still set the OPT start date at 60 days after degree completion. So you could lose OPT time. So please apply early!
  7. When does USCIS need to have my OPT application?
    • USCIS cannot receive your OPT application 60 days after you complete your degree requirements. It could take USCIS 75-90 days to process your application.
    • Please refer to the OPT Checklist for more information. You may not travel outside of the US until you have a valid EAD card.
  8. What happens after I apply for OPT?
    • You will receive a receipt from USCIS; please keep this, and bring a copy to your DSO. Once you are authorized for OPT, you cannot cancel it. This means you should make sure you will complete your graduation requirements, find an appropriate job and keep it so you won’t lose OPT time.
  9. When may I begin working?
    • You may begin working when you 1.) Receive your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card from USCIS; 2.) The start date on your EAD card has been reached; 3.) You have completed your program requirements; and 4.) You have reported your employment details to your DSO.
  10. What information do I need to tell my DSO about while I’m on OPT?
    • With OPT, you should report any changes in your employment, address, phone number, and email within 10 days (see OPT Reporting Form).
  11. Is unemployment allowed during OPT?
    • You may accrue no more than 90 days during your 12 months of OPT.
OPT Application Checklist

F-1 Students are encouraged to reference both the F-1 Guide to OPT and OPT Reporting Form.

  1. Step 1: The Documents gather the following unstapled documents.
    • A check or money order for $410, made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Your name must appear on the check. If more than just your name is on the check, please circle your name.
    • Two Passport-Style Photos taken within the last 30 days, measuring 2 inches by 2 inches, with a plain white or off-white background. You need to write your name and your I-94 number on the back lightly, in pencil.
    • Completed G-1145, found at
    • Completed I-765 copy, found at
      • use a local address that will be valid for the next 3 months. USCIS will not forward mail.
      • The code for question #16 is (c) (3) (B)
      • You must sign the signature space, but do not cross any lines. If your signature is too large, USCIS will send it back to you.
    • Copy of your I-94, found at
    • Copy of student visa and passport photo pages
    • Copies of all previous I-20s in chronological order, with most-recent on top (not page 3).
    • Copies (front and back) of any previous Employment Authorization Documents (OPT cards, Off-campus work authorization, etc.).
    • Documentation from academic adviser indicating current academic status and expected date of completion of studies. One to two sentences in a letter is strongly recommended.
  2. Step 2: See your DSO
    • Make an appointment with your DSO
    • Bring your documents from Step 1.
    • Know the dates that you want OPT to begin and end (you can request OPT to begin up to 60 days after your graduation date).
    • Your DSO will issue an OPT I-20 and make copies of all your documents.
    • Consider signing up for health insurance during OPT. You have 30 days after your program end date to sign up. See Eddie Escalante in Student Life for more information!
  3. Step 3: Mail & EAD Card
    1. Send your OPT application via Certified Mail to: USCIS, PO Box 21281, Phoenix, AZ, 85036. USCIS must receive your application no later than 60 after you complete your degree requirements, not necessarily graduation. Using return receipt is highly recommended (a green postcard that the U.S. Postal Service returns to you after the application packet has been delivered to the Phoenix address).
    2. After around 2 weeks, you will receive your receipt from USCIS with your personal application number. Make a copy of this and give it to your DSO. Please keep track of your copy, since USCIS will not issue another one. You can check on your case using the receipt number.
    3. If USCIS requires additional documentation, they will send an RFE (Request for Evidence), and you will usually have 30 days to respond. If you receive such a request, send the DSO a copy immediately so that she can advise you.
    4. You should receive your EAD card 75-90 days after the date on the receipt. Once you receive your EAD card and the date on the card has come, you may begin working. If you do not receive your EAD card within 90 days of your receipt, tell your DSO. Please bring your DSO a copy of the front and back of your card.

Important Notes

  • Do NOT staple any of these copies together.
  • Make sure your mailing address does not change while you are waiting for your OPT card. If your card is returned to USCIS, you will have to apply again from the beginning and pay the fee again. If you lose your card, you will have to apply again for a replacement and pay the fee again. If you are not sure about where you will be living while you are waiting for your card, rent a mailbox at the University of the West address. Your mail will be safe, and our receptionist will email you whenever USCIS mail arrives for you.
  • As always, feel free to contact the DSO at:, or stop by AD 103. Making an appointment is recommended.
What Happens After OPT?
  1. What is an H1-B Cap Gap?
    • USCIS allows an F-1 student who has filed an H1-B petition and request for change of status to extend the duration of their F-1 status and any current employment authorization until the first day of the next fiscal year. That means you would be allowed to stay in the US if your application was receipted before the end of your current status.
  2. What should I do if my H1-B petition is denied?
    • If your H1-B petition is rejected, denied or revoked, your automatic extension of work authorization will be automatically terminated. In that case, you will receive a date by which you will have to leave the US.
  3. What is STEM OPT?
  4. What happens after OPT?
    • If you have maintained F-1 status, your 60-day grace period begins from the last day of OPT/last day of employment (whichever comes first). During that period, you may leave the US, transfer to another school, or another academic program at UWest. Your new program must start within 6 months. Please let your DSO know what your plans are, and before you leave the US.




  • Please remember that your PDSO and DSO are both here to help you navigate all I-20 matters. Don’t hesitate to ask. J