Students with F-1 visa status may be eligible to participate in Curricular Practical Training (CPT), which “is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school”. Southern Arkansas University defines Curricular Practical Training as a course that is listed in the course catalog with an assigned course number, has an established grading or evaluation component, and is offered at a cooperating employer.
Some students get confused by the terms Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and internship. The internship is the academic course students must register for in order to earn credit. CPT is authorization from ISS that your internship meets the regulations for students to work off campus.
Students’ academic advisors may not have heard of CPT let alone know the regulations surrounding it. Students should speak with their academic advisor about any academic questions they may have concerning the internship.
CPT is work authorization for F-1 students to receive further training that is designed to achieve an established academic objective and is directly related to your degree level and major. Federal regulations permit a student to engage in CPT that is an integral part or planned option in the student’s degree plan. CPT authorization is dependent upon the student being academically eligible and the employment meeting federal government regulations. F-1 students must apply for CPT if they intend to work off-campus whether or not they will receive any form of payment or compensation.
CPT Workshop Powerpoint
Please click on the link below to download our voiced-over CPT Workshop powerpoint presentation.
You must currently be in valid F-1 status.
- You must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year. An exception exists for graduate students whose programs require immediate curricular training.
- Must be enrolled for an internship course during the semester of requested CPT
- The student must continue to be enrolled for a full course of study during the CPT in fall and spring semesters.
- Employment must be related to your major field of study
- Employment must be a required part of the academic program. Work which is not required by the degree program may meet the requirements for curricular practical training if you receive academic credit for the employment experience.
- Must obtain CPT authorization I-20 PRIOR to employment. Working without authorization is a violation of a student’s F1 status.
CPT must be connected to an established credit-bearing internship course in your program of study. If the internship course does not offer credits then CPT cannot be offered.
If an internship is an option for the student’s program of study then they can learn more about CPT on this page or set an appointment with the ISS office to learn more.
Common CPT Issues or Questions
Part-time CPT is employment for 20 hours or less per week.
Full-time CPT is employment for more than 20 hours per week.
- 12 months or more of full-time CPT will cause students to be ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Fall and Spring Semesters:
- Part-time CPT (under 20 hours per week)
- Undergraduate: must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours including the internship.
- Graduate: must be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours including the internship course and one in-class or hybrid course. Cannot do an internship with only an online course.
- Full-time CPT (up to 40 hours per week)
- Undergraduate: must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours including the internship.
- Graduate: must be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours including the internship course and one in-class, hybrid course, or online course.
- Only Online courses with internship: Students must have academic advisor approval that the internship is suitable for maintaining full-time status.
Summer I or II:
- Undergraduate and Graduate:
- Can do full or part-time CPT
There are no other course requirements as long as the student is not graduating in August. If the student is graduating in August then the summer session must be treated like the regular fall and spring semesters.
Students are eligible to change employers during CPT, but students should first consult their academic advisor first.
Students CANNOT begin working for a new employer until a new CPT I-20 for the new employer has been created. If a student needs to change employers they should start a new CPT application with the new employer’s information.
REMEMBER: Students should apply for the new CPT authorization at least 7 business days before the employment start date stated on the employment offer letter, failure to do so could result in the application being denied.
Working for an unauthorized employer is consider illegal employment and WILL result in termination.
Students performing any paid or unpaid tasks that would be characterized as “employment” by labor laws will be treated as employed. We advise students who intend to do an unpaid internship to apply for CPT authorization even if the company does not require employment authorization documents. F1 regulations are not concerned about compensation, but rather regulating any work performed off campus. It is highly advised that students not perform any tasks for an employer until CPT authorization has been granted.
Determining the difference between an unpaid internship and volunteering can be difficult at times. Volunteering is time donated to charitable or humanitarian organizations without remuneration or any other form of compensation. Basically, if you are working for an organization in hopes of future employment with that organization it would more than likely not be considered volunteering.
This complicated question would depend on the student’s academic program. It is best if the student plans ahead with their academic advisor to ensure an internship would work with their program of study.
CPT is connected to students’ internship course. If the students’ program only has one credit-bearing internship course then CPT cannot be extended beyond that semester. If the program does offer more than one internship course and it also is worth credit hours then students can apply again for CPT once they have registered for the new CPT course.
Students cannot receive CPT if they register for the same internship course that they have already received credit for during the previous semester.
How to Apply for CPT
To begin your application click on the button below. It is highly recommended that you read through the rest of this website to learn more about the application process.
Students will need to submit a formal training letter with their application. It is very important that students ensure that all the information is complete and accurate on the letter before submitting. Mistakes in this letter can severely delay your application.
Here is the letter your employer must complete in order for our office to recommend CPT:
- Must be on company letterhead.
- Job title and brief job description
- Exact dates of employment (Start and end dates)
- Number of hours of work per week
- Physical place of employment (Street address, no PO Boxes)*
- Must be physically signed. NO electronic signatures
*Please note, the employment address needs to be stated within the letter, not just on the letterhead.
Once you are registered for your internship course, you can begin your CPT application. The student should apply for CPT at least 7 business days before the employment start date stated on the employer’s training letter.
DO NOT apply for CPT within a few days of your start date. There are several documents that students need to obtain during the application process and it is very unlikely that it will be done quickly. If a student applied and the start date on their offer letter or other documents has passed then the application will be denied.
Students apply for CPT on the SAU website. Click the blue ‘CPT Application’ button. This will take students to our online application system.
All documents are uploaded online. Students do not need to submit any paper documents to the International Office.
Use your SAU login information to log into the application
- Select “I have SAUMAG username and password”
- Username: SAU email without the “@mulerider.saumag.edu” email address (ex jmmartisek1234), password: SAU password
- Select “Request, 20XX” (pick the semester you are applying for CPT)
- You will be taken to your CPT Request Application page.
You do not need to click the application button again to log back into the application. To get to your application log into the student profile page
Once on the profile page, you will see your incomplete application listed on the left-hand side of the page.
There are a number of steps in the CPT application process:
- Login to the CPT application portal.
- Read the Learning Content pages
- Take the CPT quiz. You must get 100% on the quiz to apply for CPT.
- Request and receive a recommendation from your advisor.
- Complete the CPT Questionnaire
- Upload your Employer’s Training Letter
- Upload your unofficial transcript showing you are registered for an internship course
- Click submit
Once the application has been submitted your request will be reviewed within 7 business days.
You do not have to complete the application in one sitting. You can log back in and complete your application at any time using your SAU login information
The following documents are required to apply for an OPT I-20 Application:
- Employer’s Training Letter
- Unofficial transcript showing you are registered for an internship course.
You will send a recommendation request to your academic advisor through the application portal. This will send an email to your advisor who will log in and submit the recommendation. Only send 1 recommendation.