Internships, CPT, and Academic Training
Regulations regarding work authorization change frequently, and we expect changes to the CPT rules soon. Please check this page frequently for any updates to policies. Do not make important work-related plans without checking this page and talking to the CIS.
Students who wish to participate in internships or other off-campus training opportunities (paid or unpaid) before they complete their academic program must have prior Training Authorization before they begin their work. There are two types of Training Authorization. F-1 students must apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Authorization. J-1 students* must apply for J-1 Academic Training Authorization.
*ISEP students can find specific information regarding their process here.
What is Training Authorization?
These are training opportunities to help students gain experience in their field of study. While many students view these training opportunities as work permits, the primary goal the training is developing skills and gaining experience, not necessarily paid employment.
USCIS and the Department of State require that all off-campus training opportunities be recorded and authorized. There are some guidelines regarding what kinds of opportunities are permissible.
The government’s definition of Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is:
“employment which is an integral or important part of the established curriculum, including:…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.”
J-1 Academic Training is defined as a way “to participate in an academic training program during his or her studies.”
Both types of Training Authorization require that the employment/training opportunity be related to a student’s major field of study. A student with two majors may train in either major. Minors are not included in Training Authorization.
Who is eligible for Training Authorization?
- Training participants must be in lawful, valid F-1 or J-1 status.
- CPT participants must have maintained lawful, valid F-1 status in the United States for one full academic year in order to be eligible. The only exception is graduate students whose program requires immediate CPT.
- Training Authorization requires that the student already have a job offer. Students must submit their job offer letter as part of the application. Students may not apply for Training Authorization and look for work later.
- The employment/training opportunity must be directly related the student’s field of study. The academic advisor’s approval for is required for Training Authorization.
- Students applying for CPT must be enrolled in internship credits. Proof of enrollment in academic credit hours is also required for the CPT application.
Can students work full-time once they have Training Authorization?
It depends on when the students participate. During the regular semester*, students can only be authorized for 20 hours per week.
Students who participate in CPT over the summer break may choose either full-time or part-time CPT. However, full-time CPT authorization totaling more than 12 months will remove a student’s OPT eligibility. More information about OPT can be found here.
J-1 Academic Training during the regular semester must be of a nature that the student remains in Kirksville to attend classes and participate in their program. Full-time Academic Training is permitted only after completion of the J-1 program.
*Note – students who participate in CPT during the regular semester must maintain a full course load of 12 credit hours.
How long does Training Authorization last?
CPT is authorized on a semester basis. Students who participate in CPT over the summer and wish to continue during the fall semester will need to apply for CPT again for the fall semester. If their CPT authorization for summer expires before their fall authorization starts, they should make sure that they do not work during that time!
J-1 Academic Training is based on the number of semesters of a student’s program. A student participating in a one-semester (16-week) program is eligible for 16 weeks of Academic Training. A student participating in a two-semester (32-week) program is eligible for 32 weeks of Academic Training. There are no extensions available.
Where can Training take place?
During the regular semester, training should take place either remotely near or in the Kirksville area. Students MUST maintain a full course load of 12 credit hours during the regular semester, even if they have Training Authorization.
J-1 Academic Training can take place at any location in the United States after program completion.
Summer CPT can take place in any location in the United States.
It is an option for CPT to take place outside of the Kirksville area during the regular semester. However, students MUST get approval from their major department for 12 credit hours of CPT in order to meet the full-time enrollment requirement. Many departments will not authorize that many credits, so students should make sure that they have considered this before accepting a job in any location that would prevent them from attending other classes. The CIS generally does not recommend this option during the regular semester.
*Students in their final semester must be especially careful if they choose the above option. Students in their final semester must be enrolled in academic credit requiring physical presence in the United States. The CIS must have a formal method of confirming the student’s presence in the US. Thus, students would need to set up a reporting plan with their employer or internship coordinator in order to continually verify their physical presence to the CIS.
When should I apply for Training Authorization?
You should submit your Training Authorization application to the CIS as soon as you have a job offer. CPT students should remember that they will need to work with their advisor to get enrolled in credits and complete the application, so we suggest that they start the process as soon as they have decided to look for work.
Students MUST wait for CIS authorization before they begin working. Students who begin working without proper authorization are violating the terms of their F-1 or J-1 student status and risk termination of their status.
How can I apply for Training Authorization?
Pick up an application at the CIS. It has a list of the required documents. Submit the completed application and supporting documentation to the CIS. You can also find electronic files of the application packets here: CPT Application Packet and J-1 Academic Training Instructions & Application.
I have received a job offer and they want me to start on Monday! What should I do?
Work with your advisor to complete the appropriate Training Authorization application and gather the required documentation as quickly as possible. Make sure you note that you are requesting expedited processing. The CIS will try to get the application processed as quickly as possible. You must wait for authorization. DO NOT WORK WITHOUT PROPER AUTHORIZATION.
My summer CPT authorization ends on July 31st, and my new authorization won’t start until August 15th, what do I do?
STOP WORKING. CPT can only be authorized for the period in which you are enrolled in your CPT credits. This means that you will not be authorized to work during periods in which there are no classes to enroll in. Make sure you are aware of these dates and let your employer know them as well.
Do I have to pay taxes?
Yes, you and your employer will complete a form I-9 for purposes of tax reporting. This form should be updated each time you receive a new CPT authorization.
Normally students who have been in the U.S. for fewer than five years do not have to pay social security taxes. You will be subject to federal, state and local taxes. You will need to file a tax return. For more information, visit our taxes information page.
Can I change jobs during my training?
No, you must work for the employer specified on your I-20 or Academic Training Authorization Letter.
Is there anything else I should know?
- You need to remember that employment and training opportunities are authorized by the CIS based on the documentation you provide. While the CIS endeavors to make the decisions based on regulations provided by USCIS, it is possible that USCIS might disagree with the CIS’ decision. This is not generally something to worry about now. However, there have been instances of H-1B denials because the USCIS official did not consider previous CPT employment to have been closely related to the field of study. Ask the CIS if there are any issues you should consider with your particular situation.
- In order to protect themselves, students should carefully consider what kind of employment they accept as well as the accuracy of the documentation they provide to the CIS. In cases where a student’s position title might not obviously relate to their field of study, it suggested that they provide back-up documentation, such as a detailed description of duties or a letter from the student’s academic advisor clarifying how the position relates to the field of study.