November 10, 2015
By: Ramon E. Rivera
Foreign nationals enrolled in F-1 student status have the option of working in the United States by engaging in practical training during their academic program, or upon completing their program. Practical training can provide valuable work experience by sharpening and adding to the skill set students acquire while enrolled in school. There are two types of practical training available to F-1 students: curricular practical training (CPT), and optional practical training (OPT).
CPT is temporary employment authorization for practical training directly related to a student’s major field of study listed on the Form I-20. Students receive authorization for CPT from their Designated School Official (DSO). CPT can include employment, internship experience (paid or unpaid), cooperative (co-op) education experience, or practicum participation.
Students enrolled in a full-time program of study can apply for CPT during the regular academic year and/or during their annual vacation quarter. CPT is limited to 20 hours per week during the academic year; however, full-time employment is permitted during vacation quarters. Students must be careful not to accumulate 12 months of full-time CPT because doing so can result in loss of eligibility for OPT, another type of employment authorization available to students when they graduate. Part-time CPT will not affect OPT eligibility.
CPT eligibility requirements include the following:
The second type of practical training available to qualifying F-1 students is OPT.
OPT is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 student status, and who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than nine months, are permitted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work for 12 months on a student visa towards obtaining practical training to complement their academic field of study. A degree in any academic field provides eligibility for the 12-month period of OPT.
OPT eligibility requirements include the following:
On April 2, 2008, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a 17-month extension to the OPT program for students in qualifying STEM fields. To qualify for the 17-month OPT extension a student must have received a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics degree in one of the following approved majors listed on the USCIS website.
This interim final rule provides a permanent solution to the H-1B “cap-gap” problem that occurs whenever an F-1 student’s status and work authorization expire before the start of any approved H-1B employment beginning on October 1st. Previous cap-gap provisions extended only the stay but not the employment authorization of the F-1 student.
A student may qualify for an additional 17-month period of OPT under the following circumstances:
Please feel free to contact Ramon Rivera, Esq., at Mackenzie Hughes LLP if you have any questions or concerns regarding the CPT or OPT program.