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Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is temporary work authorization required for any off-campus work during an F-1 student’s academic program.   

  • Off-campus work includes an internship, practicum, freelance work, cooperative, job, gig/performance, (non-charitable) volunteer work, performance. Job shadowing or informational interviews do not require CPT. Organized externship opportunities should be reviewed to determine whether CPT is required.  
  • CPT is required for paid and unpaid positions.  
  • CPT must be authorized before a student can begin working. Students will receive a new I-20 with the CPT listed on the second page.  Students working without CPT authorization are considered in violation of F-1 status and should contact their OISS advisor immediately. 
  • The CPT start date should be at least two weeks after the submission date of the CPT Request in the OISS Portal. If a student enters a start date that occurs before the CPT I-20 is issued, the start date will be changed to the date that the CPT I-20 is issued. Students are not authorized to begin CPT employment until the approved CPT I-20 has been issued. 

Details and Requirements

Qualifying for CPT

To be eligible for CPT, you must meet the following criteria: 

  • Completed one full academic year: 3 quarters, 2 semesters, or 3 trimesters at Northwestern University, or at another SEVP-approved higher education institution in the U.S.
A transcript or I-20 showing one academic year of full-time enrollment may be required.
Graduate students that have not completed one full academic year are not eligible for CPT unless the CPT internship/job opportunity is required by the graduate program within the first year.
  • CPT must be an integral part of the major program of study (as listed on the I-20 as Major 1 or Major 2) and related to a specific course. This is determined by an academic advisor, program director, dean or PI. As part of the CPT application process, the academic advisor (or similar academic authority figure) must certify that the job is directly related to a student’s major and to a specific course.   
  • Registered for an academic course directly related to the CPT internship.  
If CPT is requested during the academic year (Fall, Winter and/or Spring terms), a student must be enrolled in the relevant course during the term in which the employment takes place 
If CPT is requested for the summer term, a student can be enrolled for the relevant course during summer term or could be enrolled for the relevant course the previous (Spring) or following (Fall) term.    
The CPT course is not required to be an internship/co-op course, unless otherwise required by the academic program.  
The student must enroll in a CPT approved course for each approved CPT authorization. 
  • Not on academic probation. 

CPT Requirements

CPT is authorized as either part-time (20 hours/week or less) or full-time (over 20 hours/week).  

  • Students should not engage in 12 months or more of full-time CPT if they are interested in applying for the 12-month Post-Completion OPT period. 

CPT is authorized on a quarter/semester basis.

  • Dates of employment must fall within the academic term of authorization or up to 2 weeks into either adjacent term. Any extensions beyond this period require another CPT request.  
  • Doctoral students may be authorized for up to one academic year of CPT. 

Students are not authorized to work until the CPT authorization is approved and a new CPT I-20 is received. 

Coursework and CPT

  • Students who are authorized for a medical or academic difficulty reduced course load (RCL) do not qualify for CPT during the RCL term.  
  • Students who are authorized for a final term RCL may apply for CPT if they meet the eligibility requirements. 
  • An I-20 extension will not be granted for the sole purpose of obtaining a CPT opportunity.   
  • Students may work on-campus and on CPT at the same time, but remember academic coursework and commitments are top priority! 
Remote work 
  • CPT is required for remote work from within the U.S. for a U.S. employer. 
  • CPT is not required for remote work from within the U.S. for an international employer. Students should consult with their employer and an international tax attorney to confirm payment and tax implications.  
  • CPT will not be authorized for work completed from outside of the U.S. Students should consult with their employer and an international tax attorney to confirm payment and tax implications.  

How to Apply for CPT 

  1. Secure internship/job and obtain a job offer letter. The job offer letter should contain: 
    • Start and end dates of the job. Please note: The start date must be at least 5-10 business days into the future on the offer letter as we cannot back-date CPT authorization.
    • Name of employer
    • Full U.S. address of employer
    • Approximate number of hours per week the student will work
  2. Submit your CPT request in the OISS Portal. 
  3. The CPT authorization request is sent to the person you specified as your “academic advisor” -your academic advisor/program director/PI/dean.  (See the instructions in the CPT request for more information). Your recommender certifies: 
    • You are making academic progress. 
    • This CPT opportunity is directly related to your major area of study. 
    • This CPT opportunity is directly related to an academic course you are currently enrolled in/will enroll in.
    • The CPT opportunity is integral to or required for your program of study.
    • You should discuss this request with your academic advisor (not your OISS advisor) before completing the CPT request in the portal. We cannot process the CPT request until the electronic recommendation from your academic advisor has been received.
  4. Your OISS advisor begins processing your CPT authorization once your request is in “Submitted” status in the OISS Portal.  Your OISS Advisor will issue you an updated I-20 with your CPT Approval and travel signature on page 2 of the I-20.  This process takes up to 5 business days from the time we receive a “submitted” status CPT request. You can check the status of your CPT request in your OISS Portal Profile. 

    Important Note: Students may track the status of a CPT Request in the OISS Portal. If your application remains in “APPROVER REVIEW” status beyond 3 business days, please contact your OISS Advisor for support. 
  5. Receive and sign your updated I-20 with CPT authorization

    You will receive an email notifying you when your updated I-20 with CPT authorization has been processed and is ready for you to access via the OISS Portal. You will then be able to print your updated I-20 from your “Documents” section of the OISS Portal. You will need to sign in ink in the student attestation section of the document.


If a student decides not to participate or if there are any changes to an already approved CPT authorization, the student is required to submit an Edit/Change CPT Authorization request in the OISS Portal.  

  • If a student is confirmed to have not enrolled in a CPT course after the CPT was approved and it ended, the student is considered in violation of F-1 status. Student should contact their OISS advisor immediately. 
  • If the start date of the approved CPT has passed, the student must provide a letter on employer’s company letterhead confirming the correct employment dates or confirm the student did not perform any work. Students should contact their OISS advisor. 

It is essential that the SEVIS record is accurate. A student's work authorization for CPT must be cancelled or removed if it does not occur.