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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 a job, an internship, a co-op, a gig/performance, a freelance work, working for a startup, etc. 
  • CPT is required for both paid and unpaid positions 
  • CPT must be authorized before you begin working. You will receive a new I-20 with the CPT listed on the second page.  

Details and Requirements

Qualifying for CPT

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

  • Be in lawful full-time F-1 status for a full academic year (some graduate programs may require immediate or earlier work authorization—please contact your academic advisor and OISS advisor for more information) 
  • Not currently on academic probation 
  • CPT must be an integral part of your program of study and related to a specific course.  This is determined by your academic advisor, program director, dean or PI.  As part of the CPT application process, your academic advisor (or similar academic authority figure) must certify that your job is directly related to your major and to a specific course.  
  • You must be registered for an academic course directly related to your CPT internship.  You can register for the course related to your CPT internship (or job) in either the same term of  your CPT or an adjacent term.  
  • CPT is generally authorized on a quarter/semester basis.  Exceptions will be made on an individual basis for longer CPT opportunities.   
  • You are not authorized to work until your CPT authorization is approved.   

How to Apply for CPT 

  1. Secure internship/job and obtain a job offer letter. Your job offer letter should contain: 
    • Start and end dates of this job (start date must be at least 1-2 weeks in the future.  We cannot back-date CPT authorizations) 
    • Complete address where you will work 
    • Company name 
    • Approximate number of hours per week you will work 
  2. Submit your CPT request in the OISS Portal. 
    WEINBERG UNDERGRADUATES: Please contact your Major Advisor
  3. The CPT authorization request is sent to the person you specified as your “academic advisor”-- your academic advisor/program director/PI/dean.  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.
    • 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 one week 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 with OPT recommendation from your “Documents” section of the OISS Portal. You will need to sign in ink in the student attestation section of the document. This is the easiest and fastest way to receive your CPT I-20.

    Alternatively, you can also request to pick up your new I-20 in person at the OISS Office.  Please send an email to intoff@northwestern.edu  if you prefer to pick up the I-20 in person.

    If you need the document shipped to you, please register and pay with eShipGlobal  so that the OISS can mail your I-20 directly to you.

CPT Requirements

CPT is authorized as either Part-Time (20 hours/week or fewer) or Full-Time (21+ hours/week). 

  •  You may participate in up to 12 months of Full-Time CPT before it deducts from your 12 months of Post-Completion OPT 
  • Most students only participate in Full-Time CPT during Summer Quarter.  Full-time CPT requests in Fall, Winter, or Spring terms will be scrutinized. You should plan to meet with your OISS advisor, correspond to questions about your request by email.  

Coursework and CPT

  • If you are interested in applying for CPT in your final quarter and have also applied for a Reduced Course Load, please speak to your OISS advisor to confirm if you qualify for CPT 
  • CPT requests submitted for I-20 extension periods will also be closely evaluated, and may require discussion with your academic advisor prior to approval. 
  • Students may work on campus and on CPT at the same time, but please remember that your academic coursework and commitments are your top priority! 

Important

If you decide not to participate in CPT before the authorized employment start date listed on your I-20, please contact your OISS advisor to request cancellation of your CPT authorization in SEVIS.

If you decide not to participate in CPT after the employment start date on your I-20 but before you have actually begun your work, you must contact your OISS advisor immediately so that OISS can contact SEVIS on your behalf to request removal of the CPT authorization. This can be a lengthy process, so please be sure to inform OISS as quickly as possible so  we can advise you of the required documentation.

It is essential that your SEVIS record is accurate. Your work authorization for CPT must be cancelled or removed if it does not occur.