Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a benefit available to international students in the F-1 visa category. CPT is an employment authorization granted by the Designated School Officials at the Office of International Student and Scholar Services. CPT can be used for many different types of work including internships, practicums, cooperatives, jobs, gigs, volunteer work, or performances; paid or unpaid. All students participating in these types of activities must obtain CPT work authorization before beginning their work. Once your CPT is approved, you will get a new I-20 with your work authorization visible on page 2 of that document. You should request a new CPT authorization for every term you plan to participate in CPT.
Federal regulations specify that CPT work opportunities must be “directly related” to your program of study, and “integral” to your degree program at Northwestern. Part of your CPT request in your OISS portal will ask you to select an academic advisor to approve your CPT opportunity. At the OISS, we rely on academic advisors to verity that your CPT is related to your program of study, and that it’s integral to your degree program. Your CPT opportunity can be related to your major, minor, or to a certificate program in which you are enrolled.
Individual degree programs have specific requirements to certify your CPT. Additionally, some programs do not authorize CPT opportunities while you are a student. Make sure to check first with your academic advisor about any restrictions and details related to CPT jobs or internships before you submit your CPT request in the OISS portal.
***If the OISS becomes aware of a student working (paid, unpaid, internship, volunteer, co-op, etc.) without authorization, his/her SEVIS record will be terminated.  This means you you will need to leave the U.S. immediately, and must submit a new I-20/DS-2019 request, pay the SEVIS fee and apply for a new visa stamp before you may return.  Questions about work authorization?  Contact your OISS advisor

Are you eligible?

In order to be eligible for CPT, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be in lawful full-time F-1 status for a full academic year.
  • Be in good academic standing with the university.
  • CPT must be an integral part of your program of study.
  • CPT must be related to a specific academic course.
  • Your academic advisor must approve the CPT electronic recommendation.
  • You have provided a job offer letter that meets the criteria listed below (see Job Offer Letter).

Authorization period and time restrictions

Work authorization is given per quarter/semester. Additional quarters/semesters require a new application. You may use a job offer letter that covers more than one academic term, but you must still apply each term for CPT. In this case, the end date requested will be the end of the quarter/semester.  The OISS will authorize CPT two weeks before OR after the quarter/semester dates. 

Long-term employment offers

You might receive a job offer that spans more than one quarter. This is allowed, provided that your program enables you to be registered for a CPT class for multiple terms. Keep in mind that if you have 12 months of full-time CPT, you will not be able to apply for OPT.

  • You will submit a CPT request for each appropriate term. You will need to upload the employment letter with the long term dates of your offered employment for each request. The end date of CPT should be the end of the quarter/semester.

How to apply

  • Obtain a job offer letter that meets the criteria listed below (Job Offer Letter)
  • Register for the related course.  You may need to contact your academic program, Engineering Career Development (ECD), Chicago Field Studies (CFS), or other office to be registered. 
  • Submit an electronic request for CPT through the OISS Portal.

If the application is approved by your international student advisor, the period of CPT will be entered into SEVIS and a new I-20 will be printed for you in 7 calendar days. If your application is not approved or is incomplete, you will be e-mailed by your international student advisor.

If needed, apply for a Social Security Number after picking up the I-20 at the International Office. You will need a letter from the International Office. You can obtain this after your CPT has been approved by completing our Document Request Form online.

Job offer letter

The letter should be typed on company letterhead and must contain the following information:

  • Dates of employment must match dates reported in the CPT Employment Information Questionnaire through the OISS Portal.
  • Number of hours per week; part-time is 20 hours or less and full-time is 21 hours or more.
  • Address where the employment will take place.

Frequently asked questions:
Course Registrations:

  • Students requesting CPT should be enrolled in an internship course or a course related to their internship before requesting CPT work authorization.
  • If CPT is requested during the normal academic year (Fall, Spring and/or Winter terms), a student should be enrolled in the relevant course that term.
  • If CPT is requested for the summer term, a student can be enrolled for the relevant course that quarter, but can also be enrolled for the relevant course the previous (Spring) or following (Fall) term.  

Full Time vs. Part Time:

  • Part-time CPT requests will be authorized as long as the CPT authorization process is fulfilled, including approval from the academic advisor, through your OISS portal.
  • Full-time CPT requests will be authorized for summer term as long as the CPT authorization process is fulfilled, including approval from the academic advisor,  through your OISS portal.
  • Full-time CPT requests in Fall, Winter, or Spring terms will be scrutinized. You should plan to meet with your OISS advisor, or respond to questions about your request by email. 

Reduced course loads and CPT:

  • If a student has been granted a reduced course load authorization for their final term, and is pursuing a for-credit course, CPT will be authorized during a student’s final term if the CPT authorization process is fulfilled, including approval from the academic advisor.
  • If a student is not enrolled in a for-credit course, the CPT request will be scrutinized by the International Student Advisor. CPT will be authorized on a case-by-case basis.
  • Students who are authorized for a medical or academic difficulties reduced course load do not qualify for CPT. 

CPT during periods of I-20 Program Extension:

  • An I-20 extension will not be granted for the purpose of obtaining a CPT opportunity.
  • CPT will be authorized during a period of an I-20 extension if the CPT authorization process is fulfilled, including approval from the academic advisor.
  • If a CPT request is submitted during a period of I-20 extension, students should expect that their application will be scrutinized.