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Off-Campus Work: CPT

CPT, or Curricular Practical Training, is the work authorization available to F-1 international students to work off-campus in paid positions.  Please note, to be eligible for CPT, a job has to be providing you with experience that is directly related to your academic program.  There is no work authorization for general work done off campus, except in very extreme circumstances (see Economic Hardship).

CPT requires an application completed by the student, which can be submitted to the IES office.  We will add CPT work authorization to your immigration record, and prepare a new I-20 with CPT authorization on it.  CPT is approved for a specific job that a student has already received an offer for, and is only approved for one semester or session at a time.

CPT Application: CLICK HERE FOR THE CPT APPLICATION FORM   (updated Dec 9, 2016)

The “Optional Worksheet for CPT” is available here.  This form is NOT the CPT application and it should NOT be submitted to IES; it is available for you to use with your academic adviser, if you or your adviser wants to use it.

 

UPDATE: PRAC enrollment now available online through the Career Center!
Complete directions are available here.

 

CPT Eligibility

Current students in active F-1 status are eligible to apply for CPT after at least one academic year of full-time study in a University in the US.  An academic year is two semesters, not including summer or winter sessions.  UMBC IES recognizes this one year as applicable even if it was done in a different immigration status, such as H-4, or if it was done at a different school or at a different degree level in F-1 status.  Previous enrollment cannot be considered for this requirement if the student has left the US and returned with a different SEVIS ID to continue their studies. 

Graduate programs that REQUIRE a student to participate in a work experience in their first year can provide proof of this requirement from the published program requirements.  This way, the student can take advantage of CPT before the one year has passed as required by their program..

CPT is only required for paid positions off-campus, but can also be used for unpaid positions.

 

CPT Application Requirements

Immigration regulations describe CPT as work that is “established as part of the curriculum” of study.  The CPT application is designed to show that the work being done by the student meets this requirement.  Three pieces of information are required to provide this proof:

1. Proof of employment opportunity: A copy of your job offer letter from the position you intend to work in on CPT.

2. Proof that the work is related to your academic program:  The CPT application asks the student to describe how the job they are planning to work in is related to their academic program.  The student’s academic adviser (and GPD – Graduate Program Director – for Graduate students) must confirm that they agree with this statement by signing the application form.

3. Proof that the work will be recorded on your academic record: To make sure we connect the work experience to your UMBC record, CPT requires enrollment in academic credit or Practicum (PRAC) that appears on your UMBC transcript.

  • Academic credit requires enrollment in, and payment for, regular academic credit, such as an internship credit or independent study approved by your academic adviser.
  • PRAC is a “practicum notation” managed by the Career Center.  PRAC does NOT have any academic credits associated with it, so does not have a cost and does not add credits to your transcript.  However, it does appear on your transcript with a pass/fail grade and has minimal requirements to participate.  Please read more about PRAC here.
The IES Office cannot approve CPT for dates in the past. You will only be authorized for CPT once all of your CPT application paperwork has been completed, authorized by IES, and added to your I-20.

Students applying for a continuation of a current CPT need to submit the CPT application again for each new semester or session.  If the three requirements clearly cover both a semester and session (for example, fall and winter), IES can approve as much as a semester AND a session with one application.  Your academic adviser or career counselor, for PRAC enrollment, can also email their support to IES if you are applying for CPT to continue with a position that was previously approved, to expedite the process.

*It is absolutely imperative that CPT is approved before you being your work experience, or before you continue an existing job whose CPT authorization is expiring!  You are not legally allowed to work in the US without this authorization current on your I-20.  While employers might not catch this and might hire you or allow you to continue working after the CPT expires, these kinds of discrepancies could cause you very significant problems in later immigration applications, such as H-1b or Permanent Resident applications.  Please take responsibility for your immigration status and make sure you are aware of the end of your CPT authorization, and plan accordingly!

 

CPT Application Deadlines

Deadlines for the CPT application depend on how the experience will appear on your transcript.

For Academic credit: the deadline to enroll in academic credit for CPT is the same as the regular deadline to enroll in any courses each semester.  The deadlines for each semester and session can be found here: http://registrar.umbc.edu/academic-calendar/pdf-calendars/

For PRAC notation: the deadline varies by semester, and should be verified with the Career Center, but typically is near the following dates:

For Fall semester: approximately October 1
For Winter session: approximately January 2
For Spring semester: approximately March 1
For Summer Session I or II: approximately July 1

 

CPT Part-time/Full-time Options 

CPT can be approved as part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week).

Part-time CPT  is not limited, and can be used as many semesters or sessions as you like as long as it’s approved for each new semester or session. Part-time CPT can be used in any semester or session once you are eligible.

Full-time CPT is limited to a maximum of 12 months total throughout your degree program.  There are no consequences for full-time CPT use up to 12 months, but after 12 months of full-time CPT use, the student loses the option to apply for OPT.  Full-time CPT can be used beyond 12 months, but it’s important to understand the consequences to a student’s OPT. Full-time CPT can only be used only in the following instances:

1. During a summer or winter session when course enrollment is not required

2. For students with 4 credits or less remaining in their last semester before graduation

3. For Graduate students who have completed their coursework and are only enrolled in research credits (for example, 898 or 899)

 

CPT and Academic Enrollment Requirements

CPT does not change the requirement for F-1 enrollment – students are still required to be enrolled full-time in the fall and spring semesters.  Please plan accordingly to manage your courseload and work experience!  If academic is used for CPT, these credits do count towards your total credit count.  PRAC does NOT count towards your enrollment credit count!

 

CPT for on-campus work beyond 20 hours

CPT can be used to work in a position on-campus that goes beyond the already-allowed 20 hours per week during a semester, assuming the position meets CPT requirements and is related to your degree of study.  Graduate students with Graduate Assistantships (GA, TA, RA) will need to request the permission of the Graduate School, using the form found here.  When completing the form, be sure to note that you are working with the IES office on CPT approval.  Once the form is approved, please submit a copy with your other CPT application documents.

 

CPT and Taxes

Paid work in the US is almost always taxed.  Your employer’s Human Resources (HR) staff will work with you to review your immigration and personal identifying documents to ensure that you are allowed to work in the US (including your I-20 with the CPT authorization on it), and will help you complete tax forms for the money you will earn working for them.

Typically, your employer will ask you to complete an I-9 form, which verifies your ability to work in the US, and a W-4 form, that indicates how you would like them to take taxes from your paycheck.  You can read more about these documents here.

Please note, international students are usually exempt from paying certain kinds of taxes, namely Social Security and Medicare taxes.  You can reference this law to employers here: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Foreign-Student-Liability-for-Social-Security-and-Medicare-Taxes.  However, if an individual has been in the US more than 5 years, they usually become a “resident for tax purposes,” and their tax rates change to include these additional tax categories.