Frequently Asked Questions
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
What is CPT?
CPT stands for Curricular Practical Training and is an off-campus work authorization for a position that enhances your studies. Federal immigration regulations state the work or internship experience must be integral to (part of) your academic studies.
When do I need to seek CPT authorization?
- You MUST apply for and receive CPT authorization BEFORE you begin any type of off-campus work or internship.
- Off-campus means not officially affiliated with Binghamton University. This includes employment or internship at a different university, college or community college.
- Paid or unpaid off-campus work or internship requires CPT authorization.
- CPT is authorized with a specific employer for a specific amount of time.
- CPT can only be used prior to completion of studies, while you are enrolled as a student.
Am I eligible to apply for CPT?
- Are you in valid F-1 status?
- Are you registered as a full-time student?
- Have you been a student in the United States for at least two consecutive academic semesters in your current degree program immediately before the start date of your proposed CPT?
* If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then you can submit an application
for CPT. Final authorization is dependent upon review of your application by ISSS.
* Re-enrolling students in F-1 status must confirm their eligibility with an advisor at the ISSS.
I am re-enrolling at Binghamton University after a period of absence. I was issued
a new I-20 and needed to pay the SEVIS fee again. Am I eligible for CPT the semester
I return to Binghamton University?
That depends on your situation and the requirements of the program you are enrolled in. Usually students in F-1 status whose SEVIS record is terminated need to re-enter the United States using an “Initial Attendance” I-20. If this is your situation, you will not be eligible for authorization for CPT until you have completed two consecutive full-time semesters. This is true even if you were a full-time student at Binghamton University for a full academic year before your original SEVIS record with Binghamton University was terminated.
When should I apply for CPT?
- When you have a job offer from an off-campus employer. This job must be directly related to your field of study.
- Before you have finished all of your coursework toward your degree.
- At least two weeks before you want to begin work. It takes seven to 10 business days for ISSS to process work authorizations.
- After you have registered for the semester, including the CPT course credit.
- When the internship or employment is paid or unpaid.
What if my employer wants me to start working right-away!
You must tell your employer that you cannot begin work until you are authorized by the ISSS office. Explain to your employer that it takes seven to 10 business days to process CPT paperwork.
When can I start working at this job?
After you have received a new I-20 for this period of CPT, the start date of the CPT is the first day you can work. Note: Submitting paperwork to the ISSS office does NOT mean you can automatically begin working! You must wait until you receive the new I-20 for CPT.
Can I begin training or volunteering in the position before the CPT I-20 is ready?
No. This puts your valid F-1 status at risk and your employer in jeopardy with U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Protect your valid F-1 status. You cannot begin job training until you receive the new I-20 for CPT from ISSS and the start-date has occurred.
I’m a new student here. Can I apply for CPT?
Only after you have completed two continuous academic semesters in your current degree program as a full-time student will you be eligible to apply for CPT.
This means that if you arrived in the United States as a new F-1 student in the fall semester, you can begin working on CPT after the last day of classes in May. If you arrived as a new student in January (spring semester), then you can begin work under CPT after fall semester classes end.
Note: If you have studied previously at another U.S. school, come to the ISSS to see if you are currently eligible to apply for CPT.
Unpaid work, unpaid internships
I’ve been offered an unpaid internship. Do I have to apply for CPT?
Yes. All work off campus, whether paid or unpaid, must be authorized. In the eyes of immigration, the job-experience you receive at this internship is considered “compensation” and a benefit. Do not place your immigration status at risk!
If you have questions about volunteering, come talk to us at the ISSS office.
The internship is unpaid. Do I have to register for my CPT course credit?
Yes! Almost all students who do CPT must arrange for the necessary 1 credit for CPT.
CPT and course registration
What is this CPT credit? Do I have to register for a course?
Almost all students who do CPT must arrange for the necessary 1 credit for CPT.
Some academic majors require all students, U.S. citizen and international students, to complete an internship (sometimes called a practicum) as part of their degree requirements. At Binghamton University, those academic programs are the master’s in education, master’s in social work and the master’s of business administration degrees. Students in these programs do not need to register for the 1 credit related to their CPT because internship is required for graduation.
All other students (Watson School programs, Harpur College, CCPA or SOM undergraduate degrees) must register for a minimum of 1 credit related to the CPT. That one credit is part of the full-time course registration for the semester(s) involved with the CPT.
What happens if I do not register?
The course registration is required by federal immigration regulations. Immigration regulations are U.S. law. There is no way around it. If you do not register for the required credit, as part of your necessary full-time course registration, then you place your immigration status at risk. This is a serious violation of federal immigration regulations.
ISSS checks your student record to be sure you are in compliance with this rule. Failure to register will result in your CPT authorization being cancelled. ISSS will contact your employer to tell them you are no longer authorized for employment.
What course should I register for?
You and your academic advisor decide which course you should register for the CPT.
The course credit should reflect the work you are doing for the CPT employment. For example, you could register for an internship credit, an independent study credit or for a specific course in which the job experience is used toward your class work (for example: in the form of a project, research paper or journal writing).
A thesis/final project credit can also be used to cover the CPT course-registration requirement if the advisor has certified that the CPT is directly related to your final project or thesis on your Academic Advisor's form.
Do I have to be registered full-time to apply for CPT?
Yes. To be eligible for CPT you must be registered as a full-time student. This is part of your SEVIS responsibilities to maintain valid visa status. You cannot be authorized for CPT unless you are in valid visa status.
Is CPT only available during the academic breaks (like summer or winter)?
No. You can apply and work under CPT during any time during the year, as long as you meet the eligibility guidelines.
How much CPT can I have?
As much as you want while you are a student in valid F-1 visa status. However, if you accrue more than 365 days of full-time CPT, then you become ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). This means that you forfeit OPT. (Some students decide to do additional full-time CPT and forfeit OPT after discussion with ISSS staff.)
Note: The “365-Day Rule” only applies to full-time CPT. You can accrue more than 365 days of part-time CPT without affecting your eligibility for OPT.
The application process
How do I apply for CPT? What kind of paperwork is needed?
Two pieces of paper:
1) an Academic Advisor’s form
2) a letter from the employer containing specific information.
The CPT packet can be picked up from the ISSS office or downloaded from our website. The completed paperwork can be handed in to the ISSS office directly, or faxed or e-mailed to us if you are out of the area.
What does my employer need to do?
- Provide a letter on their official business stationary containing very specific information:
- Number of hours per week you will be working (Is the work full- or part-time?)
- A starting date and ending date (CPT is time-period specific.)
- A brief description of job duties (A general statement or list of your responsibilities is sufficient.)
What does a “complete” application mean?
All questions must be answered on the Academic Advisor’s form. Nothing is left blank.
The letter from your employer contains all of the required information.
Note: If you submit a complete CPT application, the processing for ISSS is much smoother. An incomplete application causes delay.
How long does it take to get the new I-20 with the CPT authorization on it?
It will take approximately seven to 10 business days. Remember — You cannot begin work without the new I-20.
Can I expedite the application process through ISSS?
No. However, if you submit a complete application, the ISSS staff will be able to process your CPT application more efficiently. If you submit incomplete paperwork, it will delay the processing time.
Note: Do not repeatedly e-mail, call or visit the ISSS asking whether your CPT is ready yet or if the application needs more information. This interrupts our work and slows down the process for everyone. We will send you an e-mail if more information is needed and when the new CPT I-20 has been prepared. Thank you for your cooperation.
CPT and graduation
I’ll graduate at the end of this semester. Can I still apply for CPT?
It depends. The purpose of CPT is to enhance your studies. Consult with the ISSS if you are currently in this situation. CPT cannot be used to begin full-time permanent employment early.
CPT and other employment authorizations:
Can I apply for OPT and CPT at the same time?
Yes, but CPT cannot be used to start your OPT employment early. CPT cannot be a “bridge” to OPT.
Can I be an RA, TA,or GA and apply for CPT?
Yes, but this can be add up to a lot of work hours and the job could get in the way of your studies. As an F-1 visa holder, your main purpose is to be a student. You must always be making “satisfactory progress” toward your degree. Discuss the employment with your advisor to be sure the job does not interfere with your studies.
Can I have a job on-campus and apply for CPT?
Yes. The employment rules governing on-campus work and off-campus work are separate. Again, this can be add up to a lot of work hours. We recommend that you discuss the employment with your academic advisor. We want you to be a successful student.
Can I do a CPT in another country?
No. CPT authorization is only necessary to work here in the United States. You would need to follow the work rules of the other country to be employed legally there.
After the job has begun…
The CPT is going really well and the employer wants me to continue after the ending date. What do I need to do?
E-mail the ISSS employment team. Staff will assess your current situation. You may need to submit a new application for CPT.
I stopped working earlier than my end date. What should I do?
E-mail the ISSS employment team. Provide us with the date of your last day of work. We will update your SEVIS record.
I want to work somewhere else. What should I do?
E-mail the ISSS employment team. We can guide you through the process of canceling one CPT and applying for the next one. You will need to submit a new application for each new CPT. (Remember CPT is granted for a specific time period and specific employer).
I’m still with the same company but my job duties and/or number of hours have changed?
E-mail the ISSS employment team. We will update your records in SEVIS.
I’m really confused about all of these employment rules. What should I do?
E-mail the ISSS employment team with your questions. You may also come to one of the advising walk-In sessions between 10 and 11:45 a.m. Mondays and Tuesdays or from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Do you have other questions about employment?
Many of your questions may be answered from the Employment section on our web page.
If you have questions about how to find a job, the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development can assist you (for free!). http://www.binghamton.edu/career-development-center/
Each semester the ISSS and Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development offer workshops specifically for international students. Read ISSS-BU News each week for more information.
Office of International Student & Scholar Services
Division of Student Affairs
State University of New York
PO Box 6000
Binghamton, NY 13902-6000
Visit our webpage: http://www.binghamton.edu/isss/