F-1 Practical Training

F-1 Practical Training


Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is employment used to satisfy the requirements of a required or elective internship, practicum, or fieldwork course. In all cases, the employment must form an integral part of the established curriculum of your program. Note that if the course is required, it may be a credit or non-credit course, depending on your program's academic requirements and procedures. If the course is an elective, it must be taken for a minimum of 1 credit.

Curricular Practical Training can only be authorized part-time (up to 20/per week) while school is in session and full-time during regularly scheduled vacations. Exceptions may apply depending on the structure of your program. If you engage in one year or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training, you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training. You may not begin your employment until the authorized date on the Form I-20. You must end the employment on the authorization end date indicated on the Form -20. Please note that we cannot authorize CPT retroactively.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE

In order to be eligible for CPT, you must:

  • Have a job offer directly related to your academic program
  • Have been lawfully enrolled full-time for one academic year
  • Be in lawful F-1 status
  • Making normal progress toward degree completion and be in good academic standing

 HOW TO APPLY

STEP 1: Attend an F-1 Employment Workshop

STEP 2: Obtain an offer of employment

STEP 3: Obtain a Degree Audit

STEP 4: Submit the Request for Curricular Practical Training eForm via TC-Compass

Once the OISS receives your application, it will be reviewed by an international student advisor within 14 business days. You will then receive an email communication notifying you that the I-20 is ready for pick up or to be mailed. You will then present your I-20 to your employer. 

In order to submit your request successfully, you will need to:

  • provide the name and email address of your academic advisor or department contact.
  • provide the name, address, and dates of employment for your proposed CPT employer.

 You will also be asked to upload a scanned copy of your:

 

 ATTENTION: prior to e-filing your OPT application via USCIS' website, please ensure you receive an updated Form I-20 with OPT recommendation from OISS

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment benefit that allows you, as an F-1 student, to gain practical, professional experience in your field of study.  Unlike Curricular Practical Training (CPT), OPT does not require you to register for an internship, practicum, or fieldwork course. Moreover, you may use OPT either before or after completion of studies, on a part-time or full-time basis. 

Eligibility Requirements for OPT

  • You must be in valid F-1 status, with an unexpired I-20, electronic I-94 or I-94 card marked "F-1 D/S"
  • You must have completed at least one academic year of full-time study by the time your OPT period starts
  • You do not need to have a job offer to apply for OPT; however, you must have the intention of pursuing professional employment in your field of study. Under OPT, you may not accept employment that does not constitute relevant professional training
  • You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time you submit your application
  • You must be in good academic standing and making normal progress towards completion of your degree
  • You must not have been approved for 12 months of OPT in the past at the current degree level
  • If you have completed your program, the USCIS must receive your application within 60 days of completion and you must not have left the U.S. during those 60 days. If you leave the U.S. within your 60-day grace period prior to submitting the application for OPT, you are no longer eligible to apply

How Long Does OPT Last

OPT is limited to a total of 12 months per degree level. Any OPT granted prior to completion of studies, or for a previously-completed degree at the same degree level, will be deducted from that total. For example, if you did 3 months of full-time, pre-completion OPT you will have 9 months available for post-completion OPT. Or, if you did 12 months of OPT after completing a master of arts degree, you will not have any OPT eligibility left if (after completing your OPT) you immediately enter another master of arts degree program. 

Part-time OPT (up to 20 hours per week) is deducted from the available OPT at one-half the full-time rate. For example, 6 months of part-time OPT is counted as equivalent to 3 months of full-time OPT.
    
You may become eligible for another 12 months of OPT if you move to a higher degree level. For example, if you used 12 months of OPT following completion of your master's degree, you will be able to establish eligibility for another 12 months if you enter a doctoral program. 
    
STEM Extension of OPT:  Some F-1 graduates at Teachers College will be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT (for a total of 36 months).  The STEM extension is only possible for students who obtain degrees in DHS approved STEM fields; broadly defined as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and whose employers are registered in a U.S. government program call E-Verify. If you would like to know if your degree qualifies as a STEM eligible degree, you will find the CIP Code for your degree on Page 1 of the current version I-20 or at the top of Page 3 of the previous version I-20. 

When Can I Use My OPT

You use your OPT:

Prior to completion of your program (Pre-completion OPT)

After completion of your program (Post-completion OPT).

 

When Should I Apply for OPT

Pre-Completion OPT: You can submit an application for Pre-completion OPT at any point during your studies, provided that you have been lawfully enrolled full-time for at least one academic year. As a rule, it is best to apply for OPT at least 3-4 months before you want to start working. We do not recommend applying for pre-completion OPT unless you have an offer of employment. Any time authorized for pre-completion OPT is deducted from your 12 months eligibility even if you do not find employment. 

Post-Completion OPT: The earliest you can apply for post-completion OPT application is 90 days prior to completion of your program. . 

The latest you can apply for post-completion OPT is 60 days after completion of studies.  You must allow the OISS 10 business days to process your application. The USCIS will deny any application that is received after 60 days of completion of your program. 

Completion of Program: Generally speaking, your program completion date is the last day of your last semester. Be sure to consult the TC Academic Calendar for this information. For Doctoral students, program completion is the deadline by which they must submit all revisions to their dissertation, as determined by their review committee.  Program completion date is NOT the day Commencement or graduation date. 

OPT APPLICATION PROCEDURE

STEP 1: Attend an F-1 Employment Workshop

STEP 2: Complete the OPT Application eForm on TC-Compass. In order to submit the application properly, you will need to:

  • provide the name and email address of your academic advisor or department contact.
  • upload completed Form I-765; It’s best to type your information into the form, print it, then sign it.
  • upload a copy of your most recent I-94 electronic record

STEP 3: Prepare additional documents for the OPT application:

  • Photocopy of the most recently issued I-20s with the recommendation for OPT.
  • Two passport-style photographs (name, date of birth, I-94 card number and SEVIS number written on the back) Photos must be taken within the last 30 days and cannot have previously been used for a passport, visa, or other US government-related application.
  • A check or money order for $410 made payable to the US Department of Homeland Security. If paying by check, be sure that your name and address are pre-printed on it. If you have to hand write in either your name or address on the check then we recommend getting a money order instead. Write SEVIS ID on check/money order. Do NOT send your money order separate from the application the money order is for. Your money order should be included with your other application materials.
  • A completed Form G-1145.
  • A photocopy of your F-1 visa (except for citizens of Canada and Bermuda)
  • A photocopy of your passport identification page, clearly indicating your passport name, nationality, date of birth, and the passport expiration date
  • Photocopies of any previously-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if applicable

STEP 4: Obtain your Form I-20 with OPT recommendation. Once your request has been processed, you will receive an email notification from the OISS informing you that your I-20 is ready.

STEP 5: Review your Form I-20 for accuracy. Make sure all of the information on the form, including the requested date of employment is correct. Notify the OISS immidiately of any errors. 

STEP 6: Mail or e-file your application to USCIS. As a reminder, you can proceed with submission of your application only after you have obtained an updated Form I-20 with OPT recommendation from OISS. 

Should you decide to mail your application to USCIS, please send it to Chicago Lockbox:

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

USCIS
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

STEP 7: Track Your Application. Once the USCIS receives your application, they will send you an electronic notification within 2 to 3 weeks and a paper notification within 3 to 5 weeks. You can then check the request status using the Receipt Number on the USCIS website.

If you e-file your OPT application, you will be provided with the receipt number upon submission of the application on the USCIS' portal 

Be sure to notify the OISS if: 

  • you do not receive both receipts within these timelines
  • you notice any mistakes on your EAD
  • you get a denial or request for more information from USCIS

STEP 8: Provide a copy of the EAD to the OISS via TC-Compass

STEP 9: Report your employment status to the OISS via TC-Compass. Students on Post completion OPT are required by the U.S. goverment to report their employment status and employer information. While you are on post-completion OPT, you cannot be unemployed for more than 90 days. If you fail to report your job information or if you are unemployed for 90 days while on OPT, the government will end your F-1 OPT and terminate your SEVIS record. You would then need to leave the US immediately.

PROCESSING TIME:

OISS – up to 14 business days

USCIS – up to 90 business days

H1B Cap-Gap

The time between the end of F-1 status and the beginning of H-1B employment is referred to as the cap gap. The cap-gap extension is a period in which an eligible F-1 student's status is automatically extended to bridge the gap between the end of F-1 status and the start of H-1B status.

If a student is on OPT and eligible for a cap-gap extension, their F-1 status will automatically extend and they will be eligible to work while their H-1B is pending approval.  For further details take an F-1 employment workshop.

If a student is not on OPT and eligible for the cap-gap extension, their F-1 status will automatically be extend but they will not be eligible to work until their H-1B status is approved.  For further details take an F-1 employment workshop.

 ATTENTION: prior to e-filing your OPT application via USCIS' website, please ensure you receive an updated Form I-20 with OPT recommendation from OISS

F-1 students who completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in select government-designated science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields and are currently working with post-completion OPT may apply for the STEM extension of 24 months of additional employment if they have a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer and meet all the required criteria.

If you earned a previous STEM degree from an accredited US institution, you may be eligible for the STEM OPT extension. See the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Designated Degree Program List. You can find the CIP code for your previous degree on page 1 of the current format I-20 or at the top of page 3 of the old format I-20. If you have questions about your eligibility, contact us.

Eligibility Requirements

F-1 students who: 

  • have successfully completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM field based on the government classification. You can find the CIP code for your previous degree on page 1 of the current format I-20 or at the top of page 3 of the old format I-20. If you have questions about your eligibility, contact us.
  • are currently authorized for post-completion OPT and have reported your current local US address and primary employer on the OPT reporting form.
  • have a job with a company enrolled in the government's E-Verify program. Find out if your employer is E-Verify enrolled
  • have paid employment that is directly related to the STEM degree and is at least 20 hours per week.
  • have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment on your current post-completion OPT.
  • have not previously used STEM OPT more than once. Please note that you cannot have more than one STEM OPT extension based on the same degree.
  • file an application with the OISS and to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services before the current OPT period ends.

When to Apply

The earliest you can apply is 90 days prior to the end date of your current OPT. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services must receive your STEM OPT application before your current OPT expires.

If USCIS receives your STEM OPT application before your current OPT expires, you can continue to work while your STEM OPT application is pending for whichever comes first of these two possibilities:

  • 180 days after your post-completion OPT expires, or 
  • Until a final decision is made on your application

OPT APPLICATION PROCEDURE

STEP 1: Though not mandatory, we strongly encourage to attend an F-1 Employment Workshop

STEP 2: Complete the STEM Application eForm on TC-Compass. In order to submit the application properly, you will need to:

  • upload completed Form I-765; It’s best to type your information into the form, print it, then sign it. Complete as much as you can when submitting your request for the STEM OPT-recommended I-20.
  • upload a copy of your most recent I-94 electronic record
  • upload a copy of your current EAD card
  • completed and signed (in ink) Form I-983
  • If your application is based on a previous STEM degree, you will need to provide copies of I-20s and a transcript from that degree.

STEP 3: Prepare additional documents for the OPT application:

  • Photocopy of the most recently issued I-20s with the recommendation for OPT
  • Two passport-style photographs (name, date of birth, I-94 card number and SEVIS number written on the back) Photos must be taken within the last 30 days and cannot have previously been used for a passport, visa, or other US government-related application
  • A check or money order for $410 made payable to the US Department of Homeland Security. If paying by check, be sure that your name and address are pre-printed on it. If you have to hand write in either your name or address on the check then we recommend getting a money order instead. Write SEVIS ID on check/money order. Do NOT send your money order separate from the application the money order is for. Your money order should be included with your other application materials
  • A completed Form G-1145
  • A photocopy of your F-1 visa (except for citizens of Canada and Bermuda)
  • A photocopy of your passport identification page, clearly indicating your passport name, nationality, date of birth, and the passport expiration date
  • Photocopies of any previously-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if applicable
  • Official transcripts for the degree upon which your STEM OPT extension will be based. Only an official paper transcript is accepted
  • If your STEM OPT extension application is based on a previous STEM degree, include a transcript from your previous school. If you do not have an I-20 showing the CIP code from that school, you must also include documentation from that school indicating the CIP code for that program

STEP 4: Obtain a new I-20 from the OISS. Once your request has been processed, you will receive an email notification from the OISS informing you that your I-20 is ready for pick up or to be mailed

STEP 5: Review your Form I-20 for accuracy. Make sure all of the information on the form, including the requested date of employment is correct. Notify the OISS immidiately of any errors. 

STEP 6: Mail or e-file your application to USCIS. As a reminder, you can proceed with submission of your application only after you have obtained an updated Form I-20 with STEM OPT Extension  recommendation from OISS. 

Should you decide to mail your application to USCIS, please send it to Chicago Lockbox:

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

USCIS
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

STEP 7: Track Your Application. Once the USCIS receives your application, they will send you an electronic notification within 2 to 3 weeks and a paper notification within 3 to 5 weeks. You can then check the request status using the Receipt Number on the USCIS website.

Be sure to notify the OISS if: 

  • you do not receive both receipts within these timelines
  • you notice any mistakes on your EAD
  • you get a denial or request for more information from USCIS

STEP 8: Provide a copy of the EAD to the OISS via TC-Compass

STEP 9: Report your employment status to the OISS via TC-Compass. Students on STEM OPT are required by the U.S. goverment to report their employment status and employer information. While you are on post-completion OPT, you cannot accumulate more than 150 days of unemployment This includes days of unemployment accumulated while on regular post-completion OPT. 

PROCESSING TIME:

OISS – up to 14 business days

USCIS – up to 90 business days

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