Last Updated: July 14, 2021
CPT vs OPT
Candidates who wish to study abroad, especially in the US, will be concerned about the job opportunities they will have as a student while studying the course as well as after the course has been completed. Since getting employment opportunities with an F-1 visa can be complicated and is always obtained through the school they are studying in, it is important that candidates know about both CPT and OPT.
Curricular Practical Training/CPT and Optional Practical Training/OPT are employment opportunities that students can make use of while studying in the US. The major difference between CPT and OPT is that CPT is done by students as an internship or a Co-op during the course of their study while OPT is done during or after (mostly after) the course has been completed and will be a job opportunity more than an internship.
The procedures and paperwork required for both these employment opportunities are similar in nature and have to be done through the department/office for international students in their respective universities or colleges.
What is CPT?
Curricular Practical Training or CPT is the opportunity for international students with an F-1 visa to do paid internships in the US as long as the internship pertains to the subject the candidate is currently enrolled for. Doing a CPT is often part of the curriculum for candidates and is required for them to graduate at the end of the course unless they take up extra coursework that can compensate for the same.
Candidates have the option of doing either a full-time or a part-time CPT, and if they are doing a full-time CPT, the maximum duration they will have for the same is 12 months and they will have until the date of their graduation to complete the CPT. If this duration is exceeded, they will no longer be eligible to do an OPT after the course has been completed.
What is OPT?
Optional Practical Training or OPT is the opportunity that international students have to take up job offers after the duration of their course has been completed. The job they accept should fall within the domain of their study. Students with an F-1 visa will be able to take up OPT as long as they fill in all the paperwork required through their university or college. Candidates are required to apply for the OPT at least 3 months before the date of their graduation.
Candidates will be able to work under OPT for a duration of 12 months which can be extended up to 24 months in total. They generally have to pay a fee of $410 to the USCIS while applying for the OPT. The jobs under OPT are often only full-time.
Duration for CPT and OPT
The duration for both CPT and OPT can vary according to the company the candidate is working in. It is important that candidates work only within the field of their study and if the candidate is doing a CPT as part of their course, they are required to complete it within 12 months or before the date of graduation whichever comes first if they wish to apply for OPT.
Candidates who are applying for OPT will be able to work under it only for a duration of 12 months in all unless they come under STEM which provides them with the eligibility for extending the duration to 24 months.
Conditions to Apply for CPT/Curricular Practical Training
The conditions under which candidates can apply for CPT are as follows-
- Candidates will be able to work in CPT only after 9 months of entering the US and completing 2 semesters in their designated course.
- Candidates will have to remain enrolled in the school if they wish to join CPT.
- Candidates will require a new SEVIS and permission from their school separately in order to do the same. For obtaining permission from the school, it is recommended that candidates contact the department/office for international students to complete the required paperwork.
- The CPT can be part of a co-op or an internship and it is recommended that candidates choose companies that have a basic knowledge of the paperwork required in order to have a smooth procedure regarding the same.
- Candidates who have received an internship offer will have to get CPT before they join for the internship. Most often, candidates will get paid for the same as long as they pay the taxes.
- The duration of the CPT should be no more than 12 months if the candidate is working full-time. If the duration exceeds a period of 12 months, it is possible that they will not receive their OPT as their OPT application will be denied.
Candidates often choose to work for a duration of 11 months in all due to this possibility. There is a chance for candidates to have their OPT extended and this often requires permission and SEVIS from the department the candidate is enrolled in. In case the candidate is doing part-time CPT, they will face no further problems with their OPT application despite the duration they work for.
Conditions to Apply for OPT/Optional Practical Training
The conditions under which candidates can apply for OPT are-
- Candidates can work under OPT after or before graduating from school as long as they have an F-1 visa.
- Candidates will have to apply to the US Department of Immigration for approval if they wish to work in OPT.
- The process of application must begin at least 3 months before the graduation date without which candidates will not receive permission to stay back in the country for the same. The details regarding the application process can be obtained from the department/office for international students in the university/college they are studying in.
- During the duration of the OPT, candidates will be allowed to visit their home country and return back. It is recommended that candidates choose to travel only at the beginning of the OPT duration when they receive the job offer.
- Candidates will have to show proof of employment if they wish to re-enter the US when they are in the F-1 OPT status. OIS does not recommend international travel if the candidate does not have a job offer at hand.
- Once the OPT expires, candidates will have a maximum of 60-days to continue with their F-1 status by enrolling in another F-1 program or leave the country.
- Candidates will lose their status in the US if they haven’t started the OPT within a grace period of 2 months.
- As long as the OPT job is related to the course the candidate has studied, candidates will be able to work for any company they desire, unlike the CPT.
Differences Between CPT and OPT
CPT and OPT are essentially employment opportunities for students who are studying in the US and wish to pursue a career either during or after their course of study. The most important distinction between CPT and OPT is that CPT is taken in the form of internships and co-ops while OPT is taken as a full-time career option by candidates. Other differences include-
- CPT is taken during the course of study, often after 2 semesters of study whereas OPT is taken during or after the course has been completed and can be started during the course but completed way after the course has been completed.
- CPT can be both part-time or full-time while OPT is generally always full-time.
- CPT is taken as part of the course the candidate is studying and is provided with credit upon completion whereas OPT is not a part of the study and is employer-specific. It takes the form of a job offer after the completion of the course.
- Candidates can only do OPT for a duration of 12 months unless they can get an extension for 24 months. CPT does not have a specific time duration but upon exceeding 12 months candidates will lose their eligibility for OPT.
STEM Degrees and OPT
With new OPT rules, if the candidate belongs to the STEM Category, they can get an extension for another 24 months. This is applicable only if the candidate is on regular OPT and has a STEM degree from an accredited SEVP-certified institution. In such cases, the employer is supposed to use E-Verify.
Candidates will get a 12-month period for practical training for every higher degree they obtain. For example, if the candidate does a BS degree, they will get 12 months and if they continue to pursue an MS, they will have an additional 12 months after the completion of the course.