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 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-

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-

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.


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