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Curricular practical training for international students


According to federal regulations, curricular practical training is "alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school" (8 CFR 214.2 (f)(10)(i). At most schools, CPT is authorized only when off-campus employment is required either for every student in a particular degree program or for academic credit (i.e., for a particular course).


The Director of International Students grants the authorization for CPT according to federal immigration law and regulations; it is unnecessary to apply to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to CPT permission or to pay a fee.

To be eligible for CPT, you must be an F-1 student who has been registered full-time for nine consecutive months or one academic year. You must be currently enrolled full-time in a degree program and maintaining legal F-1 status. Students enrolled in an English as a Second Language (ESL) program are ineligible for CPT.


You must have a job offer from an employer to receive CPT authorization, and such authorization allows you to work for that employer only.


To qualify as CPT, employment must be related to your field of study and appropriate for your level of study. (The purpose of the letter from your academic advisor is to verify this.)

IMPORTANT: Not all "internships" qualify as CPT. The types of work experiences that do qualify as CPT under federal immigration laws and regulations are limited to the following:

  • The student is granted SNC credit by his or her department for the work experience or the student will be granted transfer credit for a course taken at another institution. Being granted academic credit for CPT may be done in one of two ways:
    • The student takes a course for credit that is specifically called an "internship" course, or
    • The experience may involve work at a job site that the student uses to complete a project or complete the work for a course taken for credit.
  • A work experience that is required of all students in the academic program, regardless of whether the student receives academic credit.

Neither the financial benefit to you, nor the employer's need for an employee with your abilities, is a basis for CPT authorization.


CPT may be authorized as part-time (when school is in session) or full-time (when school is not in session). Part-time CPT is limited to a maximum of 20 hours per week. Government regulations do not limit the amount of time that CPT is available, but they stipulate that students who have received one year or more of full-time CPT are ineligible for optional practical training (OPT). In that context, INS probably will count two months of part-time CPT as one month of full-time CPT, even though the regulations do not establish such a formula.

  1. Schedule an appointment to see Sarah Griffiths, Director of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), Bemis 305, x3263. Bring the following:

    • A letter from your academic adviser recommending you for practical training (SAMPLE AVAILABLE IN BEMIS 305)
    • Your current I-20 (original "Student Copy") and 2 photocopies of the front of the I-20
    • Your passport and I-94 Departure Record card (this should be stapled inside your passport)
    • Form I-538, Certification by Designated School Official (Section A only; the we will complete Section B)

      Some suggestions on filling out the I-538:

      #3: Your student admission number is the eleven-digit serial number from your I-94 card.
      #4: Circle "F-1". You were first granted that status either on the day you arrived in the U.S. as an F-1 (NOT on the day your F-1 visa was stamped into your passport at a U.S. consulate) or on the day that INS changed your status to F-1 as the result of an application that you filed while in the U.S. Give the month, day, and year.
      #7: Give a brief description of the employment (for example, "internship in international business), the name of the employer, and the city and state where you will be working. Give the precise beginning and ending dates of the training (month and year).
      #8-A: If you have ever had curricular practical training authorized, give the dates. If you have had optional practical training (OPT) authorized during your program of study, cross out "Curricular or work/study" and in the space beneath, enter the type of OPT (for example, "full-time optional practical training during annual vacation") and give the precise beginning and ending dates.

  2. If all your documents are in order, the Director of International Students will endorse the back of your I-20 with authorization for a specific period of curricular practical training and return your I-20 to you. YOU MAY BEGIN WORK ONLY WHEN YOU RECEIVE AUTHORIZATION FROM THE INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ADVISOR ON YOUR FORM I-20. DO NOT WORK BEFORE OR AFTER THE DATES SPECIFIED ON YOUR I-20.

The ISSS staff also will mail the I-538 to the Data Processing Center, as required by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).


To begin paying you, your employer will need your Social Security number, which you can obtain by applying for a Social Security card. Take your passport (if you are Canadian you may use another form of photo-bearing identification), I-94 card, and Form I-20 with the CPT authorization to the Social Security Administration, 528 N. Monroe Ave., Green Bay.

When you begin work, your employer is required by law to have you complete Form I-9, which requires you to document your work authorization. Acceptable proof of your identity and permission to work in the U.S. are: your unexpired foreign passport, your I-94 card, and your I-20 showing CPT authorization.


Generally, as an F-1 student, you will be exempt from Social Security (FICA) taxes for your first five years in the U.S., as only as you continue to declare non-resident status for tax purposes (see Internal Revenue Service publication 519, "U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens", which you may order by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM).

Unless you qualify under a tax treaty between the U.S. and your home government, your earnings as an F-1 student will be subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. Employers are required by law to withhold those taxes from your paycheck. By April 15 of each year, you must file a federal income tax return and a Form 8843, "Statement for Exempt Individuals", covering the prior calendar year, whether or not you owe more taxes.

International Student & Scholar Services

Phone: (920) 403-3263
Fax: (920) 403-4083

St. Norbert College • 100 Grant Street • De Pere, WI 54115-2099 • 920-337-3181