CPT: Curricular Practical Training

CPT is a program that permits international students holding an F-1 Visa to increase viable experience legitimately identified with their major through on-campus or off-campus jobs, paid or unpaid internships or co-operative education. CPT ought to be finished before graduation as you are permitted to do part-time or full-time jobs. Another vital point to note is that on the off chance that you work full time for a year in CPT, you will lose your eligibility to apply for OPT.

OPT: Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training is a program that allows international students holding an F-1 visa to work for a year as indicated by their majors in which they are concentrating. Students are eligible to apply for OPT after completing their first academic year. Even though OPT can be completed before or after completing your studies, it is essential to be aware that you are only allowed to work for 12 months. However, students who have completed their degrees in particular “STEM” (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) related programs have the option to further extend it up to 24 months giving them a total of 3 years of OPT.

What is the difference between the two?

The major variances between OPT and CPT are the period for which you are eligible for work and the type of work one is allowed. OPT can be completed before or after graduation whereas CPT must be completed before graduation. Another main difference is that CPT is ideally mandatory for your degree but if not availed then one must complete the required course credit to graduate in the first place whereas for OPT you don’t have to earn course credit.

  • Primary purpose

CPT allows an F-1 Student to work in companies as an Intern or Summer Trainee to gain hands on practical experience before graduation whereas OPT allows an F-1 Student the practical experience in the same domain which they have studied but upon graduation to work as a full time employee.

  • Degree Requirements

Working during CPT is part of the degree requirements whereas OPT is not related to degree requirements.

  • Employment duration

CPT can be availed for a maximum of one year as students work on part-time basis per week whereas the stipulated duration of OPT is a year which can be further extended up to 2 years provided the student’s program falls under the STEM Category. One important point to note is that a student will not be eligible for OPT if the student has already worked for 12 months full-time.

  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

Students working on CPT are not required to get this document from U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) whereas the students working on OPT mandatorily require this document from USCIS after approval of OPT.

  • Application Fee

To work on CPT there is no kind of application fee to be paid by the student as the student is only paying for the tuition fees as per the course credit to the university whereas to work on OPT the applicant has to pay an application fee of $410 to USCIS to process the documents.

  • Working full time or part-time

CPT can be either part-time or full-time and is usually done 20 hours part-time per week during studies and 40 hours during vacations per week. OPT is usually done full-time after graduation. The OPT program has two variants, Pre-completion OPT (during academics) and Post-completion OPT (after graduation).

  • Application Process

If planning to avail CPT, one should apply minimum two weeks in advance before one intends to start working as it takes approximately 7-10 days for the processing and completion of the process. As students are on F-1 Visa status they are generally not required to pay any taxes if they have resided in the country for less than 5 years. In case for OPT, one should apply minimum 90 days prior to the USCIS as they are required to pay taxes on their earned incomes and must submit a W-4 tax form to their respective employer before getting their salaries. This form is required to be submitted within 10 days of joining a company along with updating any changes in their residential address.

  • Eligibility

To qualify to apply for CPT and OPT one must fulfil the following:

  1. Lawfully registered student for a 12 month full-time program
  2. Legal F-1 status
  3. Ensure they have health insurance

Nisha Rao

Sr. Counselor

Imperial Overseas Education Consultants

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