F-1 CPT (Curricular Practical Training)

Curricular Practical Training is authorization for employment that is an integral part of the established curriculum of your degree program. CPT is not available to all F-1 students because it is dependent on the academic requirements of your program.

Application Process
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Degree Program Criteria

According to F-1 regulations, your program must meet one of the following criteria:

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F-1 Student Eligibility

You must be:

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Before You Apply

* You can be full-time during the summer vacation period if you will be continuing in the fall. However, you are limited to part-time in the summer if:
1) your program has a required summer term OR
2) you are completing degree requirements in the summer term

† If you use 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you are no longer eligible for post-completion OPT. This is unusual because most programs at Columbia are not eligible for 12 months of full-time CPT.

CPT is always authorized for dates that are within the semester, whether it is granted for an internship or practicum degree requirement or for an elective internship or practicum course.

You will need to submit a new application if you change employers or need to extend the time.

CPT time is not deducted from the amount of OPT allowed after graduation, unless you are authorized for 12 months or more of full-time CPT.  If you have been authorized for 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you are no longer eligible for OPT. This is a rare occurrence at Columbia because most students are not eligible for 12 months of CPT.

Apply at least 10 business days before your requested start date. CPT cannot be authorized retroactively, so plan ahead!

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How to Apply

CPT Overview

Before you gather your documents:

Register for the course if this internship is tied to a specific course. Be sure to register for the course before you submit your application to us.

If you had CPT authorized the previous semester, check SSOL to make sure the grade has been posted.

Step 1

Get a brief letter from your CPT employer that includes these six requirements

Your CPT application requires a letter from your CPT employer that must include all six of the following elements required by F-1 regulations. A typical offer letter will not suffice. Your CPT request will be denied if your letter is incomplete, and you will have to reapply.

The CPT Employer letter must:

  1. be on official company letterhead
  2. have a specific start date and a specific end date
  3. include the complete street address where your work will be performed
  4. include the number of hours per week you will work
  5. include a detailed description or list of position duties
  6. be signed and dated by your employer

Review our sample letter for help, but do not submit it!

Step 2

Gather your documents

You will need to upload these in your online CPT application.


Log in to Compass to submit your application

Please click the appropriate link below:

Not sure of your campus? Check our campus school list.
Need help using Compass? Learn more on our Compass User Guide.

Step 4

We will contact you

Allow up to 10 business days for us to review and process your application. We will notify you by email when your new I-20 with CPT authorization has been processed and is ready to be shipped.

Step 5.

Review, sign and date your new I-20

Your CPT authorization is on page 2. Use this I-20 for travel. The travel signature on page 2 is valid for 12 months or until your program end date, whichever is earlier. 

Keep all previously issued I-20s. You may need them in the future.

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After You Have Your CPT I-20

You are now eligible to apply for an SSN up to 30 days before your CPT employment start date. Find the application process here.

You can't start employment before the CPT start date printed on your I-20.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

You may be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training.

Unfortunately no. You can apply for CPT only if your academic program meets the criteria.

No, you cannot work during a leave of absence. You need to be a currently registered student making normal progress toward your degree to engage in CPT.