As an international student, you can be employed when it is in service to your educational goals. You must be authorized through one of two programs: The Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or the Optional Practical Training (OPT).

CPT

CPT is temporary authorization for practical training directly related to your major field of study. For example, you work with the Berry Career Institute to get an unpaid internship at a homeless shelter. Your internship provides you with practical training in the field of psychology, your major. The CPT authorization allows you to work in this scenario. If the internship was paid, you would also receive CPT authorization to work.

Practical training can include any of the following as long as the work supports your understanding of the field of your academic major and is central to the Cornell curriculum within your major:

  • Paid employment
  • Paid or unpaid internships
  • Cooperative educational experiences
  • Practicums

Eligibility for applying for CPT

  • Enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year (7 blocks)
  • Your major field of study that the work supports is listed on your I-20
  • PDSO (Principal Designated School Official) must authorize CPT in SEVIS
  • The work must occur before your program end date on the I-20
  • Your training or work opportunity is secured before applying
  • F-1 status is valid

Authorization is for one specific employer and for a specific period of time. However, you may have more than one CPT authorization during any given period of time.

CPT may be part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week). If you accumulate 12 months (365 or more days) of full-time CPT authorization, you lose your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT), another type of employment authorization for F-1 students. Part-time CPT and fewer than 12 months of full-time CPT authorization does not affect your OPT eligibility.

Fill out the advisor recommendation form for the CPT and the F-1 CPT request form.

OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides F-1 students with an opportunity for hands-on work experience (work authorization) related to the academic field of study.

You are eligible to apply if you meet the following criteria:

  • The earliest you can submit this application is 90 days before graduation
  • You are currently in F-1 status.
  • You have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year (7 blocks, including final exams week) or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins.
  • You have not exceeded 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization. (Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.)
  • You do not need a job offer first; you can apply for the 12-month OPT authorization without a job offer.
  • You have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the same degree level. You are eligible for 12 months of full-time OPT per academic level. For example, you may apply for 12 months of OPT after completing a bachelor's degree and then another 12 months after completing a master's degree.
  • You may apply for OPT authorization during your academic program, after your program completion, or a combination of both

OPT types

For students engaged in post-secondary schools or at conservatories, 12 months of Regular OPT is available for each higher level of study. (For example a student may have 12 months for a bachelor’s degree and another 12 months for a master’s degree).

  1. Pre-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used before the student’s Program End Date. It may be part-time or full-time.
  2. Post-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used after the student’s Program End Date. It must be full-time.
  3. 17-month (STEM) OPT Extension: For students who majored in designated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) degrees approved by USCIS. This type of OPT is a 17-month extension of OPT.

Read the instructions for completing the I-765 form and then, fill out the I-765 form.

Reach out to us with any questions you may have or to review your application materials.