How much CPT can I use while I’m a student?

There is no limit to the amount of part-time CPT a student can receive.  A student may receive up to 12 months of full-time CPT. However, once a student uses more than 364 days of full-time CPT, they are no longer eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Who is eligible for CPT?

Students are eligible for Curricular Practical Training if they

  • Have been enrolled full-time at a SEVIS-approved school for one academic year;
  • Are currently enrolled full-time with a valid F-1 status; and
  • Register for a course requiring an internship/practicum to fulfill a degree requirement.

Can I travel while I am on OPT, but do not yet have a job?

USCIS recommends that individuals should have proof of employment upon re-entry to the U.S. when on OPT status. If you have to travel, bring the following documentation with you:

  • Evidence that you have been actively looking for a job
  • Evidence of job interviews (if applicable) upon your return to the U.S.

If my OPT is approved and I am employed, can I travel?

Yes. When traveling, make sure you have the following documentation:

  • Passport (valid 6 months into the future)
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 (recently signed by the PDSO or DSO)
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
  • Proof of employment

How long can I stay in the U.S. after my post-completion OPT end date?

You may remain in the U.S. up to 60 days after your OPT end date.  Exceptions to this grace period include:

  • Extending your F-1 status by starting a new degree program.  You must be accepted to the new degree program within the 60 day grace period and the new program must begin within 5 months of your OPT end date.
  • Being under application to change your immigration status.

Can I study while I am on OPT?

You are allowed to take classes as long as they are related to your employment. You may not start another degree program while on OPT – if you do, your OPT will be canceled.

What types of employment am I allowed to do on OPT?

Employment must be related to the student’s field of study. Employment options during OPT may include:

  • Paid. Students may work part-time (at least 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT) or full-time.
  • Unpaid. Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work should be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student’s employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
  • Multiple employers. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s field of study.
  • Short-term multiple employers (performing artists). Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration.
  • Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed business owner. Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.
  • Employment through an agency or consulting firm. Students on post-completion OPT should be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.

What is my status while I am on OPT?

You are in lawful F-1 status if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are employed for more than 20 hours per week in your field of study (for post-completin OPT) or you are employed for less than 20 hours per week in your field of student (for pre-completion OPT);
  • You have not been unemployed for more than 90 days during your post-completion OPT;
  • You report to AUSB any changes of address within 10 days; and
  • You report to AUSB any changes in visa status.

Do I have to pay U.S. taxes on my salary?

Usually F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for five years or less are exempt from social security taxes.  Please inform your employer of your F-1 status because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws.  F-1 students are subject to all other applicable taxes (e.g. federal, state, and local).