Please consult the resources before contacting OISS with OPT/CPT related questions. If you cannot find an answer to your questions in any of the material below, please contact OISS to set up an appointment with one of our advisors.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) - for both Paid & Unpaid Internships
Current policy states you must apply for CPT for either paid or unpaid internships. All CPT regulations apply to unpaid internships, so be sure to apply for CPT if you engage in an unpaid internship. You must meet the eligibility for CPT in order to apply.
CPT is a type of off-campus work permission for F-1 students who are currently pursuing a degree program and whose off-campus work, internship (paid or unpaid), externship (paid or unpaid) or training experience is required, or is an integral part of the curriculum.
- Student must be in valid F-1 status for at least 9 months/2 academic semesters.
- Exception 1: Graduate students whose program requires immediate internship/externship, prior to the completion of 2 academic semesters may be eligible for CPT.
- Exception 2: Transfer students who have been in valid F-1 status at another institution directly prior to starting their academic program at LMU/LLS may be eligible for CPT.
- Internship must be a program requirement or be a requirement for a credited course which counts toward the degree requirements
- Internship must be offered in the student’s major course of study.
- Submit CPT Request Form in MyStatus
- Proof of enrollment in an internship course
- CPT Request Form - Academic Department/Advisor Recommendation required for internship
- Internship offer letter from employer stating:
- how internship is directly related to student's major course of study
- start and end dates of internship
- full-time or part-time
- employer name and address on letterhead
Types of CPT:
- Part-time CPT: maximum of 20 hours/week available during Fall, Spring and Summer semesters. Use of part-time CPT does not affect the eligibility for Optional Practical Training.
- Full-time CPT: more than 20 hours/week, available in summer only. Use of full-time CPT for one year or more eliminates eligibility for Optional Practical Training.
Processing Time – 5 business days
OISS will issue a new I-20 with CPT authorization. CPT authorization will not be granted for work that has started before submitting all required documents. Students must apply for a social security number with CPT I-20 at the Social Security Office.
Volunteering (no CPT required) vs. Unpaid Internship (CPT required)
Volunteering refers to donating time with an organization whose primary purpose is charitable or humanitarian in nature, without payment or any other type of compensation.
To be considered a volunteer, the work performed by the individual must meet the following criteria:
- No expectation of compensation;
- The volunteer cannot displace a genuine employee, and the services provided by the volunteer should not be the same services for which he or she was previously paid and/or expects to be hired and paid for in the future;
- Services are performed for a non-profit organization for public service, religious or humanitarian objective. Work for a for-profit entity is considered employment and must be for pay. The only exception is made for training programs where the trainee functions, to some degree, like an employee, but is under close supervision and provides no significant measurable work for the employer. The trainee must not take the place of a paid employee;
- Unpaid work for state or local government agencies may be ok, if there is a “civic” purpose to the work.
Internships, both paid and unpaid, are primarily offered by the private sector and related to the intern’s major field of study. The following 6 criteria must be met for an unpaid internship at a private ‘for profit’ employer:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation on the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship
U.S. Department of Labor guidelines for an unpaid internship: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm
12 Month Post-Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- You must have maintained your F-1 status for at least one academic year.
- You must not have used more than 12 months of OPT in the past at your current degree level.
- You do not need a job offer in order to apply for OPT, although once you are approved for OPT, you must find employment within 90 days of OPT start date.
- Application can be submitted as early as 90 days before and 60 days after the completion date.
OPT requires an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS takes at least 3 months to process an application for OPT. Please plan accordingly - we recommend that you apply as early as possible.
Please do not mail the OPT Application to USCIS without OISS recommendation for OPT.
- Copies of passport, I-94, and I-20s, if CPT was authorized previously.
- A copy of I-20 with OPT Recommendation from OISS - OPT recommendation will be given only after a review of a complete OPT application.
- A completed Form I-765
- Please see our I-765 Instructions on how to fill out the Form I-765
- Your academic advisor's recommendation letter
- Two passport-style photographs, with your name, date of birth, and SEVIS ID number lightly printed on the back.
- Photocopies of any previously-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD) cards, if applicable.
- A check or money order for $410 made payable to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (or USCIS) or Department of Homeland Security. If paying by check, be sure that your name and address are printed on it.
- Form G-1145: E-notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
After the OISS reviews the OPT application and recommends OPT, you must submit your OPT application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 30 days of OISS OPT Recommendation (see page 2 of I-20).
Processing times vary widely depending on the time of year, but USCIS takes at least 90 to 120 days to process this type of application. Approval is not guaranteed, and you may not begin employment unless you have received written approval from the USCIS. Written approval will come in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
Your application will be reviewed at the time of your appointment. After the application has been reviewed, you are responsible for mailing your application via traceable mail (U.S. Post Office Express Mail, Fedex, etc.) to:
USCIS Phoenix Lockbox
For US Postal Service Deliveries:
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
For Express mail and courier deliveries:
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Note: The USCIS/California Service Center may take 90 - 120 days to process your application. Within two to three weeks of submitting your application, you will receive a Notice of Action (I-797C) from USCIS/CSC. Please bring that form to OISS as soon as you receive it.
Please be advised that you must notify OISS immediately when you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS/CSC, as it is time-sensitive. OISS will provide assistance in all matters pertaining to RFE.
You may begin working only after you have received an employment authorization document (EAD) from USCIS & on the start date indicated on the EAD.
During your OPT period, you are responsible for abiding by all regulations pertaining to your status. Please review the following requirements.
Please report using MyStatus.
Students must report to confirm information listed below every 6 months, even if there are no changes.
For Student to DSO (Designated School Official) within 10 days of change:
- Legal name
- Residential/mailing address
- Employer name & address
- Start date of employment
- Job relevance to the student's course of study
- Termination of employment (either by choice or employer)
- Periods of unemployment
- Date of permanent departure from the U.S., if departing before the OPT expiration date
Please upload your EAD using the OPT Reporting link.
Under OPT, you may leave the U.S. for brief periods. Please ensure that you have the following documents for your re-entry:
- OPT I-20 with a travel signature endorsed no more than 6 months (on page 3)
- Valid F-1 visa stamp
- Valid Passport
- Valid EAD
- Offer of employment or documentation of your job search
Please do not hesitate to call OISS if you have questions.
Definitions of Employment
Multiple employers. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program and for pre-completion OPT cannot exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.
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. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of all gigs.
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 must 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. In this situation, the student must work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program.
Employment through an agency. Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
If unemployed for more than 90 days during the 12 month period, you are considered to have violated your F-1 student status. Once you are in status violation, you no longer hold a valid F-1 student status, and must depart U.S. immediately.
24 Month STEM OPT Extension
Final STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) OPT (Optional Practical Training) Rule Update Summary, effective as of 5/10/2016
- A total of 24 months of STEM OPT, if a STEM degree obtained is found in the DHS STEM Designated Degree List
- F-1 students who had already obtained one STEM OPT extension become eligible for a second STEM OPT extension (i.e., a total of two lifetime STEM OPT extensions) after:
- Earning another qualifying STEM degree at a "higher degree level" and
- Obtaining a new initial grant of standard 12-month post-completion optional practical training based on that higher degree
- 24-month STEM OPT on a previously obtained U.S. STEM degree in the past 10 years; AND currently on post-completion OPT, may be eligible to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on that prior degree if they meet all other required criteria
- Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students” required for E-verify employers to submit as part of STEM OPT application
- Increased reporting requirements for F-1 student and employer
- Maximum of 150 days of unemployment period (90 days during the initial 12 month of post-completion OPT plus an additional 60 days during the STEM OPT extension period)
DHS has a great STEM OPT Hub which details the regulation - please review the links below:
Cap Gap Extension
As of April 8, 2008, Department of Homeland Security published an interim final rule concerning F-1 Optional Practical Training. Cap Gap refers to the period of time between the time a non-immigrant’s F-1 student status under OPT would ordinarily end and his or her H-1B status begins. The new rule allows students with Cap Gap limitation to continue employment if H-1B petition is filed on student’s behalf. Duration of status and work authorization will be automatically extended for a student on OPT, who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf.
- All students under OPT whose OPT is valid at the time of H-1B petition filing
- H-1B petition is selected by USCIS
Documents Required for Cap Gap Extension
- Student’s written request for Cap Gap Extension
- Copy of I-797, Notice of Action for H-1B petition
Travel Issues under Cap Gap
- If you travel overseas during the Cap Gap period, you must re-enter under H-1B status, not F-1. Cap Gap is no longer available upon entry under H-1B.
There are various scenarios depending on the status of your H-1B petition. Please consult OISS staff for more information. Once your Cap Gap Extension is approved, OISS will provide a new I-20 form with Cap Gap Extension notation.
Please do not hesitate to call the OISS if you have questions.