Work in America CPT vs OPT - Differences F1 Work Options

Working CPT vs OPT in America as Student

In CPT| OPT| On-Campus by Kumar314 Comments

Everyone, who want to come to US or who are already here as a student, wonder : can I work legally as a student on visa in USA outside of my camps ? If so when ? How can I work after I graduate( before I find employer to sponsor my work visa) ? We are all excited to work and make money…significant number of us are here to work and make those dream dollars 🙂  If you are a student on F1 visa, firstly you can work on-campus. Check out On campus vs off campus jobs , pay ? Besides on-campus employment, you can work after 9 months ( or even before in selected cases) after entering US. You can work using couple of options under practical training options, which are called Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and  Optional Practical Training (OPT) . Lets look at the basics of these and then look at the differences as well.

What is Curricular Practical Training ( CPT) :   CPT is primarily given to students to work and gain experience of their field of study, while they work.  Most of the schools allow students to work on CPT after 2 semester or 9 months( one academic year i.e, Fall & Spring) after entering US.  You have to work with the academic department or your specific school within the university to get CPT.  Typically you get credit for working in CPT, it means that it will be part of your degree requirement credits for award of the degree. You can look at it as legally working for a potential employer who is giving you an opportunity to prove yourself, while you are studying. Typically it is called Co-op or Internship for employers when they offer you the job. You can get paid when you work on CPT. You might have to work with the career services at your school too sometimes for processing of the paperwork.  Some schools do not allow CPT if you not in the local city. You can only work in CPT until you graduate. You will need to work with the DSO( Designated School official) or International student Adviser to process your CPT application and issue you a new I-20 indicating the same.  You should not work more than 12 months (full time) in CPT. If you do so, you will not get your OPT. So, be careful ! Also, sometimes, based on the program curriculum your DSO may authorize CPT during first semester, you need to check with your DSO.  There is so much fraud around first semester CPT schools, be careful !

Optional Practical Training (OPT): OPT is meant to give an opportunity for students to work in their field of study.  It is typically given for 12 months for all degree holders, with an option to extend for 17 months for STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics ) Degree holders.  There are two types of OPT called pre-completion OPT and post completion OPT. Pre-completion OPT is something that can be utilized by students to work in their area of study before the graduation. Whereas, post-completion OPT is to work in their area of study after graduation.  If the student chose to use pre-completion OPT, the respective amount of time is deducted from 12 months OPT time period. You can work part time up to 20 hours on pre-completion OPT, when school is in session and you are enrolled full time and full time during summer breaks.  If you choose to use pre-completion OPT, you will lose that amount of time from the overall 12 months OPT. It will be 1 months for 2 months of part time OPT( Fall and Spring terms) and 1 month for 1 month of full time OPT ( summer terms)

Typically, most of the students use OPT after graduating from school. Pre-completion OPT is used only when there is no chance to work on CPT.  To utilize OPT and get Employment Authorization Document (EAD), you will have to fill an application form and send to USCIS. You can apply for OPT 120 days before the start date of the intended employment.  Plan your OPT and  apply on time so that you are in OPT after you graduate. You will lose your status in US if you don’t have OPT started within 2 months grace period. You can work for anyone in OPT, there are no restrictions, but it must related to your course field. It is an option that US Govt provides to international students for finding their right employers. General OPT is given for 12 months duration, if you have not used it before graduation and work on CPT full time for 12 months . In 2008, USCIS announced a new set of rules stating that if you belong to STEM Category you can get an extension for another 17 months for a total OPT of 29 Months. This was primarily given to accommodate the F1 students who were not selected in H1B visa lottery for that year. Read this article for full info: New OPT rules for from USCIS for 29 Months

What are the main differences between OPT vs CPT:

  • Major difference is that you get credit for CPT and the credits you earn is typically counted to your degree program. For instance, if you enroll in 1 credit part time CPT for Fall, Spring and Summer, overall you get about 3 credits and it adds up your degree requirement total credits.  Whereas, there are no credits awarded for OPT.
  • CPT can only be utilized as part of the degree program and when you are enrolled in school full time. Whereas, OPT can be utilized when you are in school using pre-completion OPT option and after graduation using post-completion OPT option.

Did you work on OPT or CPT? What has been your experience? Any thoughts to share on these ?

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Comments ( 314 )

  1. Hussain

    Hi, Kumar!

    I am an OPT holder. I work as a teacher where I got an offer for fall, winter, and spring. I have a question of whether I need to find a job in the summer since teaching jobs are fewer in the summer. The question is: Do I have to work in the summer as Post-Completion Opt. My Opt expiration date is Sept 2017. However, I am positive that I get a job in fall 2017. Do you suggest any window where I should apply for the extension for my Opt (2nd year)?

  2. Tushar


    I am currently on my Initial OPT status. I have not applied to STEM OPT Extension. I am taking admission for my Second Master’s Degree. My question is can i apply for my STEM OPT extension when i finish my second masters???

  3. Rajat Singh

    I am a Masters graduate from USA. I was working on a contract on OPT Visa and my project got ended. At the same time, i also applied for OPT extension. Sooner i got a new contract but my OPT extension got denied. My employer is suppose to file my visa this year, However , they have asked me to enroll in some online course to get CPT status in order to work on a new project.

    Is this possible to work full time while enrolling in an Online course.
    Please advise

    1. administrator

      These are all work arounds that many try to do…you need to be very careful with these things. I recommend you talk to your DSO and get their advice.

  4. Winston

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    A former student of mine was approved for a CPT during her second semester (before nine months had passed). She is now about to graduate and applying for the OPT. Is having done the CPT before nine months had passed problematic – that is, could it cause her application for the OPT to be rejected? The school policy seems to be that a student has to wait 9 months; however, they did not notice it at the time and approved her. It seems, according to your website, that the waiting period depends on the school (not on the US government). Thank you in advance for your reply.

    1. administrator

      It is hard to say…not sure…If they have worked for over a year on CPT, then definitely, it is a problem. I recommend to check with DSO at the school as they would have guidance on this.

  5. Sindhu

    My name is Sindhu. I’m presently doing my Masters in Wilmington University. I have done 1 semester in Texas A & M University. This is my 1st semester in Wilmington University. I will be graduating this december. Can I take 4 online courses in summer or will I have impact on OPT status due to those online courses during summer.

    1. administrator

      In general, it should not have any impact as course load is not tied to OPT. Usually working on CPT impact OPT period. I always recommend to speak to your DSO to get it clarified from your official channel of support.

  6. [email protected]


    I will be completing my BS Computer Science in May 2018. What should be my strategy to work & settle in USA.
    For OPT I need to start when. How critical is Summer Internship? I am unable to get Summer internship.

    Thanks to help ,
    Nirmaan (F1 , India)

    1. administrator

      It is no longer easy to work and settle in US as you are at the mercy of H1B lottery ( as of today)…Summer internship is critical to get full time job…If you do not get it, you will need to work a little harder to get the job…having an internship helps you to join the same company…

  7. Kaur

    I am waiting for my OPT Card. I have worked spring, summer and fall for 6credits each semester (total 18credits). I have done MBA (NON-STEM). My school stated that campus part time job doesn’t reduce OPT time (12 months).
    But I found contradictory information on your website.
    Does part time job on campus would reduce my OPT?
    If yes, for long approximately my OPT would be deducted.
    Please guide.

    1. Ravinder

      Hi Kaur,

      For CPT less than or equal to 20 hrs per week (which is also known as part-time CPT) is not going to affect your OPT. But for full-time (20 hrs per week) CPT, it should not exceed 364 days. If you exceed 364 days, you are not eligible to get OPT at all. I think you are coming under 1st scenario, part-time CPT, which is not going to bother your CPT.

      Please let me know, if you have any questions.



  8. Soham

    Hi Kumar, I’m extremely stressed about my situation. Please advise.
    My Masters cap-subject H1b was denied this year on frivolous ground. A motion to reopen the case is pending with USCIS for almost 5 months. Case status is still ‘Case received’. 2 Service requests raised so far – USCIS just says case is pending and they can’t comment when the review process will be completed. I even approached the senator. Nothing has worked so far. My OPT is valid till Jan 31st, 2017. I work through my employer at client location. H1b is filed for specialty work at client location. My employer is pushing me to apply for CPT from a university that offers Day 1 CPT from January. But I know continuing employment under CPT is very very risky. I don’t want to jeopardize my case further.

    If I don’t apply for CPT from January and work on OPT till Jan 31st, will my MTR case be in danger since I’m no longer working at the client place. My H1B has been filed by my employer for specialty work at client location. I’m willing to work till Jan 31st….What if USCIS contact my client on Feb 15th and asks about me? My contract is long term. I have submitted exhaustive documentation supporting my case. My h1b was denied unfairly.
    Is not working on CPT at client location better than CPT for my existing Motion to Reopen application on H1b? Please advise.Thanks.

    1. administrator

      You are in tricky situation, I suggest you work with your attorney, who filed your H1B and take their advice. In all reality, you can work on OPT till end of your OPT period at any place, it should be fine and should not impact your other aspects of case. Work with your immigration attorney to avoid any complications.

  9. SD

    I am currently working in the USA on F1 OPT visa. I want to know whether I can invest my money in stocks or get some side income by doing social media/online work? Will this affect my status or should I wait for my H1b visa to get picked.

    Thanks in Advance.

  10. aprajita

    Hi kumar

    I m in computer science from India. I have 2 year work experience .I have H4b visa. Currently i am living in santa clara, california. I need to find school. please help me to get leads for cpt/ opt ?



  11. Ravi

    Currently I am studying M.S. from NYIT. I am going to complete 24 credits at the end of my current Fall-2016 semester. I was full time student (9 credits per semester in Graduate program) in Spring-2016 semester and Fall-2016 semester. I am going to graduate in May 2017 as I will take my remaining 6 credits in Spring 2017 semester (it will be considered full time graduate student as I have only 6 credits left). I started my study on H-4 visa. I applied to USCIS for change of status from H-4 to F-1 visa in June 2016 and I recently got approval in November 2016.

    Now, I have to go to India in this December 2016-January 2017. So I have to go to US embassy in India to get F-1 visa stamped on my passport.

    So, I want to know that will I be eligible for OPT from May 2017 (after completion of my graduation) or no?

    My contact no is 201-747-0018. Please let me know if you need any more information.

    Thank you,

    1. Chit

      Hi, Ravi. I am also an international student who studies one of the STEM majors. To my knowledge, you are eligible if you did not do CPT more than 12 months. The main thing is just to communicate with your respective DSO office and to plan your OPT ahead.

  12. Avirup


    I have a question about F1 OPT/OPT Extension. I did my Bachelors in Computer Science at a college in India. In August 2015, I came to the U.S. for a Masters in Business Analytics (which is a STEM course, sometimes also called ‘Data Science’ by some universities and employers). I will be graduating in January 2017 and have applied for OPT already.

    I have two decent job offers but both of them are Software Development Engineer jobs with reputed Software companies. If I join, will this cause problems for me with the F1 OPT rules? Some people have told me that this might not be allowed as my M.S. study field was Analytics and the job is in Software Development, while OPT rules demand that M.S. study and job should be in same field.

    What should I do now? Should I reject the job offers and start looking for jobs in Analytics?

  13. RAMESH



    1. administrator

      You can check any of the Universities websites for the details on what is required and you can work on-campus to cover your living expenses upto 20 hrs.

  14. Rishi

    Hi Kumar ,
    Thanks for the information provided . I’m working on CPT now and planning to visit my home town . How many days can I stay out of us in CPT . Is there any limit for this .

    1. administrator

      I suggest you check with DSO. In general, if you are in school full time and studying and taking classes, you cannot really miss much in my view.

  15. Muhammad Ali

    Hi Kumar,

    I did my BE in Electronics from Pakistan. I came to US on F1 visa in University of New Hampshire for Masters program. But it was too expensive to afford so I took a transfer from UNH to ESL institute to buy some time and meanwhile I started searching for affordable universities and planned to apply for the OPT after my Masters in Computer Science.
    Few days back I received the Acceptance letter from Virginia International University for Masters in Computer Science program.
    As I planned, I opt to move forward for coming Fall semester and after my MCS program I’ll apply for OPT.
    But than I came know that its not that easy, to get accepted for OPT, the reputation of the University matters a lot. VIU is a non profit small university and chances for getting OPT from VIU are less.
    I am in a phase of time where admissions are closed for upcoming Fall semester in almost all universities.
    Please suggest me what should I do ?

    Please find time to review my case. I’ll be very thankful and will be waiting for your kind response.


  16. Kiran

    Hi kumar
    I luckly found sponser and filled H1b 2016 on april 1st but again my bad luck did not get selected .
    Now my sponser is advising to join
    Some school to get opt/ cpt nd work for 20 hrs .
    I m BE in EEE from india .

    Nw i need to find school plz help me to get leads for cpt/ opt ?
    Or wht school i should join ?
    If i join language school will i get cpt ?

    1. Priyanca

      Hi Kiran,
      You can contact us at [email protected] to know the universities offering CPT program in MBA in USA.

  17. Anonymous

    I started working on CPT in a major automotive company in May 2016. I plan to work till end of Spring 2017 semester with which I will graduate. So my total CPT period will be 11 months 6 days. Will it impact my OPT eligibility? (I plan to take OPT start date as my Spring 2017 graduation date i.e. end of April.)
    AND, is there any official USCIS rule which doesn’t allow one to work on CPT in last semester(in my case Spring semester)?
    Please share some thoughts as this is an important question for me. I appreciate your feedback comment in advance!

    1. administrator

      Well, if you have 12 months of full time CPT you will be in-eligible for OPT. If you are doing part time CPT for 11 months, it should be ok. I am not sure, what that 6 days mean to your OPT application. I suggest you check with DSO. Also, there is no such rule. In fact, many take CPT in the last semester.

    2. kumar

      Hi Anonymous – I would like to know the process to get into automotive industry or any mechanical engineering jobs on CPT as I am currently on F1 Visa studying MS mechanical Engineering. Can you please send details or your email\phone# to [email protected] Thank You for guiding me through the process as a mentor as information regarding mechanical jobs for mechanical students is very limited to non-existence.

  18. Mady

    I have an f1 visa for 4 months now . I am a student at a language school. Now i want to go for masters in IT which offers CPT. But they said i have to be on f1 status for 9 months before getting my CPT approval. Will my 4 months at my language school count? Or its after i join that particular course?

  19. Rachana

    Hi ,I came US four months back I am on H4 visa and I have 6+ experience in MNC. I want to know if I start study here like MS so can I work during study period? Any options where I can use my experience?

  20. Vineet Gupta

    If i do full time CPT for 8 moths, will it not affect my OPT ? If No in that case for how much duration i will get OPT, will it be 4 months( 12 month – 8 (cpt months) ) or it will be full 12 months?

  21. Sandy

    Hey! Thanks for article…My question is can we have the same employer in both CPT and OPT. I have red some article called “Bridge CPT” . Can you please explain me the meaning of that??

  22. Siddharth

    I am a prospective MBA candidate from India. I understand that every year more than 300000 students graduate with advanced degrees in US. Also, H1B is accepted only for 20000 candidates. Considering this wide gap, I would like to know the following:

    1. What percentage of international students, whose H1B gets rejected because of the random selection system, return to their country?

    2. If the OPT period for STEM category students can get extended by 17 months, does that mean chances of acceptance of H1B for non-STEM students get bleaker every year?

  23. Arthur

    So When a company said it do not provide sponsorship, does it means that I can not use my CPT to work for them? I heard that when using CPT, school will provide sponsorship, so I can work for any company?

    1. administrator


      When an employer hires you on CPT, no sponsorship is required. When filing a visa like H-1 or L-1, only then sponsorship is required. If you have CPT, then you can tell employer that you ave work authorization.

  24. Fred

    I am in entering my third year at Wayne State University pharmacy school, I have applied for PRE-OPT employment card during the month of February. I understand that I have 12 months to use it after the date I receive the card.

    If for example I receive the card sometime in May of this year (May 2016) I am eligible to use it till May of next year (May 2017). My question is:

    During my fourth year I start doing my rotations for 8 months in the States, I know that Canadian students are put on CPT visa during their rotation period. In the case of someone who has PRE-OPT employment card expired in May 2017, would I be eligible to apply for CPT or would that be an issue?

    Thanks in advance

      1. Suprit Bagga

        What if I do full time cpt for 8 to 9 months amd 3 months part time.. does it affect my opt period? Can they reduce my opt period?

        1. administrator

          Suprit Bagga,
          Technically, it should NOT. I suggest you speak with your DSO and do proper assessment to avoid any issues. In my experience, for the most part, CPT is done as one credit and for part time during regular course load, unless people are exploiting it like in some degree mills kinds of Universities.

    1. administrator

      There is nothing called CPT visa. You arrive in US and can work on CPT after certain amount of time. We do not advise on schools here.

    1. administrator

      As said above, there is no such visa and it cannot be good or bad…Read the article again, it gives you the basics of CPT and OPT.

  25. Arun

    I am having experience in IT. If I have F1. and studying in USA. after how many months I can apply for work visa. is there any other visa other H1B. I know I can apply for H1B directly, but for student is there any other visa to extend your stay in USA

    1. administrator


      There are 2 visas to work in US – H-1B and L-1B. L-1B has it own requirements like having worked for the employer for at least 1 year outside US in previous 3 years – and this may limit the eligible companies to 1 or 2.

      H-1B can be filed by an employer only when the cap is available. So if you have an employer, they can file H-1B in April 2016 for a Oct 2016 start date.

  26. Chang

    I have graduated from my studies and will begin my OPT work soon. Can I buy and sell stocks and forex as full time job after I got my own SSN?

    1. administrator


      Your full-time needs to be related to OPT. In the spare time, you can buy and sell stocks, but not at the expense of OPT.

  27. me

    hello, does anyone knows of coleman university? is it good?
    it offers cpt from day it a fraud?
    whcih university are good and provide cpt from day one?
    is it legal? will finding job will be eassy?

  28. vivian

    I hold F1 visa without cpt. whether i can apply for internships in other countries. Further if one misses the deadline for CPT whether possible to take US internships

    1. administrator

      CPT is something that can be availed as F1 student in US to work and get credit. Usually CPT is given to study full time and work part time for credit in the same area in US and in the same city…Again, this varies by school and they may offer your CPT to work in other states in US as well if you are taking all online courses…You need to speak to DSO at your school to get clarity and also speak to your academic department on the rules.

  29. Dharma

    Hi ,
    I am a student US and looking to take my CPT in my last semester , would there be any complications or query while filling for H1.
    Kindly advise…..

    1. administrator

      Pro, you may do it as a side activity that acts as passive income, but not as full time job for your f1 status. You will need SSN for the same.

  30. Surya kiran

    Hey guys ,

    Need you help..!!!

    Is work and study visa safe in Usa (f1-cpt).
    I heard we can work 40hours a week and study in the weekends.

    Do we get or convert h1b after completing 2 years of master under CPT visa category.

    Please let me know your concerns.

    1. administrator

      Surya Kiran, It is not work and study visa. It is Study visa called F1 visa. Some schools offer CPT from day one as part of curriculum. You need to be very careful with these kinds of schools as there is so much fraud involved. If your goal is to just work, maybe you should consider applying for H1B or transferring visa L1 visa…

  31. reddy

    I did my CPT for 8 months during my masters and then transferred to OPT. Since my H1 was not picked, can I plan on going back to F1 student and continue my current job on CPT?

  32. Hiren

    Hi Hiren patel
    I am study In here MBA IT on F1 status but I have already MS Cs degree in London also I have BTech Ce in India degree so we able to apply for H1B in this term .. Or we can wait for cpt Ya OpT ?????

    1. Kevin Hart

      Hiren patel you are able to apply for H1B. Go ahead and apply as there are limited picks yearly do it ASAP and start earning big. all the best

  33. Pankaj

    Hi All,

    I am holding H1B and wife is on H4.
    My wife is holding following degrees:
    PhD in Finance, MBA,, B.Com.
    She is having 8 years of experience in Teaching as Associate Professor.

    Please let me know, how she can be eligible to become Lecturer in USA.


  34. Vanessa

    Hi, Im Vanessa and I have a few quetions, I came to Nyc with f-1 visa, I got visa for 5 years but my courses lenght is just a month and a half. I am attending a language school to practice my English but I want to stay longer in the U.s becasue i would like to finish a course in hospitality such as waitering, chef or computer science or personal training (not sure which one yet). Even though i got my visa for 5 years if i dont attend a school right after the one im completing will i lose my status?
    Also how and where do i have to go to extend my status, do i have to ask the school i want to apply to? Or how does this work im really uninformed.
    Since the information you gave is for people that are attending college or getting a degree, what are my options if i only want to finish a course that will give me a title for a job? And can i also work if im attending the school? How?

    If you can help i would really aprreciate thank you!!

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