Home » US Immigration - Visas » F1 Visa » Difference between F1 Visa OPT vs CPT? Day 1 CPT ? STEM OPT ?

Difference between F1 Visa OPT vs CPT? Day 1 CPT ? STEM OPT ?

When international students arrive in America on an F1 visa, they usually try to find and start to work in on-campus jobs. In general, F1 Visa students become eligible to work at companies after a couple of semesters…sometimes, you can work even before that, depending on the program and school. These work options are broadly classified under practical training. The goal is to provide training opportunities in the US for international students to gain on-the-job learning.

There are primarily two options of practical training that most F1 students use: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and  Optional Practical Training (OPT). Also, some may be eligible for STEM OPT. This article covers all the basics and looks at the differences.

What is Curricular Practical Training ( CPT)?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is primarily given to F1 Visa International students to work and gain experience in their field of study when they are studying.  CPT is usually part of the program and you get credit for working on CPT. The credits you did for CPT would also be counted towards your degree. This is the reason CPT is only done by students before they graduate.

Most of the good schools only allow students to work on CPT after 2 semesters or 9 months( one academic year i.e, Fall & Spring) after entering the US.   Also, to use CPT, you need to work with the academic department or your specific career services and international student advisor within the university to get CPT approved. You would also need to register for CPT as a course credit in your enrollment system.  

When employers offer a job, they either call it a Co-op or an Internship. However, for F1 students, on their course record and immigration status perspective, it is classified as Curricular Practical Training(CPT). You can look at CPT as legally working for a potential employer who is giving you an opportunity to prove yourself while you are studying. Also, you get paid when you work on CPT.

 How long can you work on CPT? Risks of losing OPT?

Usually, you can work for up to 20 hours on CPT during the regular semester(Fall & Spring) as a full-time student. During summer break, when you do not take any courses, you can work for up to 40 hours on CPT.

It is suggested that you do not work on CPT for more than 12 months (full-time). If you do so, you will not get your OPT after you graduate. Also, you can only work on CPT until you graduate. CPT is considered part of the program, and you cannot work on CPT after you graduate.

How to get CPT approved?

You will need to work with the DSO ( Designated School Official) or International student Adviser and your academic department to process your CPT application. DSO would issue you a new I-20 indicating the CPT approval.  

You might have to work with the career services at your school sometimes for the processing of the paperwork for CPT. Also, some schools do not allow CPT if you do not have a job offer in the city where the University is based. Basically, these schools want to ensure you go to work on CPT and also take in-person classes at the University. So, you need to make sure and check with the school on the CPT requirements to get approval.

What is Day 1 CPT? Issues with Day 1 CPT?

Sometimes, based on the program, the Designated School Official(DSO) at a university may authorize working on CPT during the first semester. If they authorize F1 students to work on CPT from Day 1 ( meaning the start of school), then it is classified as Day 1 CPT.

Day 1 CPT is not common in most of schools in America. Only a few of the shady schools/universities, which can be viewed as “degree mills” kind of schools, offer Day 1 CPT.  There is a lot of fraud around Day 1 CPT schools.

Many students, without this knowledge, fall into the trap and end up in situations like arrests and deportation as in the Univ of Farmington Day 1 CPT scandal. With Day 1 CPT, you may not even get H1B approved with Change of Status(COS) as USCIS usually treats Day 1 CPT status as not legal.

Also, if you are going for a second Master’s degree, you are not eligible for CPT from Day 1; it is a misconception that you have already been in the US for two semesters. All the standard rules of CPT apply, read Can you work on CPT from Day 1 in Second Masters in the US.

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

Optional Practical Training(OPT) is a form of practical training that is given to international F1 students to work in their field of study. It is typically given to gain on-the-job experience and practical experience for the academic knowledge gained in the degree program.

OPT is usually given for 12 months for all degree holders, with an option to extend it for 24 months for anyone getting a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics(STEM) fields.  This STEM OPT used to be 17 months, but a new rule was passed in 2015 to extend 17 months to 24 months OPT.

Unlike CPT, the OPT is not part of the curriculum, and you do not get any credit for your degree. There are two types of OPT, called pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT.

Pre-completion OPT

Pre-completion OPT is to work in the student’s major or study area before the F1 student’s graduation.  You must be enrolled in the degree program full-time for one academic year to participate in pre-completion OPT. 

If you are using pre-completion OPT, you can work part-time for up to 20 hours when school is in session and you are enrolled full-time. You can work for up to 40 hours or full-time during summer breaks. 

If the student chooses to use pre-completion OPT, the respective amount of time is deducted from the 12-month OPT time period that you get after you graduate. For instance, if you work on Pre-completion OPT for 5 months, then you will be eligible only for 7 months of post-completion OPT.

Post-completion OPT

Post-completion OPT is given to F1 students to work in the student’s field of study after the F1 student’s graduation. Typically, most students use OPT after graduating from the school. So, if you hear students or anyone referring to OPT, they mean post-completion OPT. They usually do not use “post-completion” as this is the common way of calling, and it is how many use it.

General rules of OPT, like working in the same field of study, apply here as well. General OPT is given for 12 months duration if you have not used it before graduation and have not worked on CPT full-time for 12 months. You may be eligible for a 24-month extension of OPT if your degree falls under the STEM category.

To utilize OPT, you need get Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS. You will have to fill EAD application (I-765 form) and send it to USCIS. As per the USCIS OPT application process, You can apply for OPT up to 90 days before you graduate and no longer than 60 days after you graduate.

You need to plan your OPT and apply on time so that you are in OPT after you graduate. You will lose your status in the US if you don’t have OPT started within 2 2-month grace period. You can work for anyone in OPT, there are no restrictions, but it must be related to your degree area of study.

What is STEM OPT?

STEM OPT is nothing but OPT given for certain F1 visa students, who are eligible based on their degree category. In 2015, USCIS announced a new set of rules stating that if your degree belongs to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)  degree fields, you are eligible to apply for STEM OPT Extension. You get another 24 months if STEM OPT is approved.

To avail of the 24-month OPT, you need to be part of the listed STEM Designated Degrees by DHS by having the right CIP Code for your degree to qualify for a STEM Degree.  To get STEM OPT approval, there are certain rules like you can work for only an E-Verified employer and training reporting guidelines that are set forth by USCIS that a student need to follow during the STEM OPT period. If that is not followed properly, then USCIS can question your status details during your H1B period, so all care needs to be taken to be in proper status.

When you work on STEM OPT, you need to inform your DSO about the employers you are working with so that they can keep your employment status in SEVIS. When you are on STEM OPT, you are still on an F1 visa, and you need to comply with all the F1 visa-related rules. You need to have a valid I-20 and keep close contact with DSO for any travel as well.

Now that we know all three, let’s compare OPT and CPT in a tabular format for easy review.

Differences between OPT vs. CPT

Comparison Aspect



Primary PurposeProvision to work in a company as an F1 student to get practical work experience during studying for a degree, before graduationProvision to work in a company on F1 status after graduation to gain experience in the same field of education
Typical Student StatusFull-time F1 student in school.Provision to work in a company as an F1 student to get practical work experience during studying for a degree before graduation
Course FeeIn general, students graduated with a degree and on F1 status in the US, with the exception of students leveraging pre-completion OPT,No need to pay the University, but need to file an application with USCIS and pay the application fee.
Degree RequirementsWorking on CPT will be part of degree requirements and directly related to the student’s area of studyNot related to degree requirements. Pursued after graduation in the same field.
Approved ByUSCIS approves OPT. DSO issues I-20 in support of the OPT application and student files application with USCISOPT is approved by USCIS. DSO issues I-20 in support of the OPT application and student files application with USCIS
Employment DurationCan be done for up to 12 months. But, if you work in CPT for 12 months full time, you will not be eligible for OPTThe typical duration of 12 months after graduation and can be extended by 24 months if part of a STEM Degree and qualified for it.
Employer InfoAn employer needs to provide training related to study, their name is printed on I-20. Student submits CPT report in School for credit award for degreeIt is students’ responsibility to get training work in OPT in their related field. There is no report submitted to the school. Only DSO is informed of the school and details are printed on I-20.
EADA student does not get Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCISStudent gets EAD from USCIS after approval of OPT
How long to ProcessUsually done full-time after graduation. If leveraging pre-completion OPT, then is part-time during classes and full-time during summerThere is no application fee, only a course credit fee paid to the school
Application FeeIt can be either full-time (40 Hours) CPT or part-time. Usually done 20 hours part-time during school and 40 hours during summerAn application fee of $410 USD is paid to USCIS
Working Full time or part-timeUsually done full-time after graduation. If leveraging pre-completion OPT, then is part-time during classes and full time during summerCan take anywhere from 60 to 90 days or more, depending on the USCIS workload.
CPT vs OPT Comparison

Many rules are outlined by DHS to make sure you are using your OPT and CPT properly. You will need to work with your DSO and ensure you follow and use those rules without violating any status.

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

You can read more at the Official website links at: USCIS OPT Page , State.gov F1 Students CPT


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  1. Hi,
    I got my h1b transferred to a new company and i traveled to US immediately with my old company Visa as still its valid and unexpired.I did not inform my old company that i am going to US for the new job.Right now i am in US with new company approved H!B petition and old company valid visa.
    My doubt is,
    1.Does my old company can able to cancels my visa?
    2.How to check whether my visa is canceled or not?

    • Venkat,
      1. They can get the petition canceled but not the visa stamp. They may ask you to submit the passport for visa stamp cancellation. It would be up to you whether to co-operate or not
      2. You cannot check for your petition directly. As for visa stamp it is there in your passport

  2. Hi anybody commuting frm nyc to wilimington-goldey beacom college? anybody studying there and commuting for weekend (saturday) class…plz let me know…Thanks!

    • Hi …just wanted to add Boston as well…just in case anybody is travelling from Boston, MA to Wilmington, DE…Thanks!

  3. Hi,
    Thank you for such great tips in this website. Could you guys please give me advice as to how to find an employer to do CPT or OPT (besides the myvisajobs website)? Also, do you guys have any tips as to how to present oneself to the employers when looking for CPT/OPT? A couple of employers have contacted me but when I say that it is for an internship they lose interest in continuing with the selection process. Thank you very much in advance!

  4. hi,

    may i know anyone is commuting from nyc to stratford university virginia? if anyone is studying in that university plz let me know…how to commute from nyc to virginia stratford university?

  5. hi,

    is any one know about infoserve institute iam planning to join in that collge if any one know about this college can u please reply back to me..and they r offering cpt for 6months..is that gud to join in that..

    • Yes, you can definitely join them if you want to jeopardize your immigration status.
      Don’t join them, they are not authorized to give you CPT. It’s a next target like trivalley, UNV.

      How I know? I used to be a student there for 4-5 days and then I realize so I just transferred to a decent school.

    • Hi Ash,

      I am currently enrolled in Infoserve Institute and working on 6 months CPT, I havent faced any trouble till now and there are hardly any other colleges who offer CPT from 1st day….its a small institute and many students are enrolled in it and I have not heard any bad reviews about it. It’s totally your call what u decide.

  6. My OPT STEM EXT card will expire on May 15. I’m working right now. My employer is not going to file H1B for me(He ditched me). I want to enroll as a student again and work on CPT.
    I talked to university they are ready to offer CPT on first day but the start date will be May 25th.
    But my EAD will expire on May 15th as I said before. There will be gap between May 15th to May 25th. Will I be out of status even if I have i-20 and sevis is already transferred to the university?

    • Renu Priya,
      I don’t think it will be an issue as one usually gets 60 day grace period after completing the OPT. So it should be ok to continue to stay for those 10 days and wait for new course to start. You can get this verified by the DSO as well.

  7. I am having 7 years of experience on java,j2ee technologies.Currently i am in H4 visa, as the 2012-2013 quota got opened, i am looking for any good employer to file my H1 visa.please help me out with the company names,emailid who sponsor H1 visa.
    Another i want to know about the rules of CPT, if i want to work from day one or from first semester.

    • Hey Priya,
      First thing you have to do is call the university explain you situation and ask them whether they will give CPT on first day or Not.
      If university agrees to give you admission and CPT. You need a employment letter from any employer as proof of employment. Then you will get CPT i-20.
      As soon as you get CPT i-20. You can continue working.
      Now you can look for good employer and chnage ur employer. In CPT you can change employer anytime 😀
      I hope it helps.
      I cannot mention university names in blogs because in return it will affect us in future.

      • Stay away from any institution that gives out CPT from day one.
        They are all fake, like TriValley and UNVA.
        CPT from day one is a recipe for killing your future in the US.

  8. Hello Saurabh,

    I am on OPT now with valid employment since Feb 2012. My F1 Visa stamp is expired. I have to go to India next month where I will have to go for F1 stamping. I know it is extremely difficult to get new stamp in my case. But have you heard of any cases where people got the stamp(F1) while on OPT. If yes then can you please share that.

    • Hi Dude,

      The F1 visa is only for students. In your case, you seem to have graduated.
      The think, the chances are difficult. I have never heard of anyone getting F1 stamp.

      Please check with some other folks as well. My information is not very precise. Its just my personal opinion.

  9. hi !

    very useful information. i would like to know more latest information about CPT/OPT
    for my son who has just completed MBA from USA and waiting for his EAD now.

    thanking you,
    s.nambi rajan

    • I have just updated the URLs, you can get more info from US Immigration website, if you check the link at bottom “CPT and OPT.”

  10. Thank you everyone who answered my question. As you all said, me and everone in similar situation have limited options, and need to act fast to avoid the worst, like losing the job and leaving the country.

    1. I’m not eligible for STEM extension (Major is International Business, wish I had an eligible major)
    2. I called and asked USCIS if I would be eligible for 60 day grace period, the person said yes.
    3. I understand that my one option is going for graduate degree, and getting CPT before my OPT expires on Feb 22nd.

    However, in almost all schools, the classes started Jan. 17 or near that date, many of them that I contacted in the last 2 days told me I can’t enrol for Spring semester anymore, Summer is my option. But I found a university Oakland, CA that will take a look at my application. If I qualify they said I might get my CPT 3-5 days after they accept my application. I’m hoping for that now. I applied today.

    Another option for me: When I applied for OPT in Feb 2011, USCIS didn’t process it for 90 days, and when I called in May 2011, they started the Service request, and I got in May 2011, thus the date on the OPT card MAY 2011 to DECEMBER 2011. ONLY 7 months. I called in November and they extended it till FEBRUARY 2012, still ONLY 9 months. I understand that’s the months that I filed the application, but They took 4 months to issue my OPT, and I wasn’t able to start working till May 2011. So, I called today, and filed a Service Request to reopen my case, and asked them to extend it till May 2012, which will solve a lot of problems for me. But it all depends on CSC. I REALLY HOPE FOR THIS ONE. Again, its not my fault they gave my OPT late, and as an F1 student I want my full 12 months of OPT duration.

    Please let me know if I should actually expect them to extend my OPT or not. Otherwse its graduate school for me if accepted, and if not, I might wait till the end of the grace period, and sign up for summer school.

    Correct me if I’m wrong anywhere, and let me know what you think. Any other options?

    Sorry for the lengthy message.

  11. Hi,

    I’m working on OPT right now, and its expiring Feb 22nd. My company is planning to apply for H1 in April, but from Feb. 22nd till April I will be out of status(grace period). I know I’m not supposed to work.

    I only see going to graduate school to obtain a CPT and continue working as my option.

    Is there anything else I can do? I really don’t want to lose this job.

    another question. Since my OPT expires on Feb. 22nd, and 60 day grace period will continue till Aprill 20+, can I take a break from work from Feb 22nd til I apply for H1 in early April, and start working again after H1 is filed?


    • Buddy, your situation is quite tricky.

      I would suggest you to call USCIS and confirm with them about this grace period after completion of OPT.

    • Rauf,
      As you will be in grace period when your H-1 is filed, you will be eligible for cap-gap but that would allow you only to continue to stay in US, but not work. You cannot start to work until Oct 1, 2012 which is usually the earliest start date of H-1. This is true when your H-1 is filed w/ COS, w/ requested start date of Oct 1, 2012 and if you have been maintaining valid legal status in US.

    • Hey Rauf,

      1. You cannot work soon after your H1B is filed. Even if your H1B is filed in April , you are not allowed to work until October 1st.

      2. I was in a very similar situation as yours and I was able to convince my company to get E-verified after which I filed for OPT STEM Extension. (Are you from a STEM degree?)

      This would be your best solution if you can make it happen otherwise you need to look for a local community college which can provide you CPT.

      • Hello Mayank, I just read your reply to Rauf and you mentioned that he can enrol in a community college to avail CPT but won’t that be after one semester?So he would have to wait for a semester right? And it would be only 20 hours a week isn’t it?

        • Yes you are right. The spring semester must have probably started by now for every college in the US so it’s not really an option anymore.

          And some colleges do provide 40hours a week CPT if you can really convince them you are in a bit of a financial crunch and would be needing a 40hour a week CPT.

          Like I mentioned before, his best bet is to apply for OPT STEM extension, if that’s applicable.

  12. I am planning to file for change of status. I am currently on H4 and planning to shift to F1. My husband green card process is in level 3. Is there any posiblity of getting rejected in F1? And for how long i have to stay in F1 to do my Cpt. I plan to start my F1 status from next year Spring. When exaxtly i would be eligible for Cpt. Sep 2013 or spring 2014. Please help me someone

  13. Hello,
    I have a question – Can we work on CPT (20 hours)after completing all course requirements and while working on the thesis/project? or does this have to be pre-completion OPT?
    Please let me know

    • Hi,

      If you have completed all course work and working on thesis ( And not graduated from school officially ). You can work on CPT for 20 hours or for 40 hours depending upon your situation. You can do it on Pre-OPT, if your CPT months are over ( I mean, if you have exhausted the 11 month tenure of CPT).

      • Thanks so much jackspray. That was helpful. MY DSO is totally useless 🙁
        Do we need to be on F-1 status for one year to appl for this CPT? or can we do it after one semester too?

        • Buddy,

          If you are on a F1 status and are in your first semester of your course ( And If,this is your first year in US schools). Then the rules state that, you have to finish Nine Months in F1 status, before you can actually start taking PAID or UNPAID internships. That means, Yes, You will have to be on F1 status for Nine Months to apply for CPT.

          • Thanks!
            Actually, I completed my first semester full time (9+credits)on a different visa status(not F-1), second i am currently pursuing on F1. So i was wondering if i will be eligible.
            USCIS rules say we need to be full-time(not specifially on F-1)
            what do you think?

  14. Hi,

    My OPT EXT is expiring on April 1st 2012 and I am planning to apply for my H1b on April 1st 2012. I will have to travel to India for my wedding in JUNE 2012. So my question is

    1. Can I take up an admission with a university and continue working on CPT after April 1st till my H1b gets approved. If I use this option when should I take admission and request for CPT so that my OPT doesn’t get effected?
    2. Can I travel to India on CPT while my H1b is in process, will this effect the COS after the H1b is approved.

    Also Please advise on the back plan I have of working on OPT Extension till April 1st 2012, and apply for H1b on April 1st 2012.
    1. Can I remain in the country till my travel to India on cap gap and then return from India on H4 as my fiance is currently on H1B.
    2. Can I apply for H4 while my H1b is in process ?
    3. How will the above affect the H1b with COS?

    Thanks in Advance. It is really critical I travel to India and I am trying to figure out the best possible option.

  15. Hello,

    My name is Dilip and my situation is same like above ones but little different.

    My Opt ends on February 29th 2012 and i know i cannot work from March 1st2012 and also i have to go India for my marriage on Mar30th-Apr30th.

    So can i apply for a new masters and with I-20 i get from university can i leave and come back to US without any problem or will i face any problem as my OPT got finished.
    And i heard i have to check my sevis status before i leave US, so how can i check the status of my sevis before leaving.
    Any quick comments would may be appreciated.


    • Once you have I-20 from the new school you can travel outside of US. Carry the information related to your new school. Also carry paychecks for your OPT period to show you were not unemployed for more than 90 days on OPT.

      I don’t know how to check SEVIS record by yourself, maybe the school DSO can assist w/ you that.

  16. Can we work on CPT (20 hours)after completing all course requirements and while working on the thesis/project? or does this have to be pre-completion OPT?

  17. Hi,

    I hope you can help. I finished my MBA in Dec, 2010 then went on to my OPT. I am finshing up my OPT (jan 2012), but I have decided to return to school for another masters. This time in Education. Is there a problem in going back to school, or is it just a matter of becoming a F1 student again? My DSO is looking into it, but I wanted to see if I was going to fall into any problems.


    • No problem in going back to school. It is just a matter of applying for an F-1.
      However, you may not be eligible for another OPT period post-graduation.

  18. Hi Sourabh,

    I have completed masters A (Not used any CPT) and worked on my OPT for 12 months.
    Now I’m planning to do Masters B. Can I use my CPT now for second masters since I have not used before?


  19. Hey,
    I am on F1-CPT and have completed 6 months. My employer wants to file H1 and I have extended the CPT too, but the cap for H1 is over for this year what am I supposed to do??

    Thank you

    • And let me just I have a masters degree and just started on Phd when I was offered this job, now they want to hire me with H1 sponsor, the problem is as stated above!!! Please help

      Thank you

    • Have the employer file H-1 for you when the cap opens April 1, 2012. Depending upon when you pass out from school and can apply for OPT, you may be eligible for cap-gap as well.

  20. I have 2 more semesters to graduate and wanted to initiate the COS to F-1 today. But my DSO said that I will not be eligible for OPT as I’ve not completed 2 semesters/1 year on F-1. I think the rule is we need to be full-time, F-1 or not is not important. However, how can i convince the DSO? I plan to graduate in dec 2012
    also,incase she does not allow me to apply then what are my options?

    • You need to be on F-1 for 2 semesters or 3 quarters (i.e. 1 year) to be eligible for OPT. A person cannot complete the entire course while being full-time on H-4 and then apply for OPT.

      • Thanks Saurabh. Well, I will be on F-1 status for the summer and the fall.
        Also, I want to know if I can just take the I20 fro mmy school and travel outside the country now before my semester starts. That way, I will be on F-1 even in the spring semester right?

      • Saurabh, I have another question: If I travel to my home country right niw and get the visa(F-1) approved then will I be eligible for OPT if I graduate in 2012 Dec(I will have 2 semesters on F-1 then).

        • As long as you are able to spend 2 semesters on F-1, you should be eligible for OPT. Going out of US now and getting F-1 visa stamped allows you to do be on F-1 for 2 semesters.

  21. ###/ Very Urgent Request /####
    Hi Saurabh,
    I graduated in MBA on Dec 2010 and currently in OPT(Expires on Feb16th, 2012)
    I work for an IT Consultancy as a Consultant…My Employer did filed for H1b but as you know, my application reached on Nov 22nd, 2011(11.ooam) and today(11/28/2011) my Lawyer asked USCIS and came to know that it has not entered the 65,000 list and so rejected. My question is:
    1) Will 60 day grace period applicable to me after OPT Expires?
    2) If i join CPT can you suggest trusted univ at East coast(NY, PA,NJ,CA)
    3) What is the best option to maintain my Status?
    Your advise would be highly appreciated..


    • 1. Yes
      2. I don’t know any
      3. You can file for H-1 again while you are in your grace period. This will make you eligible for cap-gap and continue to stay in US until Oct 2012. However, you cannot work during that period. As you did MBA, you are not eligible for OPT STEM extension.

  22. Hello,

    I am currently working under OPT visa, which will get over in Feb 2012. My employer was willing to sponsor H1-B, but unfortunately the quota get filled on Nov 22nd. I did consult some of my friends and they told me that the only option available is to join a college and get CPT from the 1st semester. I found some colleges that could provide me CPT from day 1 but those are unaccredited colleges and I am concerned whether it will affect my H1-B application later on. Moreover, recently, USCIS has raided and closed some of such colleges. Also, I am not very much willing to pay high cost for getting CPT now.

    Could you please suggest me with any options that can help to get a valid visa status without affecting my current job? And if CPT is the only option left for me, then could you please suggest me any colleges with good standing that can offer me CPT from beginning of semester?

    Any kind of help is really appreciated.


    • are you talking about non-accredited universities such as tri-valley? I would suggest not to go to such places and moreover they are pretty expensive too.
      Another point worth considering is that you have already used up your OPT/CPT, so i’m not sure if you will be eligible for CPT for the same level of degree(I’m assuming you are talking about master’s). No decent schools offer CPT from day one/first semester.

      • Hi Neha,

        Thanks for your response. I was talking about ITU. I believe it is unaccredited as Tri-valley. That’s why I am very apprehensive about taking this step.

        I have completed my MBA. So, if I join Phd then will I be eligible for CPT then?

        Thanks again. Your response is really helpful.

        • ITU is similar to tri-valley. So it is better to be safe. Another point to consider is, since you have already completed master’s level education, you will not be eligible for CPT/OPT at any school. Your only option to stay in this country is PhD. PhD programs are offered only in reputed schools,so you will not have the option of CPT from first semester.

          Another option is, if you are married, you can switch over to F-2 or H-4 or L-2 visa.

          • Thanks Neha, I have MBA from Auburn University. It has good Phd programs but I wish to continue working for now rather than joining college as a student.

          • Well, you definitely do not have the option of availing OPT if you go for another degree. Work is possible only on H-1. you may have to see if your employer is ready to file H-1 for you in april 2012 and you will have to exit the country and re-enter only when the H-1 is approved. so this means you will be out sude US from feb till whenever H1b is approved.

    • I agree w/ Neha’s comments. You have following two options:
      – apply for OPT STEM extension (if you are eligible for same)
      – apply for H-1 in next year quota. You can continue to stay on the basis of cap-gap, but you will not be able to work as your H-1 would be filed during 60 day grace period.

      • Hi Saurabh,
        Thank you for your response.
        OPT extension is not an option for me because I am an MBA graduate. Regarding 2nd option, does it mean that I can continue working from April 1st if my employer applies for my H-1 on April 1st? My OPT expires on 12th Feb, so what will be my visa status after that till my H-1 is filed? And what will be my status once H-1 is filed till I get response from USCIS?
        I really need your help because I have very less knowledge on this regard. Thanks.

        • No, you cannot work from April 1. Like I said in my previous response, your H-1 would be filed during the 60 day grace period. So your stay would get extended until October 1, but not work authorization. You cannot start to work on H-1 until October 1, 2012 even if your H-1 gets approved earlier.

    • Hi Pragati,

      Thanks for putting this question! I am in the same boat too! And desperately looking for options like you! My OPT expires on Jan 20th 2012. The closest one I found out is in Flushing, NYC. Here is the link http://infoserveinstitute.com/. They offer CPT upto 3 years. I am trying to find a college in MA as I live in Westborough, MA. If you get any information, please share.


      • Hello Harshada,

        Thanks for the info. The infoserve is only a training institute as I could see from their website. Did you join this institute? If yes, which degree did you choose? I have heard about Goldey Beacon College that is in Delaware. It is little bit expensive but its less risky I guess. I am also searching in east coast region. I would be happy to get more info.

        • Hello Pshrestha & Harshada,,
          I am in the same situation like you.
          My application for h1 reached on Nov 22nd and was not accepted.
          I am searching colleges with good CPT record..
          can you keep me in the loop.
          you can reach my email: mat7josh@gmail.com
          my cell# 469-426-7574

      • Hi Harshada,
        Did u get an option other than Infoserv? They offer only part-time CPT and I am not NY so that is also an issue as I cant fly every weekend to NY.

        Please let me know of any other school u know.

        • Hi Vittal,

          Please feel free to mail me at [email suppressed]. I live in Westborough, MA too..So lets connect ASAP!


          • Hi Harshadaaa..

            I am not able to find ur email to contact you. It says Email supressed.
            Could u please email me at kiran1412 at the rate of yahoo.com

            Just wanted to see if you have any luck ..


          • Hi Vittal,

            Sorry Kiran’s mail made me realize that my email id has been suppressed…My mail is harshatam at the rate gmail dot com


  23. Hello Kumar,

    I was wondering is it is ok to get the COS to F-1 done about 2 months before the final semester starts. Will I still be eligible for OPT after the last semester?
    For example, to graduate in Dec, I will be in (approved) F-1 status since may….

  24. Hello Kumar.
    Thank you for this very useful post.
    I have very recently been admitted to an MBA program at Bellarmine University in Louisville Kentucky. Because of the difficulty to get my French Credits validated by an American University, I am already lucky to be admitted in this program. However, having work experience is not an integrated part of their MBA program ( They do not require you to do a co-op or internship…) But what is an MBA degree worth without no professional experience ??!! Not much !! That’s why I really want to work during my MBA program. Do you think I can apply for a CPT ? Is there something my school can say to help me get a CPT ? Or do I have no chance whatsoever ??
    Thank you very much in advance

    • hello ,
      There are many schools that don’t require work exp as part of curriculum. But that does not ,mean you should not look for interships. Go ahead and start searching internships and ask your school to process CPT documents when u land the internship. Most likely, they will process it for you.

      good luck and enjoy your stay in kentucky.

  25. Hi

    I am about to complete MS this 17th dec and applied for opt with starting date Feb 10th .
    I want to visit India in between those dates .EAD card would be mailed to me to india by one of my friend from here.My plan is to travel along with travel i20 from my college, EAD Card and employment letter .Will there be any problems if i return back to US by something around Feb 15h ? Any suggestion ?My whole concern is to go India this dec .


  26. Hello Saurabh/Kumar…
    I am a Commercial Pilot completed my training from Miami USA in about 7 months and was on M1 visa…So couldn’t do anything because of my M1 visa as u might know its just for studies and no work is allowed on that…Now i am planning to go back to Miami for Bsc in aviation…The college offers me a F1 visa and the course is for 3 years…Back then when i was in my flying school he offered me a job but he was refusing for the H1B visa sponsoring…And most companies there do the same…Is there anyway i can get a H1B from my college now??Plz help?

    • It is not possible to get an H1 for a pilot job. The reason is that a college degree is not required for pilots, and for an H1, the job has to require a college degree in the field.
      Even though airlines generally don’t hire any pilot who doesn’t have a college degree, that’s not about flying, it is about having a backup.

  27. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I don’t know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already! Cheers!

  28. I have a question regarding CPT, if anybody can possible help, I appreciate it…

    I am currently authorized to work 20 hours/week for CPT as an RN. The problem is that I am scheduled to work two 8 hour shifts and one 4 hour shift. My 4 hour shift will show on my paycheck as 4.5 hours, as I am getting a 0.5 hr paid break. Is that considered as I am working 20.5 hours instead of 20? I just do not want anything come up later to hurt me if I end up trying to get a a greencard… Any info will be highly appreciated it! Thank you…

  29. Hello Kumar,

    I have a quick question. I am a F-1 visa holder, which means that I am allowed to work more than 20 hours on campus. What if I got a .5 TA position on campus and also got a teaching position outside campus? This teaching opportunity is granted through CPT. The TA position requires 20-hour work per week and the teaching is considered 3-hour work/week. And I am teaching one class at a community college for a dissertation purpose. Is this still acceptable?

  30. Hi, Rit now I am on CPT from aug11 2011 to july 25 2012about 11mnths and 25 days!!!! Does this show any effect on my OPT ? Does this CPT period deducted in my OPT period!!! Please help me in this regards!!!

  31. Dear Kumar,
    I am thinking of doing an MS in HR from the GGU in SFO.
    As mentioned in the article the student has to apply for OPT approx. 6 months before graduating. But some of my friends here who are doing an MBA of 2 years have got an F1 visa for 5 years that includes the OPT of 1 year;and it was done by their college itself. So my question is can I also get the visa inclusive of the OPT duration and can my university help me in getting it?

    • The visa is usually for 5 years because one has option to extend the course by taking less credits or skipping semester/quarter.

      When you apply for your F-1 visa, you can also get it for 5 years. Also, a visa stamp is used only for the purpose of entering US. Once you are inside US, the visa stamp can very well expire and you don’t need to worry about it (i.e. until you travel outside of US next).

  32. Dear Kumar/Saurabh,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer our inquiries. I am currently an international student doing my MBA in the US. I started my summer internship in June 13, 2011 and today I realized that I was working without a CPT authorization. I thought that being enrolled in a credit valid course was equal to the authorization but it is not. I spoke with the DOS and they can issue a CPT immediately tomorrow, but it can’t be back dated so I won’t be covered from June 13 until August 10. My concern is how will this affect my possibility of getting the H1B Visa after graduation? My employer has already expressed interest in sponsoring me, but now I’m afraid that I will get denied because of this hiccup. Is there any way I can remediate this??? Would really appreciate any insights that you might have, I can’t sleep!

    • I can’t say for sure if it would negatively impact or not. I feel it shouldn’t impact, but you will have to check w/ a lawyer on that. BTW, were you issued SSN when you started working in June? It looks strange that SSA didn’t check your SEVIS record before issuing you SSN.

  33. this is mahesh.Can I cancel my CPT after working 6 mnths since i heard that if we work 12 mnths on CPT there might be no OPT,,,, PLease let me know regarding this

  34. Hi Kumar,

    I understand that CPT depends on the university providing it. However if one has already completed a 2 years Masters, can he come on CPT from day one of the second Masters? Is this something provided by the US immigration law or depends only on the university? What I am trying to confirm is that if it is provided by US law in the forst place, then i will bother to look for universities who are willing to give CPT authorization from Day one. Otherwise it just seems risky after the TVU case

    • Some universities offer CPT from first semester, while others want you to be a student for at least 1-2 semesters before you become eligible for CPT. It’s the university policy.

      There can be other factors also – whether the work is related to your course work or not, whether the job is on-campus or off-campus etc. You will have to check w/ the university.

      However, after the TVU fiasco, SEVIS has become very stringent about the CPTs they are approving, especially the ones that start in the first quarter/semester. So be vigilant.

    • Forget CPT from day one.
      After TVU and UNVA, that’s done for.
      CPT has to be an integral part of the curriculum. No real university will use CPT as a student recruiting tool. If a class requires that you gain real-world experience, the international office and the DSO will work with you.
      Avoid any institution that advertises CPT.

  35. Dear Saurabh/Kumar,
    Hey this is Rohan , i am right now doing my MS thinking to complete my graduation that is 10 subjects in 3 semesters ,usually everyone in our college do 9 subjects in 3 semesters and take cpt for the 4th semester, but i am thinking to complete my graduation in 3 semesters and take OPT. I wish you guys could help me out in choosing a good option to whether to consider CPT or OPT ….

    Thanks Guys..

    • OPT is typically better than CPT. The CPT issued in 4th semester, will be valid for one semester and the person will have to file OPT after that. OPT in itself is valid for 12 months. The flip side is that your total employment prior to H-1 would be 1 sem + 12 months (in case of CPT and then OPT) vs 12 months (in case of OPT).

      If your ultimate aim is to have an employer file H-1 for you, then OPT may be a better option. When will you graduate if you complete your studies in 3 sem?

      But, that’s just my opinion.

      • Thanks Saurabh for replying. I’ll be completing my studies by April 2012 if i do it in 3 sems , my main problem now is when to go to India for a holiday two cases December if i consider OPT , or else in the month of May if i take CPT.
        Ya Saurabh my ultimate aim is H1 so that’s the reason i am also thinking to take OPT.

        • A person can travel in and out of the country when on OPT. Just ensure that your F-1 visa stamp is not expired, and you have endorsed your I-20 for travel from your school.

          If your studies are completed in Apr 2012, your OPT can start thereafter and your employer can file H-1 which starts either on 1st Oct 2012, or later when your OPT is about to expire (although I don’t know what would be H-1 availability and quota trend would be next year).

  36. Hi Sir,

    This is Sandeep , I am on F1 OPT extension .Currently working in new jersy . I am getting married in Aug . So i am planing to go to India .
    I would like to know if a candidate on OPT extension ,can return from abroad to US after 5 months . If yes what are the documents required ?.

    • One can travel on OPT. Ensure you have endorsed your OPT card from your school DSO for travel, and have an unexpired F-1 stamp to re-enter US. Documents required include OPT card, employment details, unexpired F-1 visa stamp. You can also check w/ your DSO.

      Your wife would require F-2 visa stamp to enter US.

  37. Dear Saurabh/Kumar,

    First I would like to appreciate the efforts from your side in running this website.

    Secondly I need some information on CPT stuff. I came across certain univs. offering CPT programs like that of Sullivan Univ,CA. They claim CPT from day 1. Is it true?My main purpose is to gain MBA while also earning money to some extent.

    My assumption is that once you are on a CPT course,after landing in the US you take min.1 month to get the process done.Am I right?

    Also can you suggest some univs for CPT?


    • Tri Valley University was one of the universities offering CPT from day 1 and that ended as a sad story for lot of aspiring students. I would suggest not to go by CPT from day 1 advertisement and look for a well qualified university. I assume you want to earn a real MBA that has a market value and not a degree that’s no more than a piece of paper.

  38. I am an Indian citizen now..Has got my US citizenship completed and is approved…But not the passport yet..Just having double mind on wheather having it or not…If i take US citizenship then i may loose indian citizenship…My parents are settled in india and they don’t like me staying here…And they are actively looking for my marriage..The trouble they have is if i did take us citizenship i may not be able to take the property inheritance and business which is some what big…
    Let me know the advantage of taking us citizenship and wiceverse..


    • no offense, but you went this far to have your US citizenship approved and now you are asking what the benefits of becoming a US citizen? I think you just leave it and go back to India.

  39. hi,Kumar
    Am a student planning to come to the U.S.A this August on a student visa
    wanting to study nursing.will be on scholarship but not full.was thinking on working to pay the rest of my fees.any advise on what to do in order to work off-campus or get any kind of working permit.

  40. Does anybody know that it is possible to do some full time CPT (let’s say 1 or 2 quarters/semesters), and still be able to get full time OPT after you finish the program?? Any feedback is appreciated. If you have done it before, please let me know as well…Thanks!

    • You should be able to work full-time during summer quarter on CPT. However, when school is in session, you can only work part-time on CPT. Check w/ your DSO for more information.

  41. Dear Kumar,

    I am currently on OPT and was thinking of doing my second Master Degree. Since it will be my second Master, I can’t apply for OPT after the program, but I was wondering if I can use CPT, and if yes is there any time limit for full or part-time CPT in my case?

  42. Hi, I graduated in Dec 2010 and applied for OPT on Nov 2010. I am awaiting the decision regarding my OPT. However, I will be working with my professor for some time. I was said that I will be out of status once I graduate. Can someone please let me know if there will be any problem if I am paid by my professor while I am still awaiting the decision on my OPT?

    • AFAIK, a person can stay for up to 60 days in US on F1 after completing the course. And I think you need to have OPT in order to work under the professor (assuming you will be getting paid for the same).

    • Santosh, I am assuming you kept OPT start date right after your graduation, in your OPT application. As you are waiting the decision from USCIS, I think you can work for 60 days…I would check with school DSO for more clarification, just to be safe…call them !

  43. I have a question regarding OPT tax. I have been in the US for less than 5 years. I am currently doing OPT. I know that I do not need to pay for Social Security and Medicare tax. How about other taxes? Can anybody help? I made a little bit more than 5,000 for 2010 tax year. Thank you in advance!

  44. Please suggest me are there any problems in the future after doing masters with CPT in the field of computer science,please suggest me i don’t have much time…….

  45. Hiii,

    I recently moved to U.S. I have 5 years of Work experience in IT Industry.
    I’m on H4 visa…I’m planning to do MS here since this year to get H1 has become very tuff . Can i know the process to do this…I stay in Seattle. can someone help me on this.

  46. Dear Kumar,

    I am going to do my OPT with an AA degree in Nursing. Then I am going to a new school for my BS degree in nursing. The school has co-op courses. But since it will be my first quarter in the new school, you think I am eligible for CPT? (I have been a full time F1 student for 3 and a half years)

    Thank you!!

    • Tao, there are some schools that give CPT from first semester. It depends on the school. You should check with the school if they do that kind of stuff.

      • Thank you, Kumar,

        The program is only one academic year long, and the adviser sounds like she is wiling to do so. But she said she has to ask if the immigration accept it….weird…

        Thanks again!

          • Tell me about it. I thought I would be able to get some kind of work visa with a nursing degree…but I guess there is not such priority for nurses even if there is a nursing shortage, sigh…

          • Tao,
            there is a lot of jobs available for nurse but unfortunately visas are rarely issued for work. Infact, not all the hospitals/medical centers are even eligible to issue work visas.

          • Yep…because a work visa require a BS degree, but it is not required to have a BS degree to work as a nurse. Of course, most hospital would not want to hire someone who can only do one year OPT, just too much money to train someone I guess…

  47. Does this mean that,if I have stayed in US on some other visa for more than 9 months, then I can CPT benfits the day I change status to F1? or does this mean I need to be on F1 for 9 months?

    • Well, I do not think it works that way for the most part. Having said that, I know there are few schools that give CPT from first semester too. So, it all depends….Yyou should check with the school you are planning on applying or currently studying for the exact CPT rules.

  48. Dear Kumar,
    I wanted to know if you could help me with regard to my query which is as follows.
    I am studying MS Finance on H4 and currently in my final semester.Am converting my visa to F1 and if I get it can I get OPT as F1 visa processing takes a long time like 4 to 5 months before which i might have graduated.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Priti, It is hard to judge how long it takes for the change of status to F1. Also, as you will have to apply for OPT, that time to process OPT should be considered too. Honestly, your situation seems a little complex and you should definitely talk with the Designated School official (DSO) or International Student advisor for F1 visa and OPT related questions. The DSO knows the immigration rules better and I do not want to give you any misleading information or false hope.


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