Curricular Practical Training

Curricular practical training (CPT) is work authorization for F-1 international students to receive further training that is designed to achieve an established academic objective and is directly related to the student’s degree level and major. CPT includes employment, alternative work/study, rotations, cooperative education or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with a school. CPT is only available to F-1 students when it is required by the degree program and is an integral part of an established curriculum.

MUSC F-1 students must apply for CPT authorization in advance through the Center for Global Health before beginning the training opportunity. If approved, the Designated School Official in the Center for Global Health will authorize CPT in the SEVIS system and will issue a new Form I-20 with the CPT authorization. F-1 students cannot begin the specific CPT training opportunity until they are in possession of the Form I-20 with the specific CPT details.

Requirements and Eligibility

To qualify for CPT, the training opportunity must be an integral part of your academic curriculum. The training opportunity must be required by your degree program or you must earn academic credit for the training:

  • For non-credit CPT, the training opportunity must be required for graduation for all students in a particular academic program. The requirement must be listed in the university’s course catalog or other official university publication.
  • For credit-bearing CPT, the training opportunity can be either required or elective. The requirement must be listed in the university’s course catalog along with the number of credits that will be earned, the name of the faculty member teaching the course, and a description of the course with clearly defined learning objectives. An independent study course does not qualify for CPT.

If an employment or training opportunity is sought solely because it would be beneficial, relevant, or an excellent professional experience, this opportunity would not qualify for CPT. CPT has to serve the curriculum, rather than the curriculum serving the CPT.

CPT can be paid or unpaid. There is no restriction on compensation during CPT. Compensation is not a consideration when determining whether an opportunity qualifies as CPT.

To be eligible to apply for CPT authorization, you must be maintaining valid F-1 status. If you are an undergraduate student, you must have been enrolled in your academic program for a full academic year before you can apply for CPT. Graduate students are exempt from this requirement, but only if the particular training opportunity is required during the first year of studies.

CPT can be either part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time. There is no restriction on the number of hours you can work per week while participating in CPT. However, if you are participating in authorized on-campus employment, you cannot simultaneously participate in full-time CPT. In addition, you must be enrolled in a full course of study during participation in authorized CPT.

Once you have completed 12 months of full-time CPT, you become ineligible for optional practical training (OPT) at your current educational level.

CPT Application Process

The F-1 Designated School Official (DSO) in the Center for Global Health has the authority to authorize an F-1 student to participate in CPT through the SEVIS system. Adjudication by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is not required for CPT, and there is no need for an employment authorization document (EAD card).

You must first submit the CPT request through your Terra Dotta portal. All CPT requests must be submitted at least three (3) weeks in advance of your requested CPT start date. However, we recommend submitting your CPT requests much earlier than the three-week minimum.

If your CPT request is approved, you will receive an updated Form I-20 with CPT authorization. You are not permitted to begin your CPT opportunity until you have received the updated Form I-20 with the specific CPT details.

Terra Dotta CPT Request

To request CPT authorization, you must submit the Curricular Practical Training Request through your Terra Dotta portal. Be sure to thoroughly read the instructions and learning content in the request and complete all application elements. The required application elements include the following:

  1. Questionnaire. You must complete a questionnaire with the details of the training opportunity, including dates, employer name and address. Carefully review your responses before submitting to ensure that all information is correct (especially the dates). Be sure that you are entering the correct employer name. For opportunities that take place on the MUSC campus, you will enter the specific MUSC entity/unit/building in the employer name field (example: MUSC Ashley River Tower Pharmacy).
  2. College recommendation. You must obtain a recommendation from an individual in your college. The recommender is typically an administrator who is very familiar with your particular CPT opportunity and how it relates to the curriculum. Once you identify the recommender in Terra Dotta, the system will send the recommendation request by email. The recommender will click the link in the email to complete the electronic recommendation form. You should notify your recommender to expect to receive this email and explain the purpose of the recommendation as it relates to your CPT request.
  3. Supporting documentation. You must upload required supporting documentation with your CPT request:
    • Copy of the current university course catalog or other university publication showing the course name, number of credits given, and the course description with learning objectives clearly defined
    • Signed cooperative agreement between MUSC and employer or employer offer letter (see offer letter requirements below)

If you are submitting an employer offer letter, the letter must be on company letterhead and must contain the following information: your name, detailed description of the training opportunity/employment and your duties, hours per week, start and end dates, and an explanation verifying that the opportunity is directly related to your academic degree program.

In addition to submitting the required supporting documentation through Terra Dotta for your CPT request, you must also keep this documentation for your own personal records. You may be asked to present this documentation in the future to prove that you complied with F-1 CPT requirements.

CPT authorization is for a specific employer, at a specific location for specific dates. Therefore, a separate CPT request is required in Terra Dotta for each separate placement/rotation/training opportunity. If you have multiple CPT placements per semester, please carefully read the instructions regarding how to access multiple CPT request records in your Terra Dotta portal. Please contact the Center for Global Health if you are having issues with accessing more than one CPT request per semester. 

CPT Form I-20

You will be notified by email if your CPT request is approved. Upon approval of the CPT request, an updated Form I-20 will be issued for you with the appropriate CPT authorization. Remember that you cannot begin the CPT opportunity until you receive the updated Form I-20.

If you participate in multiple CPT opportunities during your F-1 program, you may receive multiple I-20 forms corresponding to the specific CPT authorizations. As a reminder, you are required to keep the originals of all I-20 forms that are issued to you indefinitely as part of your U.S. immigration records. In other words, do not discard previous I-20 forms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to be registered for classes while on CPT? 
Yes. During CPT, you are required to maintain F-1 status, which includes being enrolled as a full-time student in your course of study. If you seek authorization for full-time CPT, the CPT opportunity must be considered full-time enrollment by MUSC.

Do I need to apply for CPT for on campus employment/training/rotations? 
Yes, if the on campus training opportunity is required for your degree program.

Does the job or training opportunity have to be paid in order for it to qualify as CPT? 
No. Unpaid training opportunities can qualify as CPT as long as the other eligibility criteria are met.

Does CPT impact my ability to apply for OPT in the future?
You may participate in up to 11 months of full-time CPT without it affecting your Optional Practical Training (OPT) eligibility. However, if you use 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will no longer be eligible for OPT. Part-time CPT does not count towards this limit.

What is the difference between part-time and full-time CPT?
Part-time CPT is employment/training for 20 hours or less per week. Full-time CPT is employment/training for more than 20 hours per week. With both part-time and full-time CPT, you must maintain enrollment as a full-time student in your course of study. There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in full-time curricular practical training. However, if you participate in 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will not be eligible to apply for OPT in the future.

What proof of employment authorization can I give my employer?
The Form I-20 with the specific CPT authorization on page 2 is the document which indicates your specific employment authorization. You should bring your CPT Form I-20, passport and I-94 record to your employer.

I was approved CPT, but my training dates and/or location have changed. What do I need to do?
CPT is authorized for a specific employer, at a specific location for specific dates. Any changes to the training opportunity will require an update in SEVIS and on the CPT Form I-20. Depending on the nature of the changes, you may be required to submit a new CPT request in Terra Dotta. If there are any changes to your approved CPT, please contact the Center for Global Health as soon as possible to notify us of the specific changes. We will then review the information and advise you on the next steps to take.