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Training opportunities in the United States: OPT, CPT, PT for F-1 and M-1 students

Training opportunities in the United States: OPT, CPT, PT for F-1 and M-1 students

The United States offers training opportunities for eligible international students and new graduates to gain practical experience related to their academic studies. These opportunities include Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students, Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for F-1 students, Practical Training (PT) for M-1 students, and entrepreneurship for F-1 students.

Optional practical training for F-1 students:

OPT is a form of paid training directly related to the student’s study program. The student can apply for OPT during the program of study (pre-completion OPT) or after completing the program of study (post-completion OPT). F-1 students must obtain approval from their Designated School Official (DSO) and file the necessary forms with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to receive authorization.

DSO makes recommendations in SEVIS by endorsing a student’s Form I-20. The student must then file Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization”, and supporting documents with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and if approved, USCIS will issue Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document.” You can begin your training once you receive your authorization from USCIS.

Pre-completion OPT is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, but it can be full-time during breaks and annual vacations.

You can apply for 12 months of OPT at each education level (i.e., you may have 12 months of OPT at the bachelor’s level and another 12 months of OPT at the master’s level). If you are an F-1 student earning a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) degree, you may be eligible for the STEM OPT extension. For more information, visit the STEM OPT page on the Study in the States website (studyinthestates.dhs.gov)

Curriculum practical training for F-1 students:

Curricular practical training (CPT) is an alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or other required practicum that a sponsoring employer offers through cooperative agreements with your college or university. CPT is only available for F-1 students when it is part of an established curriculum within a school. CPT must be integral to your program of study; however, unlike pre-completion OPT, CPT can be full-time and is not restricted by a weekly 20-hour work limit.

To qualify for CPT, you must be an F-1 student and have completed one full academic year of study at an SEVP-certified school unless you are a graduate student whose program requires immediate CPT.

Students who complete one year or more of full-time CPT are ineligible to participate in post-completion OPT. To get permission for CPT, your Designated School Official (DSO) needs to authorize it in SEVIS and provide you with an updated Form I-20 indicating your authorization for the training opportunity.

All U.S. universities that host international students are required to employ a DSO, who is usually based in the international student office on campus.

If you are interested in participating in CPT, you must first talk to your DSO to ensure you understand your school’s specific policy. Your DSO is the best person to work with to ensure you follow federal regulations and school policy.

Practical training for M-1 students:

After program completion, practical training is available for M-1 students to gain training experience in their vocational field. M-1 students must obtain authorization from USCIS before participating in PT, and they may need to simultaneously apply for an extension of status.

F-1 students and entrepreneurship:

F-1 students interested in entrepreneurship must qualify and apply for OPT if they plan to start their own business in the United States. The business must relate to the program of study, which can occur before or after completing the program of study. However, F-1 students in English language training programs are not eligible for OPT. It’s important to note that F-1 students cannot be their own employer for the purpose of the STEM OPT extension.

Students should work closely with their DSO to understand specific policies and ensure federal and school regulations compliance.

– U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad

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