What Is The Difference Between CPT And OPT, and How To Apply?
What Is The Difference Between CPT And OPT, and How To Apply?
If you're looking for an internship in the United States, here's everything you need to know about CPT and OPT as an F-1 student.

If you're looking for an internship in the United States, here's everything you need to know about CPT and OPT as an F-1 student.


What is the difference between a CPT and an OPT? Before looking for an internship or job, international students should understand the difference between OPT and CPT. While working for a top company is one of the most tempting aspects of studying in the United States, the complicated immigration requirements and rules that apply to overseas workers can make finding an internship or employment difficult. Learn everything there is to know about curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT) in our CPT versus OPT guide, including the differences between the two, the meaning of OPT and CPT, and more.


You want to work with your school's career services office in addition to your school's DSO [designated school official] in both circumstances [of OPT and CPT]," "Your career service advisors will assist you in looking for a job or internship, and the DSO will assist you in obtaining approval for that employment or internship." You're not the only one going through this!"


Remember that obtaining work on a student visa takes time and effort, but it's well worth it to gain professional experience in your subject of study.

What Is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) status allows overseas students on an F-1 student visa to get work experience through paid internships and employment training programmes connected to their major field of study. Your designated school official (DSO) will authorize CPT in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) when you start your degree programme, and it will be printed on your I-20 form – this is your documentation that you are eligible for CPT employment. You can contact your DSO for further details.


Keep in mind that your CPT will require a letter from your company, and your employment will only be valid for a limited time. However, before you may graduate, you must finish your CPT.

You Can Use CPT To Do The Following Things:

  • Working full-time for at least 20 hours every week

  • Part-time is defined as working 20 hours or fewer each week (if you work full time for 12 months with CPT, you will not be eligible for OPT)

What Is Optional Practical Training (OPT) And How Does It Work?

International students on an F-1 visa with Optional Practical Training (OPT) status can get work experience after graduation. Your DSO will propose OPT in SEVIS and offer you with an I-20 form that includes the DSO's recommendation. OPT is available for both bachelor's and master's degrees.


You must submit a completed "Application for Employment Authorization," also known as Form I-765, to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to be approved to work (USCIS). If your Form I-765 is approved, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document from (EAD). You will not be permitted to work until the EAD's start date.

You May Be Eligible For OPT In One Of Two Ways As An F-1 Student:

  1. Pre-completion OPT—After completing one academic year at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified college, university, conservatory, or seminary, you can apply for pre-completion OPT. Pre-completion OPT allows you to work part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time before the end of your programme.

  2. Post-completion OPT—After completing your education, you can apply for post-completion OPT. You can work part-time (20 hours or less per week) or full-time if you are eligible for post-completion OPT. USCIS will deduct your pre-completion OPT time from your post-completion OPT authorization time if you are a student who has already completed pre-completion OPT.

What Is A STEM OPT Extension Of 24 Months?

If you have a degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) discipline that has been authorized by, you can request a 24-month extension of your OPT.


If you match the following criteria, you can apply for a 24-month OPT extension:

  • I'm now on a Post-Completion OPT assignment.

  • A SEVP-certified college or university awarded you a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral level STEM degree.

  • Do you want to work for an employer that uses the E-Verify programme (or do you already work for one)?

  • Form I-983, "Training Plan for STEM OPT Students," was signed by you and your employer.

What Is Cap-Gap Extension And How Does It Work?

If you are an F-1 student who wants to keep your F-1 visa status after finishing your academic programme or OPT, you can request an extension to bridge the gap between the end of your F-1 status and the beginning of your H-1B status.


The H-1B visa is a temporary work permit that allows you to work in the United States for up to six years. Your employer may file a petition with USCIS on your behalf to get H-1B status.

What Is The Distinction Between CPT and OPT?

While there are numerous distinctions between OPT and CPT, it is crucial for international students to understand whether they are eligible for both.


  • Before you can graduate from your programme, you must complete CPT.

  • You can finish your OPT before or after you graduate.


Make sure you're aware of your school's CPT and OPT deadlines in addition to the government's restrictions. "Applications for CPT and OPT at some colleges must be submitted within a certain time frame. So, in addition to the government's restrictions, you'll need to double-check all CPT and OPT application dates with your school's DSO."

The following are some frequently asked questions about CPT and OPT.

Does CPT Have An Impact On OPT?

In general, if your CPT is for fewer than 12 months of full-time work, it will not influence your OPT (i.e., more than 20 hours per week). You will not be eligible to apply for OPT if your full-time CPT is less than 12 months. Part-time CPT (less than 20 hours per week) will not be deducted from OPT.

Is It Possible To Apply For Both CPT And OPT At The Same Time?

Yes, you certainly can. However, keep in mind that if you work full-time on CPT for 12 months, you will not be eligible for OPT. Even if you work for longer than 12 months on part-time CPT, it will not impair your eligibility for OPT.

How Do You Decide Which Is Best For You?

When deciding between a CPT or OPT visa for job or internship opportunities, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Is an internship required for graduation in my degree programme?

  • If that's the case, do I intend to do more than one internship?

A CPT qualification, for example, is appropriate if you need to complete a mandated internship that counts toward your degree. It's also worth mentioning that if you're an undergraduate student seeking short-term work, you'll almost certainly fall into the CPT group. You are most likely in the OPT group if you are a graduate student or have recently graduated.


The CPT application procedure is free, and it takes less time to get approved than OPT. Because CPT is approved by your campus DSOs, they can usually let you know within a week if you've been approved. However, OPT is far more complicated and requires USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) clearance."


According to immigration standards, 12 months of CPT will exclude you from OPT. In other words, if you use up all of your available time on a credit-based internship, you won't be able to intern or work again in college or after graduation. However, if you have exhausted your undergraduate practical training eligibility, you may be eligible for a 12-month extension if you enroll in an appropriate graduate-level programme.


Check in with your DSO if you have any questions about your OPT CPT status.

How To Get A CPT Visa

While the CPT application has multiple steps, they will differ according to your institution or university. The following are the general CPT stages to follow:


  1. Find out whether CPT programmes are offered at your university, as well as qualifying conditions and sponsoring employers, by contacting your student adviser.

  2. Obtain a job offer letter from your employer that includes all necessary information (e.g., workplace address, etc.).

  3. Apply through your college or university to the CPT programme. Because obtaining your CPT authorization may take some time, start planning as soon as feasible and gather the necessary documents (e.g., evidence of university registration/enrollment).

  4. You will receive a document containing CPT start and finish dates once your CPT application has been approved. Make sure you sign the CPT document and have a copy with you.

  5. If your employer requests it, speak with them and send any applicable CPT documentation.

  6. On the start day of your CPT programme, show up.

How to Get an Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Because the OPT application procedure can take a long time, apply as soon as possible!


The following are the main OPT stages you must take:

  1. Request information about applying for OPT from your university's student advisor.

  2. Request an OPT recommendation from your institution or university's DSO. With the recommendation, your DSO will update SEVIS and the I-20 form.

  3. Fill out Form I-765 and mail it to USCIS together with the required documentation listed on the form. In addition, you must pay the appropriate fee.

  4. Obtain your Employment Authorization Document once the USCIS has approved your Form I-765 (EAD).

  5. Begin your OPT programme on the specified start date on your EAD.

What Resources Can I Use To Learn More About OPT Or CPT?

ITPathFinder assists our international students in finding jobs and internships, as well as navigating the CPT and OPT processes. Our goal is to assist you in achieving professional success.


Another fantastic resource is your fellow students, who can answer concerns about CPT vs OPT, CPT and OPT processing timelines, how to check on the status of your CPT or OPT application, and F-1 and OPT visa extensions after graduation. In addition, each university has its own set of standards and restrictions for overseas students in terms of internships and employment. Before applying, talk to your DSO about your school's CPT vs. OPT policies.


Visit or to stay up to date on all federal regulations relevant to CPT and OPT. and are good places to start looking for CPT and OPT internship and job opportunities. Check out our student success stories and understand how we help students achieve career success if you're interested in ITPathFinder.


If you have any queries concerning CPT vs OPT, ITPathFinder can help you with visa assistance and other international student services. So don’t wait up, get in touch today with ITPathFinder and get answers to all your questions.