Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a temporary work authorization for international students who hold an F-1 visa and who have been enrolled full-time in a college-level degree program for at least one academic year.

You can use CPT for an internship or co-op experience that is both related to and a required or important part of your major or field of study. See the Global Programs website for more information about CPT.

If you are an international student with an offer for an internship or co-op, and you are eligible for CPT, our office can help with the process of obtaining it.

Undergraduate Students
Graduate Students


Undergraduate Students

NOTE: The following process is general; individual student situations may differ. Please contact us if you have any questions about this process.

  1. Obtain an offer letter from your prospective employer that contains the five elements required by the U.S. government:
    • Job title
    • Defined employment start and end dates
    • Expected hours of work per week
    • Name of employer and physical location where you will be performing your duties
    • Brief description of your job responsibilities
  2. Complete the Employment Survey to notify us of your upcoming work assignment and give us important information about your employer and your planned course.
    • You may not complete an internship (one semester) in the fall or spring semesters; however, you may complete a summer-only internship by being registered for ENGR 195.
    • You may complete a co-op (at least two semesters)—spanning consecutive summer and fall semesters or spring and summer semesters—by being registered for ENGR 295, 395, or 495.
  3. Complete the iStart application on the Global Programs website.
    • If you plan to be enrolled in ENGR 195, you may name either Kim Fox or your academic adviser on the academic recommendation portion of the application.
      • Email a copy of your offer letter to whomever you have listed as your adviser.
      • After the listed adviser has completed the recommendation, you will receive an automated email message from the iStart system.
      • If you have named an adviser other than Kim Fox, please forward the iStart confirmation email to our CPT email account.
    • If you plan to be enrolled in ENGR 295, 395, or 495, you may name either Kim Fox or your academic adviser on the academic recommendation portion of the application.
      • Email a copy of your offer letter both to whomever you have listed as your adviser and to our CPT email account.
      • After the listed adviser has completed the recommendation, you will receive an automated email message from the iStart system.
      • If you have named an adviser other than Kim Fox, please forward the iStart confirmation email to our CPT email account.
      • We must generate an additional form to support your request to complete a co-op. If you have listed Kim Fox as your adviser, you do not need to take any further action; this form will be completed automatically and shared with the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA) in the University Office of Global Programs. If you have listed someone else as your adviser, we may request additional information to complete the form.
    • Once your adviser has submitted his or her recommendation for your CPT application, you will automatically be notified through the iStart system. Under normal circumstances, your ENGR 195, 295, 395, or 495 course will be added to your schedule within two business days of this notification.
  4. Once you see the course on your schedule for the appropriate semester, submit payment for the course. Your CPT request will not be finalized until course payment is completed.
  5. You should expect CPT review and approval to take place within 10–15 business days of receipt of your adviser’s submission of the CPT recommendation. Note that delays may occur in peak times, especially at the end of the spring semester.
  6. Someone from Global Programs will contact you directly to advise you to pick up your new I-20.

If you are planning to work part-time on campus, you do not need to apply for CPT. See the Global Programs website for more information about rules and requirements for on-campus jobs.

If you are graduating this semester, you are not eligible for CPT and must seek Optional Practical Training (OPT) instead.


Graduate Students

The CPT process is more complex for graduate students than it is for undergraduates. The specific steps that you must take depend on a number of factors, including when and where you plan to work, what type of degree you are pursuing, and where you are in your degree program. NOTE: The following process is general; individual student situations may differ. Please contact us if you have any questions about this process.

Fall or Spring Work Experiences
Summer-Only Work Experiences

Fall or Spring Work Experiences

  1. Obtain an offer letter from your prospective employer that contains the five elements required by the U.S. government:
    • Job title
    • Defined employment start and end dates
    • Expected hours of work per week
    • Name of employer and physical location where you will be performing your duties
    • Brief description of your job responsibilities (these MUST be related to your degree)
  2. Complete the Employment Survey to notify our office of your upcoming internship and to give us important information about your employer and the course you plan to take.
  3. Complete the iStart application on the Global Programs website.
    • If you are currently working on your thesis and the work you plan to do in your internship will be used for your thesis, your adviser must complete the recommendation. Send the course number and the name of your adviser to Kim Fox.
    • If you are currently working on your thesis and the work you plan to do will not be used for your thesis:
      • If your prospective employer is located near University Park (or another Penn State campus), you may be eligible for CPT if you register concurrently for a full-time course load while working and for either ENGR 595 or independent study (IS).
        • If you register for ENGR 595, either Kim Fox from our office or your adviser may complete the recommendation. If you list your adviser, forward the iStart email to Kim Fox.
        • If you register for independent study (IS), your adviser must complete the recommendation. Send the IS course number and the name of the supervising faculty member to Kim Fox.
      • If your prospective employer is not located near University Park, you may only be eligible for CPT if you are willing to pay for 9 credits of department-approved research associated with your internship. Most students in this situation opt not to complete an internship.
    • If you are not currently working on your thesis, you must maintain full-time registration (at least 9 credits) while completing your internship.
      • If your prospective employer is located near University Park (or another Penn State campus), you may be eligible for CPT if you register concurrently for a full-time course load while working and for either ENGR 595 or independent study (IS).
        • If you are registered for ENGR 595, either Kim Fox from our office or your adviser may complete the recommendation. If you list your adviser, forward the iStart email to Kim Fox.
        • If you are registered for independent study (IS), your adviser must complete the recommendation. Send the IS course number and the name of the supervising faculty member to Kim Fox.
      • If your prospective employer is not located near University Park, you may only be eligible for CPT if you are willing to pay for 9 credits of department-approved research associated with your internship. Most students in this situation opt not to complete an internship.
  4. Email a copy of your offer letter (including a detailed job description) to whomever you have listed to complete the iStart recommendation.
  5. Once the recommendation has been completed, you will automatically be notified through the iStart system.
    • If you are taking ENGR 595, the course will be added within two business days of this notification.
    • If you are doing an independent study or thesis credits, please forward the iStart notification of the recommendation submission and the name and number of the course you are taking (i.e., ME 610, CSE 596, EE 601) to Kim Fox.
  6. Once you see the course on your schedule for the appropriate semester, submit payment for the course. Your CPT request will not be finalized until course payment is completed.
  7. You should expect CPT review and approval to take place within 10–15 business days of receipt of the CPT recommendation being submitted. Note that delays may occur in peak times, especially at the end of the spring semester.
  8. After your CPT has been approved, someone from Global Programs will contact you directly to pick up your new I-20.

Summer-Only Work Experiences

  1. Obtain an offer letter from your prospective employer that contains the five elements required by the U.S. government:
    • Job title
    • Defined employment start and end dates
    • Expected hours of work per week
    • Name of employer and physical location where you will be performing your duties
    • Brief description of your job responsibilities (these MUST be related to your degree)
  2. Complete the Employment Survey to notify our office of your upcoming internship and to give us important information about your employer and the course you plan to take.
  3. Complete the iStart application on the Global Programs website.
  4. If you are pursuing a M.S. or Ph.D. degree:
    • If you are currently working on your thesis, you must register for thesis credit and your adviser must complete the recommendation. Send the course number and the name of your adviser to Kim Fox.
    • If you are not currently working on your thesis, you may be registered for either ENGR 595 or independent study (IS).
      • If you are registered for ENGR 595, either Kim Fox from our office or your adviser may complete the recommendation. If you list your adviser, forward the iStart email to Kim Fox.
      • If you are registered for independent study (IS), your adviser must complete the recommendation. Send the IS course number and the name of the supervising faculty member to Kim Fox.
  5. If you are pursuing an M.Eng. degree, you may be registered for either ENGR 595 or independent study (IS).
    • If you are registered for ENGR 595, either Kim Fox from our office or your adviser may complete the recommendation. If you list your adviser, forward the iStart email to Kim Fox.
    • If you are registered for independent study (IS), your adviser must complete the recommendation. Send the IS course number and the name of the supervising faculty member to Kim Fox.
  6. Email a copy of your offer letter (including a detailed job description) to whomever you have listed to complete the iStart recommendation.
  7. Once the recommendation has been completed, you will automatically be notified through the iStart system.
    • If you are taking ENGR 595, the course will be added within two business days of this notification.
    • If you are doing an independent study or thesis credits, please forward the iStart notification of the recommendation submission and the name and number of the course you are taking (i.e., ME 610, CSE 596, EE 601) to Kim Fox.
  8. Once you see the course on your schedule for the appropriate semester, submit payment for the course. Your CPT request will not be finalized until course payment is completed.
  9. You should expect CPT review and approval to take place within 10–15 business days of receipt of the CPT recommendation being submitted. Note that delays may occur in peak times, especially at the end of the spring semester.
  10. After your CPT has been approved, someone from Global Programs will contact you directly to advise you to pick up your new I-20.