Northwest College

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Curricular Practical Training (CPT) & Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Job eligibility requirements:

To be considered for CPT, the work MUST be directly related to your academic major. If you have an internship/practicum opportunity which involves employment, check with OIP and/or your academic adviser to determine if it qualifies as CPT.

Student eligibility requirements:

  • Employment which IS a required part of your degree program- An internship/practicum which is required by your degree program always meets the requirements for CPT, regardless of whether or not you receive academic credit for your work. As long as you are maintaining lawful F-1 status, you may apply for permission to engage in CPT whenever your program requires your participation, even if it is immediately upon beginning your studies.
  • Employment which is NOT a required part of your degree program- An internship/practicum which is not required by your degree program may meet the requirements for CPT if you receive academic credit for the employment experience and if it is an integral part of your studies. In order to be eligible to apply for CPT permission, you must (1) be in lawful F-1 status and (2) have been a full-time student for at least 9 months.

Part-time vs. full-time CPT:

  • Part-time CPT- While completing course work, you may only be authorized for part-time employment (less than 20 hours a week). This time is inclusive of any on-campus employment you may have. There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in part-time CPT, but you must be simultaneously enrolled in order to maintain lawful F-1 status. The authorization will be granted on a semester by semester basis. Note: If you are part-time in your last semester of coursework of study at NWC, you may be authorized for full-time CPT.
  • Full-time CPT- While part-time in your final semester of coursework and/or during school breaks (i.e. winter break, summer semester or spring break), you may be authorized for full-time CPT (20+ hours per week). There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in full-time CPT, but a cumulative total of twelve months or more of full-time CPT will make you ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Application and authorization procedures:

  • Talk to your academic adviser about possible/helpful resources on how to find an internship/practicum related to your field of study.
  • Once you find an internship/practicum opportunity, you MUST write a one-page paper (minimum, 12 sized font, double spaced) on how this experience will connect you with your academic major.
  • Complete the attached NWC Internship/Practicum Approval Form.
  • State at least 5 learning outcomes this internship/practicum will provide.
  • Request a contract/job offer letter from your internship/practicum.
  • Make an appointment to meet with an OIP (Office of Intercultural Program) staff member.
  • You must bring the following documents to this meeting:
    • Completed NWC Internship/Practicum Approval Form with approval and signature from a faculty member in your department
    • Address and contact information for your internship/practicum
    • Start and end date of your internship/practicum
    • Contract/job offer letter from employer confirming your internship/practicum
    • One-page paper outlining how this experience is related to your field of study
    • Stated learning outcomes (attached to the NWC Internship/Practicum Approval Form)
  • Once your CPT has been approved by OIP, you will be issued a new I-20 that shows your CPT. You MUST have this I-20 BEFORE you can start your CPT

Important CPT reminders:

  • DO NOT work without proper authorization. Working without CPT authorization is a serious violation of your status and is grounds for automatic termination of your immigration record.
  • Emelee Volden and Amanda Enriquez can advise and counsel you regarding your responsibilities, but it is your obligation to comply with all USCIS F-1 regulations.
  • When you begin work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled “Employment Eligibility Verification” (Form I-9) which the employer retains. The I-9 must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission.
  • Your earnings are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. ALL students must file a tax return on or before April 15th of each year, which will determine if any of the withheld taxes can be refunded.

*Click here to download a CPT application packet

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

If you believe you are eligible for OPT and would benefit from practical training in your field of study, request a recommendation for OPT from the OIP. They will have to recommend you for OPT in SEVIS and provide you with an updated Form I-20 showing the recommendation. You will submit that Form I-20 with the application for employment authorization.

Gather the following documents:

Remember: Your application must be received by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) no later than 60 days after you complete your degree requirements (this is not the same day as graduation).

  • Completed Form I-765 in blue ink, Application for Employment Authorization (form and instructions are included in this packet. You can also access the form at under Immigration Forms).
  • 2 identical passport photos. Print your name and admission number (found on your I-94 card/receipt) lightly on the back in pencil.
  • Copies of ALL student visas, passport photo page, ALL previously issued I-20’s (1st and 3rd page), and I-94 card (if your I-94 card was issued electronically, go to to request a receipt).
  • Request a graduation eligibility letter from the Registration and Records Office at NWC.
  • Check or money order for $380.00 made payable to the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Have a local address address that is valid for the next 3 months where you can receive your card. Use this address on your I-765 Form.
  • Schedule a meeting with an OIP staff member to complete the application process.

When you meet with the OIP:

  • Bring all of the documents listed above.
  • Know the dates you want OPT to begin and end (you can request OPT to begin up to 60 days after your last day of classes/completion of degree).

The OIP staff member will issue a letter indicating your current academic status as well as an OPT I-20 and make copies of all your documents. This OPT I-20 will be the final document required to complete your application.

Next steps:

  • Send your OPT application via Certified Mail at the Post Office to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at P.O. Box 21281, Phoenix, AZ 85036.
  • About 2 weeks after you mail your package, you will receive a formal receipt from USCIS with your personal application number. Bring a copy of this receipt to the OIP. You may check the status of your application online at any time by visiting the website listed on the receipt:
  • You will receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) within 75-90 days of the date on the receipt. DO NOT start working until you receive your EAD card and the date on the card has been reached. Inform Emelee Volden or Amanda Enriquez if you do not receive your EAD card within 90 days of the date of your receipt. Bring or scan a copy of your EAD card to OIP when you receive it.
  • Please read the travel while on OPT handout (included in this packet) PRIOR to making travel arrangements.
  • Very important: You are required to continue to report any changes in your address, phone number, or email address to the OIP while on OPT. Note: It is not recommended that you move while waiting for OPT approval.
  • Very important: Update the OIP with any and all changes to your employment (including breaks in employment) using the OPT employer & Address Information sheet included in this packet.

Important OPT reminders:

  • For pre-completion OPT, you can file the Form I-765 up to 90 days before being enrolled for a full academic year, as long as the OPT will not begin until after you have completed a full academic year. If you have been enrolled for a full academic year, you can file the form I-765 up to 120 days prior to the requested OPT start date.
  • For post-completion OPT, you can file the form I-765 up to 90 days before your program end date and no later than 60 days after your program end date.
  • The Form I-765 must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date your advisor made the OPT recommendation in SEVIS (see page 1 of the printed Form I-20 for the date).
  • If you move and do not provide USCIS with your new address, your EAD card will be returned to USCIS. To change your address, submit an online Form AR-11 to USCIS, and ask your Designated School Official (DSO) to update SEVIS.
  • Your OPT employment must be directly related to your field of study and cannot begin until you have the EAD card in hand (and the start date has arrived).
  • F-1 status is dependent upon full-time employment or volunteer service while on post-completion OPT. You cannot accrue more than 90 days of unemployment while on post-completion OPT. If you are close to 90 days, consult with either Emelee Volden or Amanda Enriquez.
  • You will need to continue to update the OIP with address changes and changes in unemployment while on post-completion OPT.

*Click here to download an OPT application packet*


Amanda Enriquez
Intercultural Program Manager
(1) 307-754-6424


Kara Ryf
Intercultural Program Coordinator
(1) 307-754-6429


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines “Curricular Practical Training” (CPT) as employment which is an integral or important part of your curriculum, including: alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered in sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.

Note: Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in post-completion OPT upon completion of studies.