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Staying legal while Participating in F-1 Curricular Practical Training

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For those students who would like to work while they are studying for their higher educational degree in the USA, joining a CPT program/course is an excellent way to not only gain valuable work experience, but also to earn U.S. wages to help pay for your educational and living expenses.  But it will be important to stay in the boundaries of US legality.  We hope to help you understand these boundaries by interpreting and applying the rules and regulations set forth by the US Department of Homeland Security and US immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Understanding the US Regulation regarding CPT

First, it is important for you to understand the US regulation regarding Curricular Practical Training (CPT).  (Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 214.2 (f)(10)(i) which gives you the legal ability to work in off campus employment.

“(i) Curricular practical training. An F-1 student may be authorized by the DSO to participate in a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. Students who have received one year or more of full time curricular practical training are ineligible for post-completion academic training. Exceptions to the one academic year requirement are provided for students enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in curricular practical training. A request for authorization for curricular practical training must be made to the DSO. A student may begin curricular practical training only after receiving his or her Form I-20 with the DSO endorsement. (Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 214.2 (f) (10) (i).” http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?rgn=div5;node=8%3A1.0.1.2.18

What exactly does Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 214.2 (f) (10) (i ) mean? 

It means that if the school is offering a CPT course, option, or program, then international students can obtain permission from the DSO (Designated School Official, which is the person at the school that signs the I-20s) to participate in legal off-campus paid employment.  Read more about F visa and I-20s

What is “integral part of an established curriculum?”

There can be a very broad interpretation of what this means.  If students are in an MBA or Management program, the types of employment that fit this category is limitless.  Any employment position where a student is learning business or management skills will work to satisfy this requirement.  What the US government does not want to see, are students working in manual labor jobs, such as pumping gas, working in the farm fields, cleaning houses, etc.  See an example of the types of employment available for CPT students

Why do schools offer CPT?

Many schools understand that on-the-job-training is vital to a student’s career path.  It is apparent that those job candidates who have a master degree, along with work experience, are going to be the stronger candidates, getting the better jobs in today’s global job market. 

How to Legally Start your CPT

The second issue is how you can legally start your internship CPT position.  You must do the following before you can legally start working in off-campus employment:   

·         Have been in the US for at least 10 days,

·         Have enrolled and paid for your first semester of study

·         Are registered for an internship CPT program, course or option,

·         Have attended your first class

·         Have obtained your social security number.  Read more about Social Security number

·         Have obtained employment permission from the DSO

·         Have been issued a new I-20 authorizing the off-campus employment

·         Have filled out your I-9 form

If you begin working without doing the above, you will be considered as working illegally, and if caught by Homeland Security, you could face immediate deportation. 

How to stay in Legal Status

The third issue is to stay in legal status:  In order to remain in your CPT employment you must do (or not do) the following in order to stay in legal status:

·         Obey US laws-breaking the law could get you deported

·         Be a full time student (at least 9 credit hours per semester for graduate level study)

·         Stay current on your educational expenses

·         Attend all of your university courses. 

·         Register for the internship CPT program, course or option

·         Pass all of your university courses.

·         Renew your passport if it expires while in the US

·         Stay current on your health insurance

·         File your tax return (if you have been or are employed.. read more here)

·         Contact the DSO if you need to drop a course

·         Contact your DSO if you change employment (you have 10 days to notify DSO of any job change)

·         Contact your DSO if your address and contact information changes.  (10 days to notify)

·         Do not accept unauthorized employment

·         Do not continue to work after your CPT program or course is completed. 

·         Do not stay in the US after your F-1 program is completed.  You have 60 days to either obtain OPT, change your visa status (for example, change from F to Hb), transfer to a new school/program, or leave the US. 

For more information regarding Work and Study options in the US, please contact us.

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