After students (pursuing an MIT degree) have been in legal F-1 immigration status for one full academic year, immigration regulations allow them to apply for employment in areas related to their field of study through “Practical Training”. There are two types of Practical Training: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). This handout only refers to Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
Students have the option of using CPT only BEFORE completion of their studies. CPT can be authorized full-time during the annual vacation (summer and during IAP) and part-time (20 hours a week or less) during the academic year in the following cases in which working off campus with a company must be either:
Please note that, per USDHS guidance, the ISO advises that eligible courses for CPT within a program's curriculum should be "internship", "experiential learning", "practicum", or simiarly titled courses; or an existing course that has an internship or an experience component for a required grade within the course. "Independent Study" or "Directed Reading" courses are not considered appropriate for CPT as an off-campus experience or internship would not be required of all students in such courses. Academic programs should feel free to contact their ISO Advisor Point-of-Contact with any questions about eligible courses or as you consider creation of new courses with internship/experiential learning components as it relates to CPT eligibility.
For questions regarding Ph.D. Thesis and CPT eligibility, please see that section later on this webpage.
CPT is granted on a term-by-term basis. The start and end dates of the CPT authorization period allowed are limited by the preceding term and exam period and the official end date of the academic term in which the experience is conducted. Please see guidelines below for the earliest and latest dates allowed for internships authorized by CPT in the 2016-2017 academic year.
Notes: Part-time = maximum 20 hours / week, Full-time = 20+ hours / week
In order to apply for CPT, at least 3 weeks prior to the beginning date of employment, you must bring the following:
The faculty letter must specify the following:
a) that the student is in good academic standing
b) that the work is integrally related to the student’s major field of study
c) how the work is integrally related to major field of study
d) the name of the faculty member who will evaluate the work (that name will appear on the new Form I-20)
e) how the work will be evaluated and how many units of credit will be given and when the credit will be granted. The credit must be given under a specific course number in the student’s major field of study in the term in which the CPT is conducted.
f) Name and address of company/organization, including zip code where the CPT will be conducted.
g) Specific start date and end date of the CPT
h) for Ph.D. students requesting CPT based on Thesis course, this letter must be completed/signed by your academic (thesis) advisor and also include the additional three (3) pieces of information highlighted below
Please be aware that these are federal regulations and the CPT cannot be granted if the faculty letter does not include all of the points specified above.
Students who are authorized to use 12 or more months of Full-time Curricular Practical Training are ineligible to apply for Optional Practical Training based on that degree.
IMPORTANT: During the duration of both your studies and your CPT, you are required to inform both the ISO and DHS of any address change within 10 days. You may inform the ISO by updating your address on WEBSIS (websis.mit.edu) under the “SEVIS US Address” field. Failure to report an address change could result in the loss of your legal status in the US.
As an international student at MIT, you are responsible for maintaining your own legal status. This means you must ensure that you are registered full-time each semester, and that the validity of your immigration documents does not expire. Be certain to report any changes in your academic level, funding, and/or completion of studies date within a timely manner to the ISO. If you allow the date on your I-20 to expire, you will fall out of legal status in the US and may suffer serious consequences.
F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) regulations and guidance require that a student be participating in a course for academic credit, or completing a mandatory curricular component for all students in the program that does not include credit, that counts towards completion of the requirements for the degree.
Generally, Ph.D. students complete all coursework requirements within the first 2 or 3 years of the program. Also, few academic programs at MIT have a mandatory internship or experiential learning requirement for graduation. Therefore, CPT would generally not be available to a PhD student in F-1 status after year 2 or year 3 of the Ph.D. program.
MIT has considered eligibility for CPT authorization for Ph.D. thesis only under the following conditions (all must apply):
(1) Location of activity is the only company/organization where the piece of machinery, access to unique secured data, that is a key component for the student’s thesis, is available; and
(2) The company/organization requires the student to be considered an employee, or other category, that requires employment authorization to be on premises to have access to the essential piece of machinery or secured data; and
(3) The student’s thesis advisor must confirm that if the student is unable to pursue this experience at this specified location, the student will not be able to complete the planned thesis topic.
For review of eligibility, the ISO requests that the student’s thesis advisor in their Ph.D. program provide in writing, on department letterhead, the proposed experience in detail and in reference to the three areas above. Requests will be considered on a term-by-term basis, and eligible authorizations would generally be for no longer than two terms.
Once the Ph.D. student has this letter from their thesis advisor, they are recommended to contact the ISO and schedule an in-person appointment with their ISO Advisor to review their request for CPT eligibility.
Can I pursue both a Teaching/Research Assistantship and an off-campus internship under CPT at the same time?
If during an academic term (Fall/Spring) you are pursuing a 20 hour per week research or teaching assistantship, or other on-campus position at MIT, and want to pursue an off-campus internship at the same time, students will require approval of their academic department to do so. Generally at MIT, an on-campus position for the maximum 20 hours per week during academic term plus an off-campus internship is not granted, given concerns of the availability of time to pursue both activities and impact on being able to affectively pursue studies and make proper progress towards completion of degree. If the student's academic department feel the additional off-campus internship is beneficial for the student's academic program, support such activity, and the student meets all other eligibility requirements for CPT authorization, the visa regulations may allow such authorization. Please consult with your ISO Advisor for eligibility details.