F-1 Curricular Practical Training

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).

  • Only students pursuing an MIT degree are allowed CPT.
  • Special non-degree students do not qualify for any CPT.
  • Students in NON-RESIDENT status are also not allowed to apply for CPT. However, they are usually eligible to apply for PRE-Completion OPT.

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:

  1. a required component of the curriculum, which all students (including domestic students) in the program must complete
  2. an internship that is evaluated by an MIT Professor, meets the criteria specified below and granted academic credit under a specific course number in the student’s major degree requirement AND the course and academic credit must count towards completion of the degree (must fulfill an elective or mandatory credit that counts towards degree requirements)
  3. be enrolled in the specific internship/experiential learning course during the academic term in which the experience is conducted and CPT is authorized (note: some exeptions apply)

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 Authorization Dates by Term

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.

  1. Fall 2016 - August 17, 2016 to December 22, 2016 (Part-Time)
  2. IAP 2017 - December 23, 2016 to February 3, 2017 (Part-Time or Full-Time)
  3. Spring 2017 - February 4, 2017 to May 26, 2017 (Part-time)
  4. Summer 2017 - May 27, 2017 to August 22, 2017 (Part-time or Full-time)
  5. Fall 2017 - August 23, 2017 to December 22, 2017 (Part-time)

Notes: Part-time = maximum 20 hours / week, Full-time = 20+ hours / week

How to Apply:

In order to apply for CPT, at least 3 weeks prior to the beginning date of employment, you must bring the following:

  1. 1. a completed CPT worksheet (available in the ISO)
  2. 2. a copy of the job offer letter from organization or company (see sample letter)
  3. 3. confirmation of (pre) registration for the internship/experiential learning course for the academic term in which the experience is conducted
  4. 4. a copy of the I-94 admission record and passport identity page with expiration information
  5. 5. a letter on departmental letterhead, signed by an MIT faculty member recommending the CPT

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 ( 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.

Ph.D. Students, Thesis, and F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

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.



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