If you are an international student residing in the USA, you might also be worried about the work opportunities that are going to be present there. While studying, there are two options: CPT and OPT. CPT is (Curricular Practical Training) and OPT (Optional Practical Training). These programs are required for practical training to gain work experience during and after the course is completed. CPT is for internship purposes, and OPT is for post-study work. Let us discuss the other confusing similarities between these two programs and clear the differences.    

What is CPT? 

Curricular Practical Training is referred to as CPT. It is for all F-1 visa-holder students and provides temporary work authorization and training to do internships related to their study areas. The work duration can be full-time or part-time, depending on the student’s schedule. CPT is employer-specific training that the student is required to complete before graduation. If candidates have worked full-time in CPT for 12 months, they will lose their eligibility to apply for OPT.    

Documents Required For CPT:
Online workshop completion certificate for CPT
Form of Academic Recommendation 
Training description by your employer
I-20 form
I-94 form
Eligibility for CPT
F-1 visa holder 
Minimum one year of academic studies before applying 
Employment offer for CPT

How to Apply for CPT? 

Students must inquire about courses for internship and credit policies from their advisors at the institute. Find a nice internship or work opportunity. The internship must be relevant to their courses and must be carefully filled with the help of the course internship advisor.  

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training, or OPT, is a mandatory training for F-1 visa holders. This allows the candidate to work for about 12 months concerning the area of study which they are pursuing. If students are STEM degree holders, they are allowed to extend their training up to 17 months. Eligible students can apply for OPT work before or after completing their studies. If you are not a citizen of the country, you are not allowed to work without mandatory documents. So, OPT is necessary for international students.       

Documents Required For OPT:
2 passport-size photos 
I-765 form 
Copy of Passport 
I-94 form  
Copy of OPT recommendation 
F-1 visa stamp copy on passport
US$410 issued to the Department of Homeland Security
Eligibility for OPT
F-1 visa holder
Minimum one year of academic studies before applying 
Unused 12 months or more of full-time CPT

How to Apply for OPT?

A request to the school’s designated advisor should be made to assist the OPT. The advisor will suggest it by endorsing the I-20 form. The student must file for an I-765 form and submit the required fee and supporting documents to get OPT.

PurposeIt allows students to get work experience before their graduation.It allows students to gain experience after graduation and in the same field of their studies. 
Time of training During enrollment in the course After graduating the course 
Training hostNeeds permission from the academic departmentNeeds consent from the U.S. government
Application mode  OnlinePaper
Duration Up to 12 monthsGenerally, 12 months, which can be increased up to 17 months
Application feeNo application feeA fee of $410
Working time Part-time and full-timeFull-time 

Curricular Practical Training Rules

Optional Practical Training Rules

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I apply for CPT and OPT at the same time?

Yes, you can apply for both at the same time. However, it should be marked that CPT is only allowed until the last day of graduation. 

Can I work in the USA for a duration longer than the OPT duration?

You can work for 12 months internationally with OPT. If you wish to work any longer than that, you need to apply for an H1-B visa. 

What is meant by OPT Cap-Gap Extension? 

If students hold back for a longer time, the student will require an H1-B visa. A Cap-Gap extension allows students to stay in the country between the end of OPT work authorization and the beginning of the H-1B visa.

Can I  change from CPT to OPT?

Yes, but you need to fulfill the OPT requirements. However, if the students have completed 12 months or more in full-time CPT, they will lose their eligibility to apply for OPT.

Is CPT better than OPT?

Both the trainings are required to make students have valuable work experiences. The main difference is that CPT allows students to work during the graduation. At the same time, OPT will enable students to work after graduation. 

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