Understanding CPT

CPT is a form of authorization available for eligible F-1 students during their program of study for experiential learning opportunities that are necessary and integral, or required as part of an academic program at Northeastern University.

  • CPT authorization must be obtained for each co-op, internship, practicum, clinical rotation, corporate residency, experiential PhD, or other approved experiential learning opportunity. Authorization is required prior to the intended start date, whether or not the activity takes place on-campus or off-campus.
  • CPT can be either full-time (more than 20 hours per week) or part-time (20 hours or less per week). Please note: full-time CPT that exceeds 364 days will make you ineligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  • CPT can be either paid or unpaid. Whether paid or unpaid, CPT must be authorized by OGS in advance of commencing the activity. Retroactive authorization is not permitted by U.S. federal government regulations.
  • CPT is employer, location, full-time/part-time, and date specific. The employer’s name, address and the precise start and end dates must be authorized by OGS in advance.
  • Routine work from home or another remote location is not allowed under CPT authorization which requires hands-on experiential training at the reported address location. Occasional work from home or another remote location when sick, on vacation, or during trips outside of the U.S. is permissible. *COVID-19 pandemic remote flexibilities for eligible students effective through Summer 2022 academic term.
  • If you are a student considering volunteering or engaging in unpaid internships at Northeastern or a staff/faculty looking to hire a volunteer or unpaid intern, please review this guidance from Northeastern’s University Office of General Counsel.

Please note once authorized for CPT, F-1 students must comply with the authorization granted. Any extensions, cancellations, or changes to authorized CPT must be first approved by the academic advisor/co-op coordinator and OGS.

Please note that non-curricular based on-campus activities (commonly referred to as “on-campus employment”) do not require CPT authorization.

Watch the Video »

Eligibility requirements

In order to be eligible for CPT, students must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Must comply with all college academic and enrollment eligibility requirements and policies for any experiential activities, including every co-op, internship, practicum, clinical rotation, corporate residency, experiential PhD, or other experiential learning opportunity, whether the activity takes place on-campus or off-campus.
  • Must always be making satisfactory academic progress towards degree completion. CPT must not cause a delay in the completion of a student’s academic program.
  • Be in valid F-1 status.
  • Must have completed at least one academic year of full-time enrollment with an Active SEVIS record. Limited exceptions may apply in the following circumstances:
    • For students in graduate-level programs that require immediate participation in experiential learning for program completion.
    • For students who changed to F-1 status within the U.S. or by travel and re-entry, who otherwise qualify. *Change of Status and Transfer Students please read that section further down on this page.
  • One academic year is defined as two full-time semesters or three full-time quarters.
  • Full-time enrollment is defined as:
    • Undergraduate: minimum of 12 credit hours per academic term.
    • Graduate: minimum of 8 credit hours per academic term (9 credit hours per term in a 3-credit enrollment system).
    • Graduate students who hold an assistantship: 6 credit hours per academic term.
    • Enrollment in both Summer 1 and Summer 2 academic terms combined OR full Summer academic term.
    • Please note: Time spent in the N.U.in program or English language programs such as NU Immerse/American Classroom/Global Pathways does not count towards CPT eligibility.
  • CPT request must be within current I-20 program dates (which can be found on the first page of the I-20).
  • Be enrolled in a co-op course or a program-required course that requires an experiential learning component in the syllabus. The student must be enrolled in this course for the entire period of authorized CPT.

Please note: It is an F-1 student’s responsibility to maintain their F-1 status. In order to apply for CPT at Northeastern they must be both academically eligible as well as compliant with U.S. federal government regulations as outlined above.

Video: CPT Eligibility

When and how to apply

To participate in an experiential learning opportunity in the U.S, F-1 students must obtain CPT authorization from OGS. OGS will deny any requests for CPT that have not already been reviewed, approved academically, and determined to be necessary and integral, or required, by the appropriate advisor, co-op coordinator, or SEVIS contact.

1 Complete the e-form.

The student fills out the e-form with all requested information and documents. The documents the student will need are the following:

  • I-94 that indicates “Class of Admission” as “F-1” and “Admit Until Date” as “Duration of Status”.
  • Passport that is valid for at least the start date of CPT being requested.

When the student has submitted the e-from it will be routed to the secondary approver as indicated in the e-form.

2 Secondary approver reviews student information.

The Secondary Approver (academic advisor, co-op coordinator, or SEVIS contact) who receives the application will review the information the student has entered and determine if they approve it academically as either necessary and integral, or required for the program of study. If approved, the Secondary Approver will submit the request to OGS. If the Secondary Approver does not approve of the request, they will email the student directly regarding their decision.

3 OGS reviews application.

Upon receipt of the application from the Secondary Approver, OGS will process the application in up to 10 business days. OGS will examine the student’s documents to determine if a student is eligible under F-1 federal regulations to participate in CPT. If the student’s CPT request is approved, the student will receive an email from OGS with further instructions. If the CPT request is denied, the student will receive an email from OGS with instructions on how to proceed.

4 Receiving your I-20

Once the CPT is approved, the DSO will send the I-20 electronically to the student’s Northeastern University email. You are advised to:

  • Immediately print and sign your I-20; and
  • Note the start and end dates of the authorized CPT.

Video: How to apply for CPT

Updating your CPT authorization

While on CPT it is important that you update OGS when there are changes in your authorization. These changes include:

  • Employer
  • Location
  • Date
  • Number of hours worked per week (full-time/part-time)
  • Cancellations
  • Other corrections

Once authorized for CPT, F-1 students must comply with the authorization granted. Any extensions, cancellations, or changes to your authorized CPT must be first approved by the academic advisors/co-op coordinators and OGS.

Video: Staying in Status on CPT

How CPT affects Optional Practical Training (OPT) eligibility

If an F-1 student exceeds 364 days of full-time CPT (more than 20 hours per week at a degree level—bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate), they will lose their eligibility to apply for OPT at that degree level.

  • When counting CPT days, every day between the start and end date of CPT counts (including the start and end dates). The days that are counted are the days that the student had authorization, not the days the student actually worked. This means even if it was a weekend, holiday, vacation etc. it still counts if the student had CPT authorization.

It is the responsibility of the student to track of how much CPT time has been used per degree level. Students can use previously issued I-20s to document this. Students may also request a summary of their CPT authorization history at Northeastern from OGS via this e-form.

  • Part-time CPT (20 hours per week or less) does not accrue time towards the 364-day calculation.
  • Students who require more than 364 days of full-time CPT at a degree level to complete their degree program are not in violation of their F-1 status, however they will lose OPT eligibility for the same degree level.

Please note: OGS does not keep track and communicate if students will be exceeding the 364-day mark when students are requesting CPT authorization. Students must keep this in mind when requesting CPT authorization.

Video: How CPT affects OPT Eligibility

Change of Status and Transfer Students

Change of status

Full-time students who are applying to change their immigration status to F-1 within the U.S. (application through USICS) or by traveling (via consular processing) may be eligible to use time from a previous immigration status towards accruing benefits, such as Curricular Practical Training (CPT), as long as the student has maintained full-time F-1 enrollment requirements.

Please contact OGS to make an appointment with an advisor to discuss CPT eligibility and bring all applicable documentation with you (for example a copy of your I-797 approval notice if you changed status within the U.S.).

Transfer students

International students with Active F-1 records, who transfer their SEVIS record to Northeastern University, and maintained status, may be able to use accrued time towards the one academic year requirement from the previous institution.

Please contact OGS to make an appointment with an advisor to discuss CPT eligibility and have all applicable documentation available (for example a copy of your official transcript and previous I-20).

Please note: if you transfer to Northeastern on an initial I-20, your one academic year accrual resets as an initial student.

Key Resources

CPT Authorization Request Form »

This e-form is to request authorization for Curricular Practical Training.

CPT Update Form »

This e-form is to update your authorization for Curricular Practical Training.

CPT Authorization History Request »

This e-form is to request the number of days authorized for CPT.