Understanding Curricular Practical Training (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 every 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.
  • Students must maintain on-ground presence during every required term of study. This includes any required term when a student is authorized for full-time (or part-time) CPT.
    • Hybrid work models are acceptable work models for co-ops and other practical training experiences. Hybrid work is defined as any combination of in-person and remote work. Students need regular engagement with both the co-op practical training provider as well as the academic program to confirm successful progression of the practical training experience.
  • CPT can be either full-time (more than 20 hours per week) or part-time (20 hours or less per week).
    • Authorization for more than 364 days of full-time CPT will make you ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
    • Authorization for part-time CPT has no impact on your eligibility for 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.
  • 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.

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.

Non-curricular based on-campus activities (commonly referred to as “on-campus employment”) do not require CPT authorization. If you have any questions about how this applies to you, please contact OGS.

Eligibility requirements

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

  • 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.
    • All CPT requests must be reviewed and approved by an “Authorized Secondary Approver: CPT” from your college/academic department
  • Maintain enrollment in a co-op course or a program-required course that requires an experiential learning component in the syllabus. Enrollment must be maintained for the entire period of authorized CPT.
    • Per the Northeastern University catalog, students may not participate in co-op in their final term unless it is specified in the curriculum requirements of the program in the catalog.
  • Complete at least one academic year (two full semesters or three quarters) as a full-time, degree-seeking with an active SEVIS record.*
  • Maintain full-time enrollment and on ground presence during every required term of study.
  • Make normal progress towards degree completion.
    • CPT must not cause a delay in the completion of a student’s academic program.
  • Request CPT authorization that falls within current I-20 program dates

*Time spent in Prematriculation and Pathway programs (including N.U.in, Foundation Year, NU Immerse, Global Scholars, and Global Pathways) will not accrue time toward CPT eligibility. Students enrolled in such programs will only begin to accrue time toward CPT eligibility once they have fully matriculated into a degree-seeking program.

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 completed one academic year in another visa status or institution 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.

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

Application Process

To participate in an experiential learning opportunity in the U.S., F-1 students must obtain CPT authorization from OGS. All CPT requests must first be academically reviewed, approved, and determined to be integral or required for degree completion, by the appropriate advisor, co-op coordinator, or SEVIS contact.

The student must fill out the CPT Authorization Request e-form. The documents the student will need include:

  • Electronic I-94 (“Class of Admission” must be F-1 and “Admit Until Date” must indicate “D/S”)
  • Passport identity page that is valid at least until the start date of the CPT authorization

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

The Authorized Secondary Approver (CPT) who receives the request will review the information the student has entered and determine if they approve it academically as either integral or required for program completion. If approved, the Authorized Secondary Approver will submit the request to OGS.

If the Authorized Secondary Approver does not approve of the request, they will email the student directly regarding their decision.

Upon receipt of the completed e-form from the Secondary Approver, OGS will review the CPT request within 15 business days*. OGS will examine the student’s documents to determine if they meet all F-1 eligibility requirements for CPT. OGS may place the request on hold and email the student/advisor for more information or approve/deny the CPT request.

*Processing times may be variable depending on the time of year.

If your CPT request is approved, a Designated School Official (DSO) from OGS will send the I-20 electronically to your Northeastern University email. You are advised to:

  • Review your I-20 to ensure all information is accurate and complete
  • Print and sign your I-20
  • Only work within the listed start and end dates on your I-20

Updating or changing your CPT authorization

While on CPT, any updates, extensions, changes, or cancellations to your employment must be reported to and approved both by your academic/co-op advisor and by a Designated School Official (DSO) in OGS. 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.

How CPT affects 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 many full-time CPT days have 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.

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.

Please Note: CPT is a benefit of F-1 status, not a guarantee. While students may be able to work up to 364 days while maintaining OPT eligibility, CPT authorization is directly tied to a student’s academic curriculum. Therefore, the amount of CPT for which students are eligible and may be authorized is entirely based on their program of study, as well as F-1 federal regulations. Simply because an F-1 student has not engaged in 364 days of full-time CPT does not necessarily mean the student is eligible for additional CPT or an extension of a current CPT authorization.

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 by calling +1-617-373-2310 to make an appointment with a Designated School Official (DSO) 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.