Employment for F-1 and J-1 students is limited, and working without permission is a violation of status and a deportable offense. F-1 and J-1 students may not work off campus without written permission from International Student and Scholar Advising (ISSA). On-campus employment is permitted with certain restrictions. J-1 students must request permission for on-campus employment via iStart. A Social Security number is required for anyone receiving payment. ISSA can assist you with this process.

ISSA offers workshops every semester that explain the different types of off-campus work permission available to F-1 and J-1 students.

F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT), employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, is potentially available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled full-time for one academic year. Students in English language programs are ineligible for practical training.

Eligibility Requirements

Part-time vs. Full-time Curricular Practical Training 

Effect of CPT on Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Application and Authorization Process

Updating Your Address while on CPT

Who Hires International Students on CPT?

CPT Sample Offer Letter

Eligibility Requirements

CPT is an authorized training opoprtunity available to F-1 students before degree completion. In most cases, F-1 students use CPT to participate in an internship. For an internship to be curricular, it must occur before all of your coursework is completed. The only exception is if the internship will provide data directly to the thesis and the student cannot otherwise acquire the data at Penn State. CPT falls into one of these two categories:

Required Part of Degree Program

  • If the academic program requires practical work experience to graduate, you may participate in CPT as long as you meet the other requirements of lawful status.
  • If the employment is required by your academic program, CPT does not need to be credit-bearing.
  • Students must be enrolled full-time for one academic year before being eligible for CPT authorization. However, this rule can be waived for certain graduate students if their program requires practical training or employment at an earlier time.

Optional Part of Degree Program

  • If there is a training opportunity that is an important part of your program, you may be able to participate in CPT.  You would need to be enrolled in an internship class through your department during the semester or term that you are working at the internship.
  • Students must be registered full-time every fall and spring semester unless they have been approved for a Reduced Course Load by an International Student Adviser.
  • Students who have not completed all coursework required for their degree may not request a Reduced Course Load for the sole purpose of participating in a CPT opportunity.
  • Students collecting data from a CPT experience for their paper or thesis must complete their CPT a month before the end of the semester so that they have time to work their research into their paper or thesis for submission to their adviser.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time Curricular Practical Training

  • CPT may be part-time or full-time:
    • Part-time: 20 hours or fewer per week.
    • Full-time: more than 20 hours per week.
  • Full-time CPT that is not a required part of a degree program will only be authorized during vacation periods such as summer break.

Effect of CPT on Optional Practical Training (OPT)

If you accumulate 365 days or more of full-time CPT, you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Application and Authorization Process

  1. Register for the course that will cover the internship (if applicable).
  2. Fill out the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) form in iStart.
  3. Upload the letter on employer letterhead indicating the
  • job title
  • exact start and end dates of employment
  • # of hours of work per week
  • place of employment, and
  • a brief description of duties.

[Note: The place of employment MUST include the street address, city, state, and zip code.]

  1. Your request will be forwarded to your Academic Adviser for verification.
  2.  If approved by ISSA, a new I-20 with CPT authorization will be created for you.

**Please note that failure to provide an employment letter containing all of the required elements will result in delayed processing. To facilitate ISSA review, please circle or highlight the required elements in the employer letter.**

Curricular Practical Training is not meant to be a convenient employment opportunity nor is it meant to be a device to save Optional Practical Training months. If all eligibility requirements are met, an International Student Adviser will authorize CPT on a new I-20. You must be careful not to continue employment beyond the date authorized on your I-20 unless you apply for and are granted an extension of your work authorization.

Updating Your Address while on CPT

The Department of Homeland Security requires that our office submit your most current address in SEVIS – both home country and local addresses. You can change your address at any time by accessing your personal information in Account Management.

Who Hires International Students on CPT?

If you plan to do CPT, it is important that you plan early by visiting Career Services to learn about their services. Finding employment is difficult, and it is even more difficult for international students for legal and cultural reasons.

Career Services can help you with the following:

  • Developing career goals
  • Job search strategies
  • Resume writing and interviewing
  • On-campus interviewing including job fairs
  • Internship searches
  • And more!

CPT Sample Offer Letter

Note: Must be printed on employer's letterhead stationery 

February 6, 2024

Ms. Helene Schmitt
500 Vairo Blvd, #123
State College, PA 16803

Dear Helene,

We are excited to offer you the position of Summer Intern with ISSA, International Student and Scholar Advising for Summer 2024. Please find the following information to confirm the specifics of your internship:

Position Title: Summer Intern
Start Date: May 13, 2024
End Date: August 10, 2024
Number of Work Hours Per Week: 40 hours per week
Employment location: 409 Boucke Building, University Park, PA 16802

Your Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Help with reception – welcome international students and connect students with international student advisers
  • Check the office website links
  • Shadow international student advisers (ISAs) – learn day-to-day interactions of ISA with international students by shadowing one ISA per day, 2-3 days per week
  • Presentation – share observations and feedback on the office services

You will be reporting to Mark Smith, International Student Advising Team Lead at ISSA. You can contact him at (814) 111-1111 or mmz111@psu.edu.

Should you have any questions regarding this offer, please contact me. Thank you and we look forward to working with you!

Mark Smith
International Student Advising Team Lead, ISSA