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OPT Vs CPT – United States

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Do you want to study abroad? Are you hoping to secure a significant scholarship or study grant? Studying overseas requires a lot of planning and preparation which can be a complex, time-consuming and expensive undertaking. are overseas education consultants that specialize in providing expert advice throughout the consultation and application process. We help students secure the best scholarships at the highest ranked universities in the United States. Book a FREE Consultation with an experienced education & career counsellor to find out what US study options are available.

The United States continues to be one of the most popular study abroad destinations for international students. The US is home to some of the most famous and prestigious universities and has a rich culture of welcoming new migrants to live, work and study. When you are selecting what study destination is right for you its important to understand the level of industry exposure and practical experience you will receiving during and after your studies. There is a strong correlation between students who have developed both the academic and practical skills they need to be successful following their graduation and many universities offer on-the-job training, internships, research opportunities and job placements.

There are several schemes which international students can take part in whilst studying in the United States. However, students must ensure they have the appropriate autorotation from the relevant authorities. Failure to comply with the requirements on your student visa may lead to your immediate deportation. The jobs and placements you can hope to receive are often sanctioned by the university’s international office or USCIS {United States Citizenship & Immigration Services}.

The three types of employment students can engage in whilst studying and following graduation are as follows:

  1. CPT {Curricular Practical Training}

2. OPT {Optional Practical Training}

3. On-campus employment.

We will discuss each option in the various sections below:

Optional Practical Training {OPT}

This option is available to students who are holding a valid F1 visa and are fulltime international students. The type of employment a student can gain will be directly linked with the major and course in which they studied. The length of stay back can vary; however, typically it will last no longer than 12-months following graduation. Those students who are studying a STEM {Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths} may apply for an additional 12-months of stay back given the skills they possess are in a sector of the economy which is in high demand. The ways in which students can obtain OPT can be found below:

OPT – Pre-Completion

Students who have studied at an approved Immigration and Customs Enforcement {ICE} and Student and Exchange Visitor Program {SEVP} can apply for OPT prior to their graduation providing they have completed at least 1-year of full tie studies. Those students who successfully obtain this work permit will be allowed to study up to 20 hours per week while

the university is in session and fulltime during semester breaks and holidays. There is scope for some students to extent their stay in the United States by shifting the F1 visa to a H-1B visa. This will need to be supported and funded by your employer and is not a guarantee when taking any form of employment in the United States.

Post-completion OPT

Students can elect to apply for their OPT following their gradation. This will grant them the ability to work fulltime which must be over 20 hours per week.

CPT {Curricular Practical Training}

CPT is a government sanctioned provision that allows students who are at an approved university to undertake internships, work-experience learning, job placement, co-ops and short-term work projects. Always ensure that the university you select has the appropriate authorisation from the DSO {Designated School Official}.

To make things easier the table below highlights the key differences between the various programs and what option might be best for you. As always, before selecting the right option its best to cinsult with an education consultant who is familiar with the application process.

CriteriaAllows students on an F-1 student visa to gain meaningful employment within a related discipline prior or post-graduation.Allows students on an F-1 student visa to gain practical experience within a similar discipline following their graduation.
Terms & ConditionsIt’s must be a component of the degree itselfThis is an addition to the program and not part of the course itself.
Training PlanThis will be discussed and arranged at the time of application and enrolmentThis will be completed upon graduation
RegulationThis requires approval and permission from multiple government departments.Permission is required from USCIS
Mode of applicationOnlinePaper
Employment durationMaximum 12-month duration12 months; extension permitted to 24 months for those coming from a STEM background
CostsNo application fee$410 application fee made payable to USCIS
Working part-time or full-timePart-time or full time permitted. However, during school 20 hours per week maximum and during breaks 40 hours per week permitted.OPT is full time following graduation
Employment typeStudents can engage any employer in the United StatesStudents can only work with employers on the I-20 list and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System {SEVIS}

Students will need to ensure they have all of the correct documentation prior to submitting their application for OPT and / or CPT. The documents which are required can be found below:

OPT {Optional Practical Training}

• 2 passport-size photographs {must meet government requirements}

• I-765 {original}

• A valid passport with sufficient time for OPT to take place

• Copy of the I-94

• Copy of I-20

• OPT recommendation letter

• Include any previous I-20s issued

• Include coloured copies of any EAD cards received

• Coloured copy of the F-1 visa stamp on passport

CPT {Curricular Practical Training}

• CPT online completion certificate

• Academic recommendation form

• Training certificate from your employer

• I-20 present copy

• Electronic form I-94 printout


I hope you found the information in our OPT Vs CPT blog useful. are overseas education consultants that specialize in providing expert advice throughout the consultation and application process. If you would like to study abroad and hope to secure a significant scholarship or study grant book a FREE Consultation with an experienced education & career counsellor to find out what overseas study options are available. We look forward to helping you start your journey to a brighter future!

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