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What’s the difference between CPT and OPT?

By March 31, 2023Immigration
A group of students training or learning

If you are in the U.S. on an F-1 student visa, you could apply for a CPT or an OPT authorizations that would allow you to work in the U.S. in the same area/industry as your degree.

What is OPT (Optional Practical Training)?

The OPT employment must be directly related to your major area of study (for example, if you are attending law school, the internship/employment must be for example for a law firm, you cannot get an employment in the marketing field).

i) Pre-completion OPT

ii) Post-completion OPT

If you are in the U.S. on an F-1 visa and you have been enrolled in the school for 1 full academic year, you can request a pre-completion OPT. This would need to be approved by your school and would allow you to work for up to 20 hours per week while the school is in session, or 40 hours per week when the school is not in session.

After you complete your studies and all course requirements, you can apply for a Post-completion OPT. Again, the OPT would need to be approved by your school. You can get a maximum of 12 months on post-completion OPT.

You can get an OPT on each educational level (e.g. a post-completion OPT after you complete your Bachelor’s degree and then another OPT after you complete Master’s).

If you have a degree in in the STEM field (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics), you could also apply for a STEM OPT extension for up to 24 months. If you have a degree in these fields, you should definitely take an advantage of the STEM OPT.

What is CPT (Curricular Practical training)?

If you are in the U.S. on an F-1 visa, you could also qualify for a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) if the training program is an integral part of an established curriculum.

Generally, if you receive one year or more of full-time curricular practical training, you will not be eligible for post-completion OPT, so it’s very important to think twice whether you want to do full-time CPT or post-completion OPT (there is an exception to this where your graduate studies require an immediate participation in curricular training).

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