Difference Between OPT And CPT

Can I work in the United States While Studying? This is probably one of the most common question asked by every student visa applicant. The answer is yes! However, there are some limitations. International students can work off-campus once they complete their first academic year. The programs which permit international students to work while studying are known as the Optional Practical Training or the OTP and the Curricular Practical Training known as the CPT.

Optional Practical Training

The Optional Practical Training or the OTP program allows international students having an F-1 visa to temporarily work in the United States for up to 12 months. The student can work about their major of course. 

F-1 visa holders can eligible for an OPT only post the completion of their first academic year of the course. The optional practical training can be completed any time before or after completion of our course. However, it is important to know an OTP is valid only for 12 months.

However, international students with a valid F-1 visa and are undergoing or have completed their courses in certain fields such as science, tech, engineering and mathematics can be eligible for an extension of their OPT employment by 17 months.

From May 10th, 2016, international students can also apply for an extension by 24-months after completion of the post-graduation OPT employment, as a result of this replacing the 17-month extension.

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training program, also referred as the CPT temporarily permits international students holding a valid F-1 visa towards gaining a practical experience which is directly related to the course through employment, which can include internship and cooperative education. 

Curricular Practical Training needs to be completed before graduation. The CPT can be either part-time or full-time. However, while working full-time, you tend to lose your eligibility for Optional Practical Training.

Difference Between OPT and CPT?

Here are some key difference between the Optional Practical Training program and the Curricular Practical Training program:

  • The CPT can be undertaken only before graduation whereas the OPT can be used for both prior and after graduation.
  • A job offer is required before you can apply for a CPT whereas you can apply for an OPT without a job offer in hand. However, unemployment of exceeding 90 days during the 12 months of the OPT period can lead to cancellation of your permission to work, and you can also lose your F-1 status.
  • You can get course credit for CPT where for OPT, you do not get course credit.
  • In CPT, the name of your employer is mentioned on your Form I-20, and you cannot work for another employer. However, under OPT, you are permitted to work for multiple employers.
  • The international student needs to apply for their CPT a minimum of two weeks before commencing work as it can take 7 to 10 working days for processing the CPT. However, in the case of OPT, the processing time can take up to 90 days.

While both the OPT and the CPT are programs which allow international students with a valid F-1 status work in the US, both these programs have their own pros and cons. International students should evaluate their situation, long-term plans before selecting between the OPT and the CPT program.