F-1 Status Employment
Please review the employment options and requirements below. It is important that you're aware of the information below to maintain your immigration status.
Optional practical training is one type of work permission available for eligible F-1 students. It allows students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study.
While a Designated School Official (DSO) recommends OPT in SEVIS, it is the student who must apply for the work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The student must not begin working before the start date on the EAD.
For more Information on OPT please visit the Department of Homeland Security's website "Study In The States".
All students are responsible for knowing the process of OPT independently. Missouri State is not responsible for OPT outcomes. However, International Services does play a part in your OPT process. It is strongly advised to attend an OPT workshop. Upcoming dates can be found at International Student Employment and on the Missouri State University Calendar of Events.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is temporary employment authorization that allows an international student in F-1 immigration status to work off-campus and gain practical experience in their field of study. The employment must be in the student’s field of study and have a curricular requirement. Only a Primary or Designated School Official (P/DSO) in the International Services Office can authorize CPT.
Regulations state that CPT must be an
- “Integral part of an established curriculum;” and,
- “Directly related to the student’s field of study.”
- The regulations further define CPT to include any type of internship/practicum or alternate work/study as offered through a cooperative agreement between a sponsoring employer and the school.
“Integral part of an established curriculum” means that the practical training should be a requirement of the curriculum or, if not required, the opportunity must be credit bearing and leads to degree completion.
Types of CPT
There are three scenarios in which International Services can authorize CPT:
- An internship or practicum that is required for completion of the degree program as published in the university’s catalog.
- An internship or practicum that is a credit-bearing course and will count towards completion of the degree.
- Employment that is part of an established, formal co-operative educational agreement between department and a specific employer.
The following is a list of required conditions to qualify for CPT
- Be a full-time enrolled undergraduate or graduate student in active F-1 status.
- Have been lawfully enrolled full-time at an SEVP-approved institution for a minimum
of one academic year (spring/fall semesters) prior to the CPT application.
- First time in U.S. and MSU - complete two academic semesters at MSU
- Full-time enrollment as a student on a previous visa, such as H4 may count toward full-time enrollment.
- Have maintained good academic standing prior to CPT application.
- Undergraduate students - overall GPA of 2.00 after 24 attempted credit hours.
- Graduate students - overall GPA of 3.00 after 9 attempted credit hours.
- U.S. transfer students – at discretion of admitting academic department
- Change of educational level or program – at discretion of the admitting academic department
- Have not already completed all degree requirements. CPT cannot delay the student’s
expected completion of studies.
- Final Semester – CPT can be authorized for the final semester if the training opportunity is required
for the degree program or satisfies an elective for the degree.
- Final Semester – CPT can be authorized for the final semester if the training opportunity is required for the degree program or satisfies an elective for the degree.
Work Hours and Enrollment
Eligible for/must be:
- Part-time CPT employment only (up to 20 hours/week)
- Full-time enrollment (12 for undergraduate, 9 for graduate) including internship/practicum/co-op course*
Eligible for/must be:
- Full-time CPT employment allowed (up to 40 hours/week)
- Enrollment in internship/practicum/co-op course*
Directed Research Course (Graduate Students): Enrollment of 3 credit hours of thesis or dissertation credit is required in place of an internship or practicum course.
Note: Each academic department sets the number academic credits needed or allowed for internship/practicum courses and the number of work hours needed to fulfill the course or degree requirements.
*Non-CPT courses must have seated or blended course modality.
CPT Authorization is Required If
- The training opportunity is off-campus, and the employer is not affiliated with the university.
- The training opportunity is off-campus, and the employer is affiliated with the university but does not provide direct services to student.
- The training opportunity is located on campus but offered through a third party that does not provide direct student services.
CPT Authorization IS NOT Required If
- The training opportunity is located on-campus, which does provide direct student services.
- The opportunity is a true volunteer opportunity on a part-time basis for public service or religious organizations.
Applying for CPT
CPT is employer specific. Students may only work for the employer listed on the I-20.
Internship/practicum opportunities that are physically located outside of the state of Missouri are permitted only if requested for summer CPT.
Paid vs Unpaid
Regulations do not require compensation to be a consideration for determining if the training opportunity qualifies for CPT.
- CPT authorization will always be required if the opportunity is paid and off-campus.
- Training opportunities that are unpaid do not negate the need for CPT authorization. It is always best to seek the advice of International Services first before participating the in the opportunity.
- Labor laws should be considered when assessing any unpaid CPT. Test for unpaid interns and students.
The offer letter should contain the following information and written on company letterhead:
- Student’s name
- Job Title
- Total number of hours per week
- Paid or not paid
- Description of job duties
- The physical work location (office location and remote work address)
- Employment/training start and end dates
- Mentor or supervisor and contact information
- If CPT is for thesis or dissertation credit – statement from employer authorizing the use of the data generated to be included in the thesis/dissertation paper
*Email or letter addendums are permitted if the original offer letter does not have all the required information above.
CPT Authorization Period
- CPT requests can be made for one semester at a time. Extensions require a new CPT application and authorization.
- Students may not begin the internship prior to the authorized start date or work past the end date listed on the I-20.
- Per federal regulations, working without first obtaining CPT authorization constitutes working unauthorized. To align with these regulations the SEVIS system does not allow entry of retroactive start dates.
- Start date and end date should correspond with the dates of the semester.
- START DATE: CPT authorizations can begin up to a week before the first day of the semester. Start dates cannot overlap with the earlier semester or graduate assistantship appointments.
- END DATE: CPT authorizations can extend through the break following a semester but must end no later than the day before the next semester begins.
- FINAL SEMESTER: The end date must end with the end of the semester.
Internship/Practicum/Co-op must be curricular
Students should be prepared to explain how the employment will fulfill the course requirement by defining 2-3 learning objectives. This explanation is a required field in the SEVIS record.
- Students using thesis credit as their CPT course may use their thesis summary for all three (3) learning objectives.
Example of learning objective:
“During the internship, I will gain an in-depth understanding of principles learned in CSC XXX Computer Science by improving the company's internal database performance. I will be responsible for …”
Making Changes to the Already Approved CPT Request
- Students can request an update to an already authorized, current CPT by contacting the advisor who authorized the CPT and prepared the I-20.
- Students should submit a new offer letter that reflects the change(s).
- Students should wait until the changes have been approved before engaging in the changed CPT.
Examples of changes:
- Change of supervisor
- Change of CPT authorization start and/or end date
- Change to employment location
- Changes to number of work hours/week
CPT and On-campus employment
- Students with approved full-time CPT are no longer eligible for on-campus employment.
- Students with approved part-time CPT are eligible for on-campus employment, including Graduate Assistantship appointments.
- Acknowledgement and support of both positions from the Graduate Director is required.
- It is recommended that GA appointments be less than ½ appointments when working simultaneously with CPT.
CPT Application Checklist
- Recommendation form completed and signed by the student and academic advisor.
- Employer letter
- Degree Audit/Program of Study
- (For CPT thesis/dissertation credit) - Letter from student’s thesis advisor/director
- Explaining how the CPT research opportunity is an integral part of the student’s proposal.
- the expected period of research; and,
- the expected thesis or dissertation completion date.
Students who are experiencing severe economic hardship may be authorized to work off-campus. Although MSU will provide some guidance as they do play a small part in the application, it is up to the student to apply independently. They can find out more on this application process online at USCIS.