Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a benefit of F-1 immigration status that permits off-campus employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum or which is required for graduation for all students in a particular educational program.

CPT is typically authorized to allow a student to complete an internship, practicum or field experience that is necessary for degree completion or that will help the student satisfy the academic objectives of the program.  An internship which is not required by a student’s degree program but may be completed on an elective basis will be approved for CPT only if all of the below criteria are met:

  • You receive academic credit which will be applied toward meeting degree requirements.  
  • It is related to your major field of study
  • It is an integral part of your studies

Other important guidelines to consider about CPT:

  • Students in F-1 status are not eligible to begin any type of off-campus employment, whether it is paid or unpaid, without prior authorization.
  • Employment is a “benefit” and available only to students who maintain valid F-1 status prior to the application and through the duration of authorized employment.
  • ISSS will authorize CPT only for periods beginning and ending prior to completion of the student’s course of study.
  • CPT will be approved for one semester at a time; should the student need to participate in an internship or practicum longer in duration than one semester, the student must reapply for another separate CPT authorization for an additional semester.

Students who do not qualify for CPT can look at information regarding Optional Practical Training (OPT) as another option for off-campus employment authorization.

Eligibility Requirements

Students must be in valid F-1 status at the time of application.

The student must be in good academic standing with UNC-Chapel Hill to be eligible for CPT. Students who are currently on a leave of absence or who are academically ineligible to continue their academic program are not eligible for CPT.

The student must have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student for at least one full academic year (9 months) with the exception of graduate students enrolled in programs that require participation in training prior to the completion of one full academic year. In limited circumstances, authorized part-time study may count towards this eligibility requirement. This situation should be discussed with an advisor at International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

The internship or practicum must be an integral part of an established curriculum and either:

  • required for graduation by all students in a particular educational program OR
  • required by a course offered in the student’s program (in the student’s major field of study), in which the student will receive academic credit.

Qualifying curricular practical training courses MUST:

  • carry academic credit that will be applied towards graduation requirements.
  • be listed in the school’s regular bulletin of course offerings.
  • have a faculty member assigned to supervise the course.
  • be clearly designated as an internship or practicum course either in the course title or course description.

NOTE: It is particularly important that any employment experience required by the course be instrumental to achieving a curricular academic objective.The following courses do NOT qualify for CPT authorization:

  • Independent study courses.
  • Internship courses offered within a student’s minor.
  • Master’s or Doctoral level internship courses when the student has already completed coursework. Ph.D. students and students enrolled in a Master’s with thesis option are typically INELIGIBLE for CPT if they have completed all coursework and have been approved to register for thesis or dissertation credits only. These students may be eligible for CPT in rare cases where the employment experience is absolutely essential to the completion of thesis or dissertation research.

If CPT authorization is based on a course, the student must enroll in the internship or practicum course during the term in which they plan to complete the training.  The period of CPT authorization cannot extend beyond the dates of the semester that the student registers for the course. For example, CPT for a summer internship can only begin after the completion of the spring semester and must end before classes start for the following fall semester.

Training can be authorized either part-time or full-time according to the following scenarios:

  • Part-time training: Employment for 20 hours or less per week. Students who are enrolled for classes can only be approved for part time CPT.  The amount of time authorized for part-time CPT does not impact a student’s eligibility for other practical training benefits such as Optional Practical Training (OPT). The student must be simultaneously enrolled and careful to limit work to no more than 20 hours per week in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.
  • Full-time training: Employment for more than 20 hours per week. In general, students are eligible for full-time CPT during the school’s annual vacation (summer or winter break) if the student intends to register for the next semester. Students are ineligible for OPT if authorized for more than 12 months of full-time CPT at the same education level.

F-1 Exchange Students and other non-degree students at UNC-Chapel Hill are not eligible for CPT.

Application Process

We recommend that students submit completed applications to ISSS as early as possible, at least 2-3 weeks in advance of the employment start date. Students may not begin employment until the CPT has been approved in SEVIS and a new I-20 has been issued.

Students must submit application materials to ISSS during walk-in advising hours.  After submission to ISSS, if approved, ISSS requests 2-3 weeks processing time to issue the new Form I-20 authorizing CPT. The student will be contacted via email once the document is ready and will be expected to come to ISSS to sign the new I-20.

Maintenance of Status

Reporting Requirements

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires students to report changes in name or address to ISSS throughout a student’s stay in F-1 status, including periods of CPT.  Failure to report these changes within 10 days of the change could be considered a violation of  F-1 immigration status.

All updates to your residential address should be reported through ConnectCarolina under “SEVIS Immigration Reporting Address”. For instructions on how to update this address, please see ourAddress update instructions page.

Updates to Employment

CPT is authorized for a specific time period, job, number of hours per week, and employer, as specified on the I-20 after authorization. Any changes to the details listed above must be approved in advance by ISSS.

Beginning a new program of study

Authorization for CPT is automatically terminated if the student officially transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.

Enrollment Requirements

Students who are approved for CPT based on a course, must complete the course.  Should the student fail to complete the course, the work permission for the employment period will be retroactively invalid. The internship would then be considered unauthorized employment, thereby violating the student’s F-1 immigration status in the U.S.
Students must maintain full-time enrollment at UNC to be eligible for CPT. In addition, those authorized for CPT during the summer must intend to enroll the following fall semester.