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When do I need authorization to work off-campus?

Employment is defined by the Department of Homeland Security as providing a service for which you receive anything in return, or would normally receive in return. (Others are paid or receive benefits for providing the same service that you are providing).  

Thus, both paid and non-paid positions are considered “employment” by the Department of Homeland Security and will need authorization before the start date of the work experience. 

Curricular Practical Training is appropriate for required field projects, internships, practicum experiences, work experience with for-profit corporations, or work experience with non-profit organizations. 

Who is eligible for CPT?

At Brandeis, CPT eligbility is based on the following:

  • The employment (usually an internship or practicum) is a degree requirement of all students in the program. 
  • You will receive elective credit towards fulfilling your degree for the proposed CPT employment.

Additional eligibility requirements:

  • Must be an F-1 visa holder maintaining legal status
  • Must be enrolled full-time and be in good academic standing
  • Must have adequate health insurance as defined by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • Must have been enrolled as a full-time student in the United States for a minimum of one academic year (this includes a fall and spring semester) prior to applying for CPT authorization.
  • Students may use time spent enrolled as a full-time student in another visa status to count towards the one academic year requirement as long as the student was legally allowed to enroll as a full-time student under that visa category (i.e. J-2 or H-4). Please consult with the ISSO for particular questions.

There is an exception to the one academic year requirement for graduate students whose programs require all students to complete an internship in the first or second semester. Currently, only students in the Genetic Counseling Program meet this exception. 

Do I need CPT to work on campus?

Normally, F-1 students do not need to have CPT authorization to pursue on-campus employment.  When classes are in session F-1 students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week on-campus without obtaining CPT authorization. Students may work over 20 hours per week on-campus when classes are not in session (i.e. summer and winter break) without obtaining CPT authorization. 

In certain cases, a student may need to apply for CPT or OPT employment authorization for an on-campus job.  An example of this would be a student who wishes to pursue an on-campus internship in addition to on-campus employment during the academic year.  If a situation like this arises, please visit the ISSO as it may be necessary to apply for CPT or OPT authorization.

How many times can I use CPT?

CPT regulations do not set a specific limit on the number of times an F-1 student may pursue CPT. However, a student's specific degree plan will determine the number of opportunities for CPT that are available to that individual student. Students should consult with the ISSO or the academic program advisor for specific internship course options.

Also note that students who complete one year or more of full-time CPT will not be eligible to pursue Optional Practical Training (OPT) at the same degree level.

Am I limited in the number of hours I can work on CPT?

CPT may be done either part-time or full-time depending on the requirement for their project. Except for the SID Second Year Project and the Coexistence Program Internship, all CPT authorizations must be no more than 20 hours per week while school is in session. During the summer months, work can be authorized for more than 20 hours per week.

If you are combining two part-time positions (in the summer or for the SID program), each project/employer will need a separate authorization and each should not exceed the total maximum hours allowed (20 hours per week during the academic year, full-time during the summer is acceptable).

Can I get CPT for any job?

No. CPT authorized work must be an integral or required part of the student's degree program. The internship/experience must be for academic credit or be a mandatory part of the student's academic program.

The actual job must be directly related to the student's major field of study. It cannot be in a declared minor or program (e.g. Legal Studies program).

If the employment does not fulfill a degree requirement or earn academic credit, but it is directly related to the major field of study, refer to our section on Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Do I have to have a job offer to apply for CPT?

Yes. CPT Authorization is granted for a specific job. The student must obtain an offer for employment before applying for CPT Authorization.

Can I work off-campus without CPT authorization?

F-1 students will need to have CPT or Optional Practical Training (OPT) approval to pursue any off-campus employment.  Any unauthorized work (paid or un-paid) is a violation of F-1 student status. All off-campus employment requires authorization.

Employment is "any type of service performed or provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room or for any other benefit." CPT authorization allows eligible international students to work off- campus in a field related to his/her major field of study.

Students must obtain CPT or OPT authorization before the internship's start date.

Can I volunteer without CPT authorization?

Under very narrow circumstances students may do limited unpaid volunteer activities without employment authorization (i.e. volunteering at a service organization, such as a soup kitchen, Red Cross, etc.). Before volunteering, students must meet with the ISSO to find out if authorization is required for the specific volunteer position.

I have an opportunity for an unpaid internship. Do I need CPT authorization?

Yes, you will need to either have an approved CPT or OPT (Optional Practical Training).  All off-campus employment requires authorization. Failure to obtain proper authorization, even for an unpaid position, can result in a violation of the student's F-1 status. Students should contact the ISSO before starting any off- campus employment to avoid any violations to their F-1 status.  For more information about OPT, please consult the OPT section under student employment.

Do I have to be enrolled in an internship course in the same semester that I pursue the actual employment/internship experience?

Yes. Students may not do a work experience one semester and register for the course in a different semester/term. To receive CPT authorization, students must be enrolled in the appropriate course and the dates of employment must correspond to the dates of enrollment/semester.

Can I use CPT to fulfill an academic credit or a degree requirement for a minor?

No. Unfortunately, federal regulations specify that CPT must fulfill a requirement of the major field of study.

I'm doing research. Do I need CPT authorization?

Research is considered employment in the eyes of the immigration service if the student is providing a service and receiving any compensation from the employer (whether it is a company, college/university, or research institute). Work authorization would therefore be needed to pursue research.

If the research is being paid by Brandeis University, and is under 20 hours per week while school is in session or full-time over the summer term, this work authorization is covered under "on-campus" employment regulations and it is not necessary to apply for CPT.

If a student will be paid by another institution or by a faculty member who has an outside grant or business, or the student will be researching over 20 hours per week on-campus while school is in session, she/he should contact the ISSO to see what type of work authorization is appropriate. It may be necessary to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or CPT to conduct this research.

I would like to do research at an off-campus location which is paid by Brandeis. Do I need to have CPT authorization?

If the research is being paid by Brandeis University and the off-campus location is contractually affiliated with Brandeis, and the student will be working less than 20 hours per week while school is in session or full-time over the summer term, this work authorization is covered under "on-campus" employment regulations and you will not need to apply for CPT.

Please contact the ISSO in advance of pursuing any work at an off-campus location.

Can I change employers while on CPT?

Maybe. CPT authorization is employer specific. Students may only work for the employer listed on the third page of the I-20. Students will need to consult with their academic department as to whether the new position/employer will meet the requirements of the internship course in which they are enrolled. If a student is approved to change employers while on CPT, s/he must obtain a completely new CPT authorization from the ISSO before beginning to work with the new employer.

Please contact ISSO with any questions about changing CPT employers.

I'm working outside the U.S. Do I need to have CPT work authorization?

Maybe. Some organizations have a home base in the United States and field offices across the globe. A student may be based overseas, but the income or employee status may come from the U.S. office. If this is the case, we recommend getting CPT work authorization. This would cover the student for tax purposes. It would also cover the student if they had to work in the U.S. office for any period of time (provided that the CPT authorization dates are active).

If the student is absolutely sure that there are no ties to the United States, they do not need CPT work authorization.

Please check with ISSO for additional questions.

I'd like to do some tutoring or translating on the side. Can I get CPT work authorization for this?

Students may do translating or tutoring if paid directly by Brandeis University (a Brandeis University paycheck). This does NOT include payment by an individual student or faculty/staff member even if they are affiliated with Brandeis.

If not paid by Brandeis, students may apply for CPT authorization if the work being performed will fulfill a degree requirement or elective course credit in their major field of study. Students should speak with ISSO prior to beginning any tutoring or translating activity to avoid a possible violation of their F-1 student status.

What is the relationship between CPT and OPT?
Time spent doing Curricular Practical Training does not subtract from your available 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT), UNLESS you have worked for one year or more in full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) in one degree level. Any student who works for one year or more in full-time CPT is NOT eligible for any OPT. Part-time CPT does not have these timing restrictions.
How do I obtain CPT authorization?

You must have CPT Authorization BEFORE beginning work. Working without authorization is a violation of your Student Visa Status.

There are four stakeholders in this process: Your employer, your academic advisor, Brandeis' Registrars Office and your ISSO advisor.

The following are the steps you will need to take to obtain CPT Authorization. If you have questions about any of the steps or would like further advice on obtaining CPT, feel free to contact our office and make an appointment with an ISSO Advisor.

Step 1:   Contact your academic advisor to find out which internship courses and/or projects are available for your major. Please note that not all majors offer internship courses during every semester. Your employment will be limited to the beginning and end dates of the internship course. These dates usually correspond to the first and last days of the semester.

Step 2:  Get a Job! Once you've been offered a job, ask your employer for an offer letter. The offer letter must be signed and dated on company letterhead and contain the following information:

  • Employer name and physical address of the work location (must show street, city, state and zip code; not P.O. Box)
  • Specify employment start and end dates (these dates should correspond to the dates specified by your academic advisor). Please note that the authorization for CPT for a particular academic term must be completed within the dates of that academic term of the course for which you are registered.
  • Specify full or part time employment (0-20 hours/week = part-time; 21+ hours = full-time)
  • Name of your supervisor
  • Job title
  • list of job responsibilities

Step 3:  You and your faculty internship advisor both complete the Advisor Recommendation for CPT. This form must be signed by the appropriate faculty advisor mentioned below:

  • Heller MA students: Elizabeth Walsh
  • Coexistence Program: Sandra Jones
  • MAT Program:  Manuel Tuan
  • IBS: See your Program Advisor 
  • All other students should have their Faculty Advisor for the internship course complete the recommendation.

Step 4:  Register for the internship course recommended by your academic advisor.

Step 5:  Submit the Online CPT Application

After you submit the online CPT application, an ISSO Advisor will review it and then determine your eligibility.  If the ISSO advisor approves your CPT application, ISSO will generate a CPT I-20 (a new I-20 with your CPT authorization on page 3) within 10 business days and email you when it is ready.