Emonics LLC
4 min readOct 27, 2021


Are you confused by the job policies in the United States? If you want to study in the United States while still sustaining yourself financially, you should become familiar with the two main work categories: OPT and CPT. This comprehensive guide by our specialists will help you learn more about the work options while studying at an overseas university, from their considerable differences to the immigration process.


To work in the United States, international students have two choices:

Optional Practical Training(OPT)

Curricular Practical Training(CPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a program that permits overseas students on an F-1 visa to work for up to a year in a field related to their degree. After finishing their first academic year, students are entitled to apply for OPT. Even though OPT can be completed before or after graduation, it is important to remember that you are only permitted to work for a period of 12 months. Students who have finished degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, on the other hand, have the option of extending it up to 17 months.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT is a program that permits overseas students to get work experience, paid or unpaid internships, or co-operative education directly relevant to their degree. Because you are free to work part-time or full-time, you should finish your curricular practical training before graduating. Another important factor to remember is that if you work full-time in CPT for 12 months, you will lose your OPT eligibility.

What’s the difference between OPT and CPT?

The significant differences between OPT and CPT are the period for which you are eligible for work and the type of work allowed. While OPT can be completed before or after graduation, CPT must be completed before graduation. Another significant difference is that CPT is required for your major and if it is not you must receive course credit whereas for OPT you don’t have to earn course credit.

The primary purpose

CPT allows an F1 student to work in a company before graduation to get practical experience, whereas OPT allows an F1 student to gain practical experience in the same profession after graduation.

Degree Requirements

Working on CPT will count toward your degree requirements, however, working on OPT will not.

Duration of employment CPT can be done for up to 12 months, whereas OPT is usually for 12 months and can be extended to 24 months. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you work full-time in CPT for 12 months, you will not be eligible for OPT.


In CPT, the student does not receive an EAD from USCIS, however, students on OPT will receive an EAD from USCIS once their OPT is approved.

Application Fee

CPT has no application fee because the student just has to pay the school for the course credit. A $410 application fee must be paid to USCIS by the student working under OPT.

Working full time or part-time

CPT can be done part-time or full-time, and it is often done for 20 hours during the school year and 40 hours during the summer. After graduation, OPT is usually done full-time.

Pre-completion OPT and Post-completion OPT are the two types of OPT. Pre-completion OPT allows students to work while still in school, while Post-completion OPT allows students to work after graduation.

Application Process

If you want to apply for CPT, you should do it at least two weeks before you want to start working because the process can take up to seven days to process and complete. You must apply for OPT with the USCIS, and the process can take up to 90 days.

Students on OPT must pay taxes on their earnings and must fill out a W-4 tax form with their new employer before receiving payment. If you are an F-1 student on CPT and have not been in the country for five years, you are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes. Within 10 days of starting work or changing your address, you must submit an OPT report.


To be eligible for CPT and OPT the student must:

  • Lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year.
  • Be in lawful F-1 status
  • Have health insurance.

Traveling while on OPT

In general, a student on Post-Completion OPT can travel outside of the United States for a limited period of time before being readmitted to resume F-1 status and work for the remaining time period. However, the student must be careful not to surpass the maximum period of unemployment allowed under the OPT program. Re-entering the United States in a non-F-1 status will also result in the loss of F-1 status and OPT authorization.


If you plan to work for many employers, you will need to apply for a CPT authorization for each one. You can work for many employers even if you are on OPT, but you must make sure that all of your jobs are relevant to your degree program.


The main distinction between OPT and CPT is the time period for which you are eligible and the types of work that are permitted under each program. OPT can be done before or after graduation however, CPT must be done before graduation.



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