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International Student and Scholar Support

F-1 Employment: Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training, aka CPT, is required work authorization for any international student seeking to work off-campus. Students on the F-1 visa cannot work off-campus unless they apply for and are approved for CPT. CPT authorization is required for all off-campus work, including unpaid internships.


Immigration Policy on CPT

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Study in the States website says the following about CPT:

"Complex rules apply to CPT because the training opportunity must comply with both federal regulations and school policies regarding internships, experiential learning, etc." For more information, see the Student Exchange & Visitor Program's CPT Handout. The ISSS office has also created this helpful flyer that summarizes the following CPT information. 

CPT training must meet all of the following stipulations: 

  • Training relates directly to the student’s major area of study.
  • Training is an integral part of the school’s established curriculum.
  • Occurs before the student’s program end date on the Form I-20.
  • Authorization is for one specific employer and for a specific period of time.
  • Student must secure the training opportunity before CPT can be authorized.
  • CPT must be authorized before the student can begin work. Designated school official (DSO) authorizes CPT in SEVIS, and the authorization prints on the student’s Form I-20.
  • Student can have more than one CPT authorization at the same time.
  • One year of full-time CPT eliminates a student’s eligibility for OPT.

How to apply for CPT

  1. Watch the CPT workshop training video to gain an understanding of how CPT works at USC. You can also find the PowerPoint slides here.
  2. Email or meet with an ISSS advisor to determine eligibilty.
  3. Complete the respective CPT application (see the ISSS Forms Library). There are four types of CPT available: Course Required, Dissertation Research, Carolina Internship Program, or Degree Required
    • Complete and sign student section yourself.
    • Work with an academic advisor to sign the advisor section.
    • Request your employer to sign the employer section or provide a signed offer letter with all of the required information.
  4. After completing the CPT application, submit it to
  5. Within 5 business days, you will obtain a new Form I-20 via email from an international student advisor. 
  6. After checking for accuracy on page 2, print and sign your new CPT I-20.

Institutional Procedure for CPT

To be authorized for CPT, you must meet the following federal and/or institutional requirements:

CPT Prerequisites
  1. You must have been fully enrolled as a student for at least one academic year (nine months or thirty weeks).
    • Exchange students do not qualify for Curricular Practical Training because they do not have this necessary prerequisite.
  2. Your graduation cannot be delayed due to your Curricular Practical Training.
  3. The proposed employment must be an integral part of your program of study. CPT must be very closely related to your academic work. Please see the options below to learn more about how CPT can work for you.
  4. You need to have an offer of employment (paid or unpaid). Remember, even unpaid internships require CPT authroization.
  5. You need to determine which type of CPT you want to utilize (Course Required, Dissertation Research, Carolina Internship Program, or Degree Required)

Types of Curricular Practical Training at USC:

You may be eligible for Course Requirement CPT if:
  • You have a mandatory internship course in your program.
  • You are enrolled in a credit-bearing elective that requires practical experience as part of the course.
  • The course in which you will be enrolled is during the same semester of your employment.
  • Please note: Course Required CPT is absolutely necessary for unpaid, off-campus internships required by a class. 

Use this form to apply! 

You may be eligible for Dissertation Research CPT if:
  • In order to write your dissertation, you need to collect data through an off-campus work experience.
  • You will be enrolled in dissertation prep hours for the entirety of your off-campus work experience (including summer, if applicable).
  • You are NOT in your final semester of study. (Dissertation prep CPT is not permitted during your final semester.)

Use this form to apply!

Please be aware that the Career Center oversees the Carolina Internship Program. The Career Center has principal authority on CIP eligibility and requirements. 

You may be eligible for Carolina Internship Program CPT if:

  • You have set up your internship opportunity with one of the Experiential Educators in the Career Center
  • You must be registered for the Carolina Internship Program (CIP) or micro-internship  by the Add/Drop date of classes each semester.
  • Your employment opportunity is only an internship opportunity; jobs which are not considered internships, or jobs that are permanent positions do not qualify for CIP. (CIP internships cannot be used as a bridge between student status and post-completion OPT or as a substitute for pre-completion OPT.)
  • You will work for at least 240 hours for part-time CIP CPT or 480 hours for full-time CIP CPT
  • Student must be able to demonstrate that the internship experience will in no way delay their graduation. 

Please be aware of the following restriction for CIP internships:

  • Full-time CPT via CIP is only available during summer months; during the Fall and Spring semesters, internships via CIP are limited to 20 hours per week.
  • Doctoral students in Z-status are not eligible for CIP internships during the Fall and Spring semesters.
  • Doctoral students in their final semester are ineligible for CIP internships.
  • CIP internships during Fall and Spring semesters must be within 100 miles of Columbia to ensure students may continue to attend face-to-face classes.

Use this form to apply!

You may be eligible for Degree Required CPT if you are enrolled in the following programs:
  • Graduate Music Program
  • Clinical Community Psychology
  • Cardiovascular Technology
  • Masters in Applied Behavioral Analysis

If you are enrolled in another program which requires the completion of a work experience in order to graduate from the program but does not have an internship or practicum course attached to the work experience, please contact an ISS advisor to discuss your options.

This type of CPT is not available to students outside of previously approved degree programs and is based upon the programs of study that have been evaluated and approved as part of the University's I-17.

Use this form to apply!

Rules to Follow While on CPT

  1. You must obtain your CPT I-20 before starting to work. Failing to obtain CPT approval before starting your CPT training experience will lead to immediate termination of your immigration record.
  2. Students are permitted to engage in 20 hours per week of on-campus employment and 20 hours per week of CPT, as long as the CPT is approved by the designated school official and meets all regulatory requirements. USC policy caps combined on-campus and off-campus work hours to 40 hours per week.
  3. During Winter and Summer Breaks, you can work up to 40 hours per week total, on-campus and off-campus combined.
  4. Your CPT will only be authorized on a semester-by-semester basis. If your CPT will continue past the end of any given semester, you must contact ISS to secure an extension before continuing to work. Failing to do so will lead to immediate termination of your immigration record.

Frequently Asked Questions about CPT

The ISSS office does not have the knowledge or authority to help you find an internship. Please contact the Career Center and they will help you look for and apply for jobs. 

YES! CPT is required for ANY type of off-campus work. This is a federal regulation. 

Students may work 20 hours a week  of CPT during Spring/Fall semesters, and 40 hours during summer and winter breaks. Full-time CPT is only approved during major academic semesters under special circumstances. Be sure to meet with an advisor to discuss your situation. 

No. CPT is meant for temporary and experiential employment opportunities. Your job should be an internship and have a defined end date. 

HRSM 795 is a class that has a required internship aspect. It's even listed in the course description. 

No. Unless your academic program explicitly requires immediate field experience (such as the Masters of Social Work program), student must wait for one academic year to be eligible for CPT.

Complete the appropriate CPT application form located in the ISSS Forms Library. Get signatures from your academic advisor and employer and email the form to

Yes. However, you must still follow on-campus work rules and maintain full-time enrollment.

Students are permitted to engage in 20 hours per week of on-campus employment and 20 hours per week of CPT, as long as the CPT is approved by the designated school official and meets all regulatory requirements. USC policy caps combined on-campus and off-campus work hours to 40 hours per week.

There are limitations on hours depending on which type you use. You can have more than one CPT job if needed, and can apply multiple semesters. 12 months of full-time CPT at an educational level eliminates eligibility for OPT at that same educational level. Your Academic department may have other restrictions. Be sure to speak with professors and academic advisors. 

No. An I-20 should not be extended for the sole purpose of using CPT. Students can only extend an I-20 for academic reasons. 

No. You must submit a CPT request for each semester and meet the requirements every time. If there are additional jobs, each job needs a separate application. 

Yes. In order for ISSS to approve any type of course-related CPT, we must see that the student is registered in said course. 

Meet with the Career Center to get more detailed information about the Carolina Internship Program

  • Doctoral students in Z-status are not eligible for CIP internships during Fall/Spring semesters.
  • Doctoral students in their final semester are ineligible for CIP internships.


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