by Lette Berhe
You may have heard that getting permission to work in the U.S. can feel like an impossible task. But you are about to learn how, as an international student, you can not only work legally but also in a field that you love. Yes, it still takes some time and effort, but the OPT and CPT programs will make the process a lot simpler.
OPT and CPT are government programs sponsored by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) that are specifically aimed to help international students work off campus during and after their degree programs.
Now, you may be thinking, “Should I really work and study at the same time?”.
It is true that trying to balance a full class schedule and working 20 hours a week is not for everyone. But the important thing is that you know that you have the option to work if you want. If you're still not sure that you want to work and study, no problem.
Luckily, you don’t have to choose. You have the option to work during school, on school breaks, and even after graduating.
There are many benefits to participating in these programs, and here are some for you to consider:
Although you can participate in both OPT and CPT, it is important to know the different requirements and limitations for each program.
What Is OPT?
Optional practical training (OPT) gives F-1 students the opportunity to work part-time (20 hours or less) or full-time (20+ hours) in a job related to their chosen major for a total of 12 months.
Students are eligible to work part-time while school is in session and full-time during vacations and after graduating.
To be able to apply for OPT, you have to complete the following:
Types of OPT
There are two different types of OPT you can choose to apply for: pre-completion (before degree is completed) and post-completion (after degree is completed).
Keep in mind that any hours worked with pre-completion OPT will reduce your 12 -month eligibility of full-time work during post-completion OPT.
When to Apply for OPT
What Is CPT?
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is another option F-1 students have to work part-time or full-time. But CPT can only be used while studying (before graduating) and must be required by your degree program. This means that to be able to apply for CPT you must receive course credit or have it as a required course necessary to receive your degree.
CPT’s basic requirements are the following:
Types of CPT
According to USCIS, CPT can be a/an:
When to Apply for CPT
You can apply as early as 90 days before the end of your first year of study.
What Are the Differences Between OPT and CPT?
Although both programs seem to have a lot in common, the differences will be important when deciding what will work best for you and your schedule.
Below is a quick review of the major differences between the two programs.
All F-1 students are allowed to apply for both OPT and CPT, but with the following limitations:
If you have any doubts, it is always best to discuss your options with your academic advisor.
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