Benefits of OPT and CPT in the USA for Study Abroad Students - Gateway International
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Benefits of OPT and CPT in the USA for Study Abroad Students


Understanding OPT and CPT for Study Abroad

Studying abroad is a transformative experience, offering students the chance to immerse themselves in new cultures and educational systems. For international students in the USA, Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are crucial components of this journey. These programs provide practical work experience, complementing academic studies and enhancing career prospects. This article delves into the benefits of OPT and CPT for study abroad students in the USA.

Understanding OPT (Optional Practical Training) and CPT (Curricular Practical Training) is essential for international students in the USA. OPT offers post-completion work authorization, while CPT allows for employment integral to a student’s academic curriculum. Both programs provide valuable opportunities for gaining practical experience and advancing career prospects.

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a program that allows international students on F-1 visas to work in the USA for up to 12 months during or after completing their academic studies. For STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students, this period can be extended by an additional 24 months, providing a significant advantage in gaining professional experience.

  • Available to students who are lawfully enrolled on a full – time basis
    & have completed at least 1 full academic year.
  • Eligible student may request OPT in order to be employed in a position
    related to the major area of study.
  • 12/36 months of OPT available after each degree level completion.
    1. For STEM programme OPT will be for 3 years.
    2. For management related courses OPT will for one year only


What is CPT?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a type of work authorization that permits international students to engage in off-campus employment directly related to their field of study. Unlike OPT, CPT must be an integral part of an established curriculum and can be part-time or full-time.

  • Provides opportunity to gain actual employment experience.
  • Definedas alternatework/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type
    of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through
    cooperative agreements with the school.
  • CPT can be full time(> 20hours/week) or part time(20hours orless perweek )
  • To be eligible the student must have completed 9 months in lawful status and
    currently be in F-1 status.

Real-World Experience

Real-world experience gained through OPT and CPT allows international students to apply theoretical knowledge in professional settings, fostering skill development and enhancing career readiness for future endeavors.

Hands-On Learning: Both OPT and CPT allow students to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings, bridging the gap between classroom learning and professional practice.

Skill Development: These programs enable students to develop essential skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, which are highly valued by employers.

Career Advancement

Career advancement through OPT and CPT for international students includes resume enhancement, networking opportunities, and acquiring valuable professional skills, ultimately increasing competitiveness in the job market.

Resume Enhancement: Work experience gained through OPT and CPT makes students more competitive in the job market, enhancing their resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

Networking Opportunities: Working in the USA allows students to build a professional network, opening doors to future job opportunities and mentorship.

Financial Benefits

Financial Benefits of OPT and CPT include earning potential to offset tuition and living costs, potential tax benefits, and opportunities to gain valuable financial independence during the study abroad journey.

Earning Potential: Both OPT and CPT provide opportunities for students to earn money, which can help offset tuition costs and living expenses.

Tax Benefits: In some cases, international students on OPT and CPT may qualify for tax benefits, further enhancing their financial situation.

Cultural Integration

Cultural integration for international students in the USA fosters understanding of American workplace norms and community engagement, enriching the study abroad experience and facilitating meaningful connections within the local community.

Workplace Culture: Engaging in professional settings allows students to understand and adapt to the American workplace culture, which is beneficial for future career opportunities.

Community Involvement: Through work, students can integrate more deeply into the local community, enhancing their overall study abroad experience.

How to Apply for OPT and CPT

The application processes for OPT and CPT in the USA. From eligibility checks to document preparation and submission, this guide provides a concise overview of the steps involved. Maximize your study abroad experience by understanding how to secure valuable practical training opportunities.

Application Process for OPT

The application process for Optional Practical Training (OPT) involves verifying eligibility, consulting with a Designated School Official (DSO), gathering required documents, completing Form I-765, submitting the application to USCIS, awaiting approval, receiving the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and commencing OPT employment upon approval.

Check Eligibility: Before applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT), ensure you meet the eligibility criteria. You must be maintaining your F-1 status and enrolled in a full-time academic program for at least one academic year.

Consult DSO: Schedule a meeting with your Designated School Official (DSO) to discuss your OPT plans. Your DSO will provide guidance on the application process and ensure you understand the requirements.

Prepare Required Documents: Gather all necessary documents for the OPT application, including Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization), Form G-1145 (E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance), a copy of your current Form I-20 with DSO’s recommendation for OPT, copies of any previously issued EADs (if applicable), passport-style photographs, and the required fee.

Complete Form I-765: Fill out Form I-765 accurately and completely. Double-check all information to avoid delays or rejections.

Submit Application to USCIS: Mail your completed Form I-765, along with the required documents and fee, to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox facility. Include a cover letter summarizing your application contents for easy processing.

Wait for Approval: After USCIS receives your application, they will process it. You can check the status of your application online using the receipt number provided on your Form I-797C, Notice of Action.

Receive Employment Authorization Document (EAD): Upon approval, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), also known as Form I-766. This document serves as proof of your authorization to work in the United States under OPT.

Begin OPT Employment: You can start working once you receive your EAD and your OPT start date has commenced. Remember to report any changes in employment or address to your DSO as required by regulations.

Application Process for CPT

For Curricular Practical Training (CPT), students must confirm eligibility with their academic advisor, secure employment directly related to their field of study, and obtain written approval from their academic institution. They then submit the necessary paperwork to their Designated School Official (DSO) for review and authorization before commencing employment.

Eligibility Verification: Confirm your eligibility for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) with your academic advisor or DSO. Generally, you must have completed one academic year of full-time enrollment in a SEVP-certified institution.

Academic Approval: Obtain written approval from your academic advisor or department indicating that the proposed employment is integral to your curriculum and an academic requirement.

Secure Employment: Find an employer willing to provide you with employment directly related to your field of study. Ensure the job aligns with the guidelines set by your academic institution for CPT eligibility.

Complete Form I-20: Your DSO will update your Form I-20 to reflect your CPT authorization. Ensure that all information is accurate, including the employer’s details and employment start and end dates.

Submit CPT Application: Provide your updated Form I-20 to your prospective employer. Once the employer completes their section, submit the completed Form I-20 to your DSO for review and approval.

Authorization Confirmation: Upon approval, your DSO will issue a new Form I-20 with CPT authorization. This document serves as proof of your eligibility to engage in CPT.

Start CPT Employment: You can begin working once your CPT authorization has commenced.

OPT and CPT offer invaluable opportunities for study abroad students in the USA. From gaining practical experience to advancing their careers and integrating into the local culture, these programs enrich the overall educational experience. By understanding the application processes and maximizing the benefits of OPT and CPT, international students can truly make the most of their time studying abroad in the United States.

Remember, while OPT and CPT provide excellent opportunities, it’s essential to adhere to the regulations and guidelines set forth by USCIS and your academic institution. With careful planning and proactive engagement, study abroad students can leverage OPT and CPT to propel their academic and professional journey to new heights.

So, if you’re considering studying abroad in USA, be sure to explore the benefits of OPT and CPT and how they can enhance your overall educational experience and future career prospects.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is OPT and CPT, and how do they differ?
OPT (Optional Practical Training) and CPT (Curricular Practical Training) are both employment authorization programs for international students in the USA. OPT is typically post-completion work authorization, while CPT is for employment integral to a student’s curriculum.

2.Who is eligible for OPT and CPT?
Eligibility for OPT and CPT varies based on factors such as F-1 visa status, academic program requirements, and specific regulations set by the student’s academic institution and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

3. How long can I work under OPT and CPT?
OPT typically allows for up to 12 months of employment, with possible extensions for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students. CPT employment duration is determined by the academic program’s requirements and can be part-time or full-time.

4. Can I work anywhere in the USA under OPT and CPT?
OPT and CPT employment must be directly related to a student’s field of study. While there are some flexibility and allowances, the work must align with the academic program’s objectives and be approved by the Designated School Official (DSO).

5. How do I apply for OPT and CPT?
The application process for OPT and CPT involves gathering required documents, obtaining approval from the academic institution, and submitting applications to USCIS or the DSO, depending on the program. Detailed guidance is available from the academic institution’s international student office.