CPT and OPT

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Every international student studying in United States dreams of earning their dream dollar. We all are enthusiastic of working and making money while living abroad. Some want to pay their extra bills with the money they earn and some wants to earn money for their leisure activity. What put us into bewilderment are the rights we have with our F1 visa. How can we work? What are the options available? Where we can work? Etc are the questions keeping revolving around our head. So first thing first, with your F1 student visa you can work on-campus. There are numerous jobs offered by universities for international students within the campus. But you surely witness lot of competition in getting them. So the other option is to work outside campus. You can work under practical training program that is Curriculum Practical Training and Optional Practical Training. Let’s discuss about these two terms in detail.

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Curriculum Practical Training (CPT):

This is given to students while there are studying in the university. This program gives opportunity to students to work and gain experience in their field while studying. This is usually allotted to student after two semesters or 9months after the degree program has started. This allows you to work during academic session. There are rare cases when CPT is allotted even after first semester. To get CPT you will need to work with university official department. They may ask you to work with career counseling department or other academic department and allot you CPT on the basis of that. The CPT program will also earn you few credits as you are working and accumulating practical knowledge related to your field. These program can be paid, which will help you financially. Another condition is some university will not allow you to have CPT unless you live in the locality of the university. You will need help of Designated School Official (DSO) or International Student Advisor to process your CPT application. The DSO in certain cases such as requirement of your curriculum will offer you CPT after 1St semester. Under CPT you are allowed to work only for 12months full time, exceeding that may cancel your OPT, so be careful about this. You should also be aware of the frauds happening regarding CPT, they are frequent in universities.

Optional Practical Training (OPT):

OPT is used by the students to work in their field after their graduation period. The OPT offers 12 months extension to all graduate students and plus 17months to all students in graduated in field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). There are two options available in getting OTP; either it is Pre-OTP or Post-OTP. You can work with Pre-OTP before completing your graduation. This will facilitate you of working 20hr per week during academic session that is part time and 40hr per week during vacation that is full time. But this will cost you reduction of month after your graduation allotted for working. Post-OTP gives you opportunity to work for 12 months after the graduation till you find an employer who will sponsor your work-visa. Generally students do not go for Pre-OPT unless there is no chance of getting CPT during the academic session. You are supposed to send an application to USCIS for getting an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) and OPT. you can apply for OPT 120 days before joining your employer and you must apply for it in time. Because if you do not have an OPT after 2months of your graduation, you lose your status in the country. So plan accordingly so that you do not lose you employment status. With an OPT, you can work with any firm as long as it is related to your field. This offers you to choose your right employer.

Basic difference between CPT and OPT:

• You can get credits for using CPT, and OPT offers you no credit. The credit you earn in will be counted in your degree program. CPT also earns you money for working with the department.

• You can use OPT before or after graduation while CPT only during the course program. Using OPT during the course work may reduce your time after the course under OPT.