Read the information below to learn how you can make the most of your Practical Training opportunities as an international student.



cpt
opt
stem extension
reporting requirements
grace period
finding a job


CPT

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an employment authorization available to F-1 students for work experience that is considered an integral part of a student's curriculum or academic program. In practice, this means that a student must be participating in an internship, co-op, or practicum either as part of a program requirement or for academic credit. Specifically, the Code of Federal Regulations states: An F-1 student may be authorized by the DSO to participate in a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)-(12)

Requirements for CPT
  • Students must be in legal F-1 immigration status.
  • Students must have completed at least one academic year of full-time study. This is waived if CPT is required immediately for a graduate student's degree program.
  • Students must have an offer of employment from a sponsoring employer, and the employer must have a cooperative agreement with Sewanee.
  • CPT must be integral to your major and the experience must be part of your program of study. As such, students must earn academic credit during the internship experience. Please note that additional courses may incur extra tuition or fees.
  • Students must be considered full-time enrolled in a program of study through SEVP. You can not do CPT after graduation.
  • Students must be authorized by the DSO or PDSO to participate in CPT. If approved, students will receive a new I-20 and may only begin work after they have received their new I-20 with CPT authorization.
To apply for CPT:
  • Secure a job offer
  • Complete the CPT Application Packet in consultation with your Academic Advisor
  • Register for the relevant academic course during the CPT period
  • Return the CPT Application Packet and supporting documents to the PDSO or DSO in the Office of Global Citizenship

CPT may be paid or unpaid, and it can be full-time (40 hours/week) or part-time (20 hours or less/week). If you have 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you are ineligible for OPT, but any amount of part-time CPT is fine and will not stop you from doing OPT. For more information on CPT, please refer to ICE's page on Practical Training and review our Frequently Asked Questions.


OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Under existing rules, an F-1 student may be authorized to receive up to 12 months of practical training either pre and/or post completion of studies. Students in STEM fields may qualify for an additional 24-month STEM extension.

Requirements for OPT
  • Students must have F-1 status
  • Students must have a Form I-20
  • The student’s status in the SEVIS system must show as “Active”
  • Students must have completed at least one full academic year of study in the United States.
  • OPT employment must be directly related to the student’s major field of study.
Pre and Post Completion OPT

There are two types of OPT, Post Completion and Pre Completion.

  1. Post Completion OPT must take place after graduation. F-1 Students are allowed to work full time for up to one year to gain work experience in their field of study. F-1 students in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program may apply for an additional 24 months of OPT beyond their initial 12 months.
  2. Pre-Completion OPT can be obtained prior to graduation and students are allowed to work 20 hours a week while school is in session and 40 hours a week during holidays and vacations. The amount of hours worked under Pre-Completion OPT is deducted from the student’s Post Completion OPT.
To Apply for OPT
  1. Download and review the OPT Application Packet.
  2. Complete and submit all documents in the packet to the PDSO or DSO in the Office of Global Citizenship for review. The review process may take up to ten business days.
  3. Arrange a meeting with the PDSO or DSO to receive your completed OPT packet and new I-20.
  4. Mail your OPT application materials to the correct USCIS lockbox.

For more information on the OPT process, traveling while on OPT, and your reporting responsibilities, please review our Frequently Asked Questions. For more information, please refer to ICE's page on Practical Training, review our Frequently Asked Questions and read about Reporting Requirements.


24-Month stem extension

On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule allowing certain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees, and who meet other specified requirements, to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT. The 24-month extension will replace the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to STEM students.

Requirements for STEM OPT Extension
  • Students must be in F-1 status.
  • Students must be currently working in a period of post-completion OPT.
  • Students must have a bachelor's or higher degree in an eligible STEM field.
  • Students must have a job offer that meets the following requirements:
    • The job is with an employer enrolled in the USCIS E-Verify program
    • The job offers at least 20 hours of work per week
    • The job will provide formal training and learning objectives directly related to your qualifying STEM degree
    • Students must be able to complete the I-983 Training Plan with their employer
To Apply for the STEM OPT Extension
  1. Download and review the OPT STEM Extension Application Packet.
  2. Email the Sewanee PDSO or DSO to request a new I-20 with STEM OPT Extension. The email should include specific information, as described in the STEM Extension Application Packet.
  3. Receive your new I-20 with OPT STEM Extension Recommendation.
  4. Mail your OPT STEM Extension Application materials to the correct USCIS lockbox. You have 60 days from the issue date of your new I-20 to mail these materials.

For more information on the OPT STEM Extension process, please review our Frequently Asked Questions and ICE's page on Practical Training.


REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

Students on Post Completion OPT and STEM Extension have specific reporting requirements.

POST COMPLETION OPT REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
  • Create an SEVP Portal Account
  • Report any changes to physical address, mailing address, or legal name in the SEVP Portal within 10 days of the change occurring
  • Update the SEVP portal with any changes to one's employer or supervisor.
  • Record the following information in the "free text field" in the SEVP Portal:
    • Job title
    • Employer name
    • Major area of study
    • How many hours/week you work - whether full time or the average hours worked per week
    • A brief explanation of how the job is directly related to the student's studies. The regular duties should be explained and the nexus between those duties and the degree described.
  • Contact the DSO or PDSO to request any of the following changes:
    • Transferring to a new SEVP-certified school
    • Traveling outside the United States
    • Bringing dependents into the country
    • Requesting employment or training authorization

While on OPT, F-1 visa holders are limited to a total of 90 days without employment, and all OPT employment must be directly related to their field of study.

STEM OPT REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

In addition to the Post Completion OPT Reporting Requirements, F-1 visa holders on the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension must also observe the following requirements:

  • Email the DSO/PDSO every six months and validate that their record in SEVIS accurately reflects their current circumstance
  • Complete and submit to their DSO/PDSO the annual Self-Evaluation (p. 5 of the I-983 Form).
  • Report to their DSO/PDSO any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal I-983 training plan
  • If employment is lost, the student reports this termination of their practical training experience in the SEVP portal and submits the Final Evaluation (p. 5 of the I-983 Form) to the PDSO/DSO. Both must be done within 10 days. Note that the former employer needs to sign the final evaluation.
  • When new employment is found, the new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before the student begins to work for pay. The student must also submit a new Form I-983 to their DSO within 10 days of starting the new practical training opportunity.
  • Contact the PDSO/DSO if they believe their employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, the Form I-983 instructions, and the completed Form I-983 on file with their PDSO/DSO.
RESOURCES

grace period

Students who do not exceed 90 days of unemployment (OPT) or 150 days of unemployment (STEM) AND report their employment to SEVP as required are automatically granted a 60-day grace period after the end date listed on the EAD (Employment Authorization Document). Within this 60-day grace period, you have the following options:

  • Depart the U.S. Once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies and OPT period, you are not eligible to reenter with your current I-20. During the 60-day grace period, you are only able to travel within the states.
  • Request a new I-20 if you will continue at Sewanee in a Master's degree program.
  • Begin a degree program at another university. If you plan to begin a degree program at another university, you will need to contact one of Sewanee's DSOs in order to transfer your SEVIS record to the new university. You can initiate this process during your OPT or STEM OPT period, or during the 60-day grace period.
  • Apply to change status to another visa category.

finding a job

To assist students with their job search, the University works with Interstride, a career search platform for international students and students who are interested in working internationally. To set up an account with Interstride, please do the following:

  1. Go to web.interstride.com and enter your university email. The system will trigger a verification email.
  2. Go to your inbox and click on the verification link.

Other helpful job search websites for international students include:

  • My Visa Jobs – Information about work visas and job board of companies who sponsor visas.
  • VisaDoor – Search H1B LCA Database including H1B violators.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – Information about student visas and employment as well as other helpful links for current and prospective students.