Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other time of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school” [8CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)].

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(9)(ii)(A) and 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)

CPT Eligibility

Student Eligibility Requirements


To apply for CPT, a student must:

  • Be a full-time student in the US in a valid non-immigrant status for at least one (1) full academic year (fall and spring semesters, excluding summer);
    • The only exception is for graduate students whose program of study, as described in the George Mason University Catalog, requires practical training to commence prior to the end of the student’s second semester of study.
    • Note for INTO Mason students: Semesters spent in non-degree status do not count toward the one (1) full academic year requirement.
    • Note for Mason Korea students: Semesters spent outside of the US do not count toward the one (1) full academic year requirement.
  • Be maintaining F-1 status for at least one (1) full academic semester (fall or spring, excluding summer) at the time of application;
  • Have declared a major (undergraduates);
  • Have completed at least one (1) academic semester at Mason in the degree program for which the CPT is being requested;
  • Have a GPA of at least 2.0 (undergraduate) or 3.0 (graduate students) or 2.33 (Law School);
  • Be enrolled for a full course of study on campus while engaged in CPT during required academic terms (fall, spring, and summer if last semester of program).
    • Exceptions include summer terms and when a student has received an authorized reduced course load for last semester.

Position Eligibility Requirements


A training opportunity may be considered for CPT authorization if:

  • The student will be supervised by an expert who can serve as a mentor for the student’s learning and training experience;
  • The position is directly related to the student’s major field of study and commensurate with the student’s level of study;
  • The experience provides training that will allow the student to apply concepts learned in his/her degree program in a practical setting.

Part-Time and Full-Time CPT


During Fall and Spring semesters, only part-time CPT is permitted. In some cases, an exception may be requested, but only if the full-time CPT is a degree requirement, stated in the George Mason University catalog.  If the full-time CPT is a requirement, students must submit proof from the catalog when submitting their CPT application.

  • Part-time CPT: 20 hours per week or fewer
  • Full-time CPT: more than 20 hours per week

 

Important information for INTO Mason Students and Mason Korea Students

INTO Mason Students

The semesters in non-degree F-1 status (e.g. INTO Mason Pathway programs) do NOT count toward the two semester requirement.  For example:

Akiko is an F-1 student from Japan  In Fall 2018, she enrolls as a non-degree INTO Mason Graduate Pathway Student at George Mason University.  In Spring 2019, she matriculates to degree status and pursues an MA in communication.  She will not be eligible for CPT in Summer 2019.  She needs to complete two semesters in degree status (Spring 2019 + Fall 2019) before she can apply for CPT.

Mason Korea Students

The semesters completed at the Mason Korea campus in Songdo, South Korea, do NOT count toward the two semester requirement.  For example:

Hyejeong is a Mason Korea student.  She completes five semesters at the Mason Korea Campus in South Korea and then leaves for the Fairfax campus to continue her study.  She enters the US in F-1 status.   Although Hyejeong is considered a continuing Mason student, her time at Mason Korea does not count toward the two semester requirement.  Hyejeong first needs to complete two semesters at the Fairfax campus in F-1 status before she can apply for CPT.

Types of CPT

Starting in Fall 2020, CPT is only authorized for training opportunities that are for credit or required to complete the degree.  In order to be eligible for CPT benefits, students must:

  • Enroll in internship/practicum credits,
  • Or enroll in thesis/dissertation credits,
  • Or have required training as outlined in the George Mason University Catalog and no departmental internship/practicum course is offered.

Internship/Practicum CPT

  • Undergraduate students and Master’s/PhD students taking required coursework who are enrolled in a program that offers a departmental internship/practicum course must enroll in at least one (1) credit of the internship/practicum course in order to apply for CPT in the term that they will be participating in the internship.
  • Master’s/PhD students who are enrolled in only credits of 799/999 are not eligible for this type of CPT and must apply for Thesis/Dissertation CPT or OPT to participate in an internship.
  • OIPS does not help students complete any required departmental internship course application.  Students should contact their Academic Department if they have questions about completing the form.  Some departmental internship course applications require that students upload a copy of the CPT or OPT application form to complete the application.  Students will not be able to upload a copy of the CPT I-20 to complete the departmental internship course application because students must be enrolled in an internship course before the CPT I-20 can be issued.  Students may upload a copy of the CPT Application receipt email to fulfill this requirement.
  • Students who do not participate in or complete an internship are subject to fail the class and may be in violation of their immigration status.  Students may not withdraw from the class if it makes them less than full-time or if a failing grade drops their GPA below good standing. OIPS encourages students to have internships confirmed before the start of the semester, even if the actual start date of the internship is later.
  • Required Documents to Submit for Application:
    • OIPS CPT Application
    • Offer Letter
    • Proof of enrollment in internship/practicum course

Thesis/Dissertation CPT

  • Master’s/PhD students enrolled only 799/999 are only eligible to complete Thesis/Dissertation CPT.  The training opportunity must be required for students to complete their Thesis/Dissertation.  Students must register for at least one (1) credit of 798/998 or at least one (1) credit of 799/999 in order to apply for CPT.  If the training opportunity is not required to complete the dissertation, students are not eligible to participate in CPT.  Students may be eligible to apply for pre- or post-completion OPT if they have completed all required coursework.
  • Undergraduate students and Master’s/PhD students who are enrolled in any courses other than 799/999 are not eligible for this type of CPT.
  • Required Documents to Submit for Application:
    • OIPS CPT Application
    • Offer Letter
    • Proof of enrollment in 799/999
    • Letter from Advisor that states the student needs this training experience to complete the Thesis/Dissertation, and specifically how the training will be used to progress with their thesis/dissertation.

Required Training With No Internship Course CPT

  • Undergraduate students and Master’s/PhD students still enrolled in coursework who are enrolled in a program that requires an internship as outlined in the George Mason University Catalog but the program does not offer an internship/practicum course for credit must apply for Required Training With No Internship Course CPT.
  • Master’s/PhD students who have completed required coursework and moved on to the Thesis/Dissertation phase of their degree (799/999) are not eligible for this type of CPT.
  • Required Documents to Submit for Application:
    • OIPS CPT Application
    • Offer Letter
    • Entry from George Mason University Catalog detailing the required training experience

CPT with On Campus Employment


Students may participate in both on campus employment and CPT simultaneously.  CPT is directly fulfilling an academic course requirement and may/may not be a paid position.  Students should notify their on campus employers that they will be participating in CPT for academic purposes.

 

The following policy is currently under review.

For students with Graduate Assistantships:

  • For Assistantships that are 20 hours per week (full time assistantships), CPT may not be authorized.
  • For Assistantships that are 10 hours per week (part time assistantships), CPT may be authorized for up to 20 hours per week.

CPT Timeline

Because CPT is linked to the curriculum, it must be requested and authorized in accordance with the University Calendar, semester by semester. Just as you cannot enroll for a class after the last day to add, you must mind the CPT request deadlines if you wish to participate. This includes a reasonable turnaround time for OIPS advising staff at the beginning and end of each semester.

  • The Office of International Programs and Services serves thousands of international students.  Processing times for CPT authorizations take seven (7) to ten (10) business days.  Therefore, in order to comply with federal regulations, students must submit a fully completed CPT Application Form to OIPS a minimum of two (2) weeks before the desired training start date.
  • Once a student is eligible for CPT, they may apply at any time, but should meet with an OIPS advisor to discuss their specific situation.
  • Students can be authorized for CPT for as short a time as meets the academic requirements for the course.

Semester Based Programs

Semester (when you intend to engage in CPT)Earliest date to request a CPT I-20 from OIPSLatest date to request a CPT I-20 from OIPS- Two (2) weeks before the desired training start dateEarliest date to begin workLatest date to begin workWork end dates
Fall 2020See OIPS AdvisorAugust 31, 2020August 24, 2020Dependent on course requirementsDecember 16, 2020
Spring 2021See OIPS AdvisorJanuary 26, 2021December 17, 2020Dependent on course requirementsMay 12, ,2021
Summer 2021See OIPS AdvisorMay 24, 2020, dependent upon summer sessionMay 13, 2020, dependent upon summer sessionDependent on course requirementsJuly 23, 2021, dependent upon summer session

Module-Based Program

Module students should verify authorization dates by meeting with an OIPS advisor.  These dates are as published by the Office of the Registrar: https://registrar.gmu.edu/calendars/fall_2020/8weekmodular/

Module (when you intend to engage in CPT)Earliest date to request a CPT I-20 from OIPSLatest date to request a CPT I-20 from OIPS- Two (2) weeks before the desired training start dateEarliest date to begin workLatest date to begin workWork end dates for continuing students
Fall 2020 Term 1See OIPS AdvisorAugust 27, 2020August 17, 2020Dependent on course requirementsOctober 18, 2020
Fall 2020 Term 2See OIPS AdvisorOctober 22, 2020October 19, 2020Dependent on course requirementsDecember 15, 2020
Fall 2020 Terms 1 & 2See OIPS AdvisorAugust 27, 2020August 17, 2020Dependent on course requirementsDecember 15, 2020
Spring 2021 Term 1See OIPS AdvisorJanuary 18, 2021December 14, 2020Dependent on course requirementsMarch 7, 2021
Spring 2021 Term 2See OIPS AdvisorMarch 8, 2021March 22, 2021Dependent on course requirementsMay 9, 2021
Spring 2021 Terms 1 & 2See OIPS AdvisorJanuary 18, 2021December 14, 2020Dependent on course requirementsMay 9, 2021

CPT Application Steps

Application Steps

You are not authorized for CPT until you have received your new I-20 with the CPT authorization on page 2.  To receive your CPT I-20, follow the steps in both Phase I and Phase II below.

PHASE I- Pre-Approval

Meet with an OIPS Advisor to be Pre-Approved for CPT. Do this before completing any other part of your application. Have your position description available for the appointment, or be able to describe what you will be doing.
*Your application for CPT will be denied if you are not pre-approved.

PHASE II- Application

Complete the CPT Application on the OIPS web site found in the Self Service Center.
Step 1: Provide your Academic Advisor/Department Chair/Dean/Internship Coordinator and Training Organization’s emails. Notify your Academic Advisor/Department Head/Dean/Internship Coordinator and Employer that they will receive this form by email and they will need to complete it before you can have your CPT authorized.
Step 2: Complete your portion of the form and upload your required documents.
Step 3: Your Academic Advisor/Department Chair/Dean receives the form via email and completes their section.
Step 4: Your Training Organization receives the form via email and completes their section.
Step 5: OIPS reviews your application.
Step 6: Once your CPT I-20 is ready you will receive an email from OIPS within 10 business days.

Required Documents

Based on the type of CPT you are applying for (listed above) you must submit some of the following required documents.  Make sure that you have your documents prepared before you start the online application.

Offer Letter

Requirements:

  • On company letterhead
  • States student name

Proof of enrollment in internship/practicum course

Requirements:

  • A screenshot of your enrollment in the course requiring CPT.
  • Must show:
    • Your name
    • Course name and number
    • Enrollment term

Proof of enrollment in 799/999

Requirements:

  • A screenshot of your enrollment in 799/999
  • Must show:
    • Your name
    • Course name and number
    • Enrollment term

Thesis/Dissertation Letter from Advisor

Requirements:

  • On Mason Letterhead
  • Signed by advisor/chair
    • Digitally "typed" signatures are not accepted
  • States the student needs this training experience to complete the Thesis/Dissertation and specifically how the training will be used to progress with the thesis/dissertation

Entry from George Mason University Catalog

Requirements:

  • Excerpt from the George Mason University Catalog
  • Clearly states the internship is required for degree completion
  • Clearly states there is no internship/practicum course to enroll in

Additional Documents

Occasionally, during the Pre-Approval appointment the OIPS advisor will request that students include additional documentation when submitting the application.

CPT and F-1 Status

Maintaining F-1 Status and Full-Time Enrollment

CPT is available only to F-1 students in legal status. If you violate your status requirements, your CPT is automatically cancelled. Among the most important status requirements:

  • Register for a full course of study every fall and spring;
  • Maintain a valid passport at all times;
  • If you change your address, update Patriotweb within 10 days of moving.

Additional details about maintaining F-1 status can be found here.

Difference between CPT and OPT


Both CPT and OPT involve training that is directly related to a student’s major field of study, and that is commensurate with the student’s level of study. The primary difference is that CPT is “curricular,” meaning it is one of the following:

  • A requirement, listed in the University Catalog, for completing the student’s academic program;
  • A for-credit course listed in the University Catalog as “Internship” or “Practicum”;
  • Undertaken to gather data for the master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.

IMPORTANT: Practical training that does not meet one of these requirements would be considered optional and therefore fall under the OPT category.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Unpaid Internships

The areas of law governing unpaid internships for Curricular Practical Training include:

  • immigration law, which governs non-immigrant status and F-1 employment authorization, and
    labor law, which governs regulations concerning the workplace and fair labor practices. The definition of “volunteer,” and the conditions under which an internship may be unpaid, are important aspects of US labor law.
  • Under the law, volunteering is the donation of time to a not-for-profit organization with a charitable or humanitarian mission. Volunteers give their time without any expectation of payment, remuneration or compensation. Internships, whether paid or unpaid, are typically offered within the corporate or private sector. In contrast to the purpose of volunteering, an internship is not a donation of time for charity. Internships are designed to provide training and practical experience to the intern.

The US Department of Labor provides guidelines for prospective interns and employers.  To learn more, click here.

The following six criteria must be met in the case of an unpaid internship:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regulator employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasions its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

A detailed explanation of each of the criteria may be found on the website of the US Department of Labor.  To learn more, click here.

Other Employment Options

F-1 students may also be eligible for on-campus employment, OPT and STEM OPT.