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)

Student Eligibility Requirements


To apply for CPT, a student must:

  • Be maintaining F-1 status for at least one full academic year at the time of application;
  • Have been a full-time degree-seeking student for at least one full academic year at the time of application (fall and spring semester, excluding summer)*;
  • Have declared a major (undergraduates) and completed at least one 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 while engaged in CPT (except summer).

*The two exceptions are:

  • for graduate students whose program of study, as described in the University Catalog, requires practical training to commence prior to the end of the student’s second semester of study;
  • for students, who have completed a degree program at a SEVIS-certified school and immediately transferring to GMU for the next level of study, must complete one semester in their academic program to establish an acceptable GPA to qualify for CPT.

*Important:

  • Mason Korea students are eligible for CPT AFTER they have completed at least one full academic year at the Fairfax campus in F-1 status (min. GPA 2.0).  This can be Fall + Spring or Spring + Fall.

CPT Job Requirements


A job may be considered for CPT employment if:

  • The student will be supervised by an expert who can serve as a mentor for the student’s learning and training experience;
  • The job is directly related to the student’s major field of study and commensurate with the student’s level of study;
  • The work provides training that will allow the student to apply concepts learned in his/her degree program in a practical setting.
  • The student will be supervised in person by the employer.  Remote work from home is not allowed on CPT.

Important information for INTO Mason Students, Mason Korea Students and Change of Status 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.

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.

The semesters in a different visa status (e.g. H-4) do NOT count toward the two semester requirement.  For example:

Vinay is an international student from India.  In Fall 2018,  he starts his program PhD in Telecommunications.  During his first semester his visa status was A-2 (dependent diplomatic visa).  In his second semester, he requested a change of status to F-1.  The request for Change of Status gets approved in April 2019.  This means that Vinay will be eligible for CPT in Summer 2020:

  • Fall 2018: A-2 visa
  • Spring 2019: A-2 visa/Change of Status to F-1 request
  • Fall 2019: F-1 status (this semester counts toward the one academic year requirement)
  • Spring 2020: F-1 status (this semester counts toward the one academic year requirement)

Part-Time and Full-Time CPT

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

***IMPORTANT Information for Students doing CPT in Fall or Spring Semesters:

  • 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 University catalog.
  • The student remains responsible for carrying a full course of study and meeting all regulatory requirements for F-1 status during CPT.  The employment opportunity may not be a remote work arrangement, and the student must be within a 75 mile commuting distance from GMU in order to meet regularly with the academic and departmental internship advisors.

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,” “Practicum,” or “Field Experience”;
  • Undertaken as part of the University’s Cooperative Education program;
  • Undertaken to gather data for the master’s thesis and 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.

CPT Application 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.

Cooperative Education CPT Application Timeline:

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 OIPSEarliest date to begin workLatest date to begin workWork end dates for continuing studentsWork end dates for graduating students
Spring 2020See OIPS Advisor03/13/2012/19/1903/24/2005/13/2005/13/20*
Summer 2020See OIPS Advisor06/12/2005/14/2006/26/2008/21/2008/08/20
Fall 2020Cooperative Education CPT Ends

For Credit Internship/Dissertation/Thesis CPT:

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 OIPSEarliest date to begin workLatest date to begin workWork end dates for continuing studentsWork end dates for graduating students
Spring 2020See OIPS Advisor01/14/2001/21/2001/28/2005/13/2005/13/20**
Summer 2020See OIPS AdvisorSee OIPS Advisor05/18/20*Summer Calendar08/21/2008/08/20
Fall 2020See OIPS Advisor08/17/2008/24/2008/31/2012/11/2012/11/20

* https://registrar.gmu.edu/calendars/summer-2020/

**The program completion date for students defending their thesis or dissertation in summer is the date of their thesis or dissertation defense.

***Students on a Module Schedule Should Consult with the OIPS Advisor and Academic Advisor about specific dates by making an appointment at least 30 days before proposed start date of CPT

CPT Position Description

Required CPT Position Description

As part of the application process, you must submit a position description with specific responsibilities or learning goals from your employer. It should be issued on company letterhead and include a description of the position, including 5-7 specific responsibilities or learning outcomes that reflect the relationship between the work and your degree program.

Please note that the CPT application process can take up to four weeks.  Do not wait until the last minute to apply!  Click on the icon "Apply for CPT" to learn more about the application process and required documents.

Other Employment Options

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