Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is authorization needed for any off-campus employment prior to the completion of an academic program or degree. Per regulations, CPT must be "an integral part of an established curriculum" and 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."

CPT can be used during the fall, spring, or summer sessions. Students must reapply for each semester they wish to participate in CPT. A student must register for a CPT-related course and be authorized by ISSO prior to the start of any internship or academic learning experience. To receive authorization, CPT experiences must be directly related to a student's level and major field of study.

Prospective employers may not be aware of the employment options available to F-1 international students. At some point, you may need to explain to an employer the employment options that you have as an international student. To find more information on how to advocate for yourself, please review the Job Search webpage on the ISSO website.

CPT Process 

  1. Receive internship/job offer
  2. Attend CPT workshop in Cystart
  3. Register for CPT related course
  4. Apply for CPT in Cystart
  5. Advisor processing (Wait up to 10 working days)
  6. Receive email from ISSO to pick up CPT authorization I-20
  7. Start employment only after receiving CPT authorization I-20 and reaching the listed CPT start date


Eligible for CPT

  • Student must be in valid F-1 status
  • Student is enrolled in a Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral program
  • Student must have been enrolled for one academic year in current program at ISU
    • Academic year is defined as a fall and spring semester
  • Student must be making normal progress toward degree completion

Ineligible for CPT

  • Student has completed all degree requirements
  • Student has submitted application for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • Student has officially graduated from Iowa State University
  • Student who has not been enrolled at ISU for a consecutive, full academic year following a transfer to ISU, return from OPT, or change of level
  • Student has requested CPT based solely on a minor
  • CPT is primarily for the purpose of facilitating employment rather than for an academic learning purpose



  • 365 days of full-time CPT at an educational level eliminates eligibility for OPT at that same educational level. Full-time CPT authorized for 364 days or fewer at an educational level should not impact OPT eligiblity. 
  • Graduate students who are on curricula practical training (CPT) are allowed up to three-quarter time appointments during the academic year per Graduate College policy in Chapter 3.2.3 of the Graduate College Handbook.
  • Graduate students with assistantships may be limited to 30 hours per week during semester breaks per Graduate College policy in Chapter 3.2.3 of the Graduate College Handbook.

Hours Per Week Limits

  • Part-time CPT: 20 hours or fewer per week
  • Full-time CPT: 21 hours or more per week

I-20 Program Extension for CPT

I-20 cannot be extended for the sole purpose of CPT. There must be an academic reason to request a program extension. 

Enrollment Requirements

  • Full-time CPT:
    • Fall and Spring Semester:
      • If full time AND 3 months or more: Only need CPT course.
      • If full time AND less than 3 months: Need CPT course and full-time enrollment.
    • Summer: Need only CPT course. Additional enrollment is not required by ISSO.
  • Part-time CPT:
    • Fall and Spring Semester: Need CPT course and full-time enrollment.
    • Summer: Need only CPT course. Additional enrollment is not required by ISSO.
    • Please consult your College Career Services (undergraduate students) or department (graduate students) for their policies, as they may differ.

Acceptable CPT Courses (not exhaustive)

  • Internship course
  • Cooperative education course
  • Independent study or special topics course for a shorter, part-time opportunity
  • Research credits if the CPT experience is related to student's research

Unacceptable CPT Courses

  • GR ST 601
  • GR ST 680
  • GR ST 681 A, B, C, and D

Dropping CPT Course

Students may not drop the CPT-related course. The student will be considered in violation of their F-1 immigration status if they fail to maintain registration in the CPT related course. In this case, the student's CPT will be cancelled and the student must file for reinstatement with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

CPT Duration

CPT can start at any time during an academic semester; the CPT start date does not need to align with a semester start date. CPT must be authorized before starting work.

CPT Start Date

  • For continuing students that have already completed one academic year of study at ISU, CPT can start the Saturday before finals week of the previous term.
  • For students currently completing their first academic year of study at ISU, CPT can start as early as the day after the final day of your second completed semester.
  • CPT must be authorized and the CPT I-20 must be in your possession before beginning work.

CPT End Date

  • Continuing Student: CPT may extend until the day before the start of the following semester.
    • Example: If Spring Semester starts on January 11, Fall CPT can extend as late as January 10.
    • Final Semester: CPT must end on or before the last day of the semester.
      • Example: If finishing your academic program during the Fall Semester and the Fall Semester ends on December 18, CPT must end on or before December 18.

Multiple CPT Experiences

CPT is generally granted for one semester at a time. To extend CPT for another semester, students must reapply in Cystart.

Remember, 365 days of full-time CPT eliminates eligibility for OPT at that same educational level following completion of degree program.

CPT and On-Campus Employment

Students are eligible to work up to 20 hours each week on campus in addition to their CPT. However, it may not be advisable to attempt over 20 hours of on-campus employment, CPT activity, and full-time enrollment.

CPT for Additional On-Campus Employment

Only students with graduate assistantships are eligible to use CPT to work up to 30 hours on campus and only if the additional hours meet the eligibility criteria for CPT. ISSO cannot authorize CPT simply to allow another 10 hours of on-campus employment. Please consult with an International Student Advisor to learn more.

CPT Workshop

Students must first complete a CPT workshop before the ISSO will issue CPT authorizations. The CPT workshop can be found in Cystart.

Cystart Request


Students must submit CPT requests at least 10 working days prior to the CPT learning experience. If applying late, the CPT start date may be later than the date requested on the Cystart CPT request.

Cystart Process

CPT requests can be submitted through an electronic process in Cystart. Students may log in to Cystart using their ISU NetID and password. Complete and submit the Curricular Practical Training request found under F-1 Student Services tab.

Offer Letter Requirements

Students must upload the CPT learning experience offer letter at the time of submission. The offer letter must include the following:

  • Name and address of the company or institution providing the CPT learning experience
  • Name and address of the company or institution where the CPT learning experience will take place, if different from the address of the company
  • Job title
  • Brief description of responsibilities
  • Specific start (month/day/year) and end dates (month/day/year)
  • Number of hours of CPT activity each week

Read in more detail and review examples of offer letters on CPT Offer Letter Requirements.

Academic/Faculty Advisor Verification Process

Students must enter the name and contact information for academic/faculty adviser. An electronic notification will then be sent to the adviser verifying one of the following:

  • CPT optional for current degree program, attaching copy of internship/cooperative education agreement from Career Services Office, if applicable
  • CPT required for graduate study per his or her Program of Study, including copy of Program of Study
  • CPT required for completion of thesis, dissertation, or creative component, including explanation from academic/faculty adviser of how CPT is necessary for completion of thesis, dissertation, or creative component
  • CPT required for all students in this academic program to earn a degree, including section from Iowa State University Catalog which documents this requirement
  • CPT required for completion of course requirement for a specific course, including copy of syllabus from course detailing required CPT experience

ISSO Processing Timeline

10 working days after there is a check mark in all boxes on the Cystart Curricular Practical Training request page. ISSO will not start processing a CPT request until the following steps have been completed:

  • Student completed the CPT workshop
  • Student registered for the CPT course
  • Student submitted the CPT request through Cystart, including job offer letter
  • Verification of academic status and purpose e-forms have been approved by advisers 

Course Registration

Students must be enrolled in the CPT related course before applying for CPT in Cystart. Students must consult with academic/faculty advisers for the information on what courses are appropriate for CPT.

CPT Approval Notification

When CPT request is approved, a new I-20 with CPT authorization will be produced. ISSO will send an e-mail to the ISU e-mail address when the CPT I-20 is ready to be picked up. Students are asked to e-mail ISSO at isso@iastate.edu to check on CPT request if they have not received the e-mail from ISSO after 10 working days, as noted above.

During CPT Experience

Beginning CPT

Students may begin CPT experience only after receiving the new I-20 with CPT authorization.

Changing Employers

Students may change CPT employers, but the new training must meet the eligibility requirements for CPT. To change employers, a student must complete a new CPT request through Cystart and receive a new CPT I-20 with the new company or institution's information on it before participating in a CPT learning experience at that location.

Change of Address for CPT

If a student relocates for a CPT experience, they must update their address in Accessplus within 10 days of moving. 

Immigration Consequences of Unlawful Employment

Students must not work off-campus without work authorization. This is unlawful employment and is a violation of status. The consequences of unlawful employment may be:

  • Violation of F-1 nonimmigrant status
  • Must apply for reinstatement or travel and reenter for new F-1 status
  • Must immediately stop working on campus
  • Any authorized off-campus work will be terminated automatically
  • Lose eligibility for all other benefits of F-1 nonimmigrant status
  • Lose eligibility to change status, for example from F-1 to F-2, F-1 to H-1B, etc.
Disclaimer: This Frequently Asked Questions is intended for general information and guidance. As this information can quickly become outdated or may not apply to your situation, please consult with an International Student Advisor in the International Students and Scholars Office regarding your individual questions.