Comparing and Contrasting Your F-1 Student Visa Work Options: OPT v. CPT

You may currently be in the U.S. on a F-1 Visa, and want to work. You have heard of “OPT” and “CPT” but do not know much about these employment authorization options and are not sure what the difference is between them. This article will help you plan for one of these employment authorizations by comparing and contrasting them. 

CPT- Curricular Practical Training OPT – Optional Practical Training
  • Temporary Work Authorization for 12 months;
  • For undergraduate students;
  • Must have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year;
  • Full-time or part-time work;
  • Requires a signed agreement between student and employer;
  • Requires enrollment in an internship class with on-the-job training; 
  • The training must relate directly to the student’s area of study, be part of the program of study; and
  • Fee, if in summer or winter.
  • Temporary Work Authorization for 12 months;
  • For undergraduate and graduate students;
  • Students are allowed to work for 1 year after they have completed at least one academic year; 
  • Can only work 20 hours a week;
  • Does not require any employment or job offer.
  • Must relate to course of study but is not integral; and
  • (part-time) while school is in session;
  • No fee except for filing fee; and
  • students have an option to extend their OPT for another 17 months with STEM OPT extension; this is only applicable to certain majors.

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