International Student Practical Training

As an international student in F-1 or J-1 status, it is very important that you understand the regulations regarding work authorization. If you have any questions, please contact the International Center for assistance at or 860.768.4870.

Practical Training

The most common types of student work permission are for practical training related to your major/degree:

  • F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT): authorization for an internship or placement that is a necessary part of your academic program
  • F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT): to gain practical experience in your major field of study, not required by your academic program
  • F-1 STEM Extension of OPT: an extension of Optional Practical Training, available only if your major field is on a designated list of specialized majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and if you are training a qualified employer
  • J-1 Academic Training (AT): to gain practical experience in your major field of study

If you are interested in off-campus employment, please contact the International Center to discuss your eligibility. Employment related questions can be sent to

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

If your major requires a practicum for degree completion or you enrolled in a for-credit course that requires internship hours, you may qualify for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization.

CPT authorization is required for any curricular placement or for-credit internship (paid or unpaid), including:

  • An internship or practicum that is required for degree completion
  • An internship required for a course offered in the UHart course catalog for which a student will earn academic credit
  • An off-campus placement arranged by UHart to pursue graduate thesis/dissertation research that cannot be accomplished on campus, and is required to complete your degree program

If the internship is NOT required: 
CPT authorization must be an “integral part of an established curriculum.” This means it needs to directly related to your academic program and must meet a curricular requirement to qualify.

If you have an internship or employment opportunity that is related to your field of study, but is not required for your program as defined above, you will need to apply for an be approved for Optional Practical Training before you can accept the position.

If your internship qualifies for CPT and you are currently in F-1 status, you will be eligible for authorization after you have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis in a degree program for one full academic year.

Students enrolled in the English Language Institute (ELI) or the International Pathway Program (IPP) are not eligible for CPT.

Important! Students who lose legal F-1 status or take an immigration leave of absence and are issued a new I-20 (new SEVIS ID) for “Initial Attendance” to re-enter the US will re-start the eligibility clock. Any time previously spent in F-1 status will not count toward eligibility. This means after returning to the US with a new I-20, you will have to finish one full academic year of study before being eligible for CPT.

Note! CPT will NOT be granted to students who have finished their program requirements and who are merely delaying graduation to make use of CPT. Additionally, some academic programs at UHart do NOT allow for CPT authorization during the final semester when the coursework is not required.

CPT can be authorized during the academic year or during the summer but must be specified as either part-time or full-time.

The overall amount of CPT that will be authorized is defined by what is required or permitted under your degree program. There is no regulatory limit to CPT, however, if you are authorized for a total of 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training. Periods of part-time CPT authorization do not affect OPT eligibility, however, high usage of even part-time CPT can lead to increased scrutiny and risk when applying for OPT, visa applications, and other DHS benefits, like H1-B petitions.

Part-time CPT Authorization: If your internship requires 20 hours or less of work per week, you will be authorized for part-time CPT.

Full-time CPT Authorization: If your internship requires more than 20 hours of work per week, you will be authorized for full-time CPT.

You must maintain a full-time course load (12 credits for UG or 9 credits for Grad) if you engage in CPT during the Fall or Spring semesters. Students who are approved for a reduced course load and are applying for part-time CPT will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

DO NOT begin any employment until CPT has been approved and authorized on your I-20. CPT is authorized by the International Center for a specific employer, location, hours, and dates. You should always plan to obtain the CPT authorization at least a few weeks before you wish to begin your internship (keep in mind I-20 processing is a minimum of 3-5 business days).

If there is a change of employer, job location, or dates of employment or if you will work for more than one employer at a time, you must reapply for CPT. CPT is employer specific and you can only work for the company listed

When applying for CPT authorization, follow the steps below:

  1. Meet with your Academic Advisor to discuss appropriate internship opportunities for your major.
  2. Enroll in the appropriate course in order to receive credit for CPT (required unless CPT is a degree requirement).
  3. Complete the CPT Request Form and ask your academic advisor to complete and sign the form.
  4. Submit the following to the International Center ( to make your request:
  • Signed CPT Request Form
  • Student Detail Schedule Printable Schedule from Self-Service (Log into Self-Service. Select Student Tab. Click on Registration. Click on Student Detail Schedule and Printable Schedule)
  • Verification or Offer Letter from your employer (Letter should be on letterhead including: Company Name and address, student’s job title, job description, dates of employment, hours per week, salary (if paid) and supervisor’s name, title, and contact information)

The International Center grants permission for CPT after establishing a student’s eligibility and reviewing the application materials. If CPT is approved, the new I-20 is issued within 3-5 business days. You may not begin working until you have been issued a CPT I-20. The new I-20 will reflect the employer’s information and authorization dates on page 2. The I-20 should be shown to the employer as evidence of work authorization.

The International Center cannot authorize CPT with a start date in the past – working without authorization on your I-20 is illegal and your I-20 will be terminated.

How is CPT authorized?

CPT is authorized by a DSO (Designated School Official) at a school approved by SEVP (the Student and Exchange Visitor Program) to enroll students in F-1 status. The CPT authorization is employer, location, and date-specific and it appears as a notation on page 2 of your Form I-20.

Can I withdraw from my CPT course?

No. When CPT authorization is granted based on an academic registration, you must remain registered for the course for the entire semester for which the CPT authorization was granted. IF you withdraw from a course on which CPT was based, your authorization will become invalid and you may jeopardize your F-1 immigration status.

Can I work for a company other than my CPT employer/placement or outside of the authorized dates?

No. CPT is authorized for a specific employer/placement company and location. CPT is also date-specific. You may not begin work until the start date of the CPT authorization and must stop working on or before the end date of the authorization. If you anticipate a change in your CPT employer/placement (or need to begin earlier or work later than the dates for which you have been authorized) you must request a change to your CPT authorization from you academic department and from the International Center. Until and unless this change is approved, you cannot work at another location, begin earlier or work beyond your authorization.

How many hours per week can I work?

CPT is usually authorized part-time (allowing you to work 20 hours or less per week only) during semesters of required study, but may sometimes be authorized full-time (allowing more than 20 hours per week) if full-time participation is required by your program or during periods when full-time registration is not required (such as summer semester). The CPT authorization on page 2 of your I-20 will specific whether your authorization is full or part-time. Any proposed changes must be reviewed and approved by the International Center in advance.

Will my CPT authorization affect my eligibility to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

If you are authorized for an aggregate of 12 months of full-time CPT or more, you will lose eligibility for OPT authorization. If you are approved fro less than 12 months of full-time CPT (in aggregate) or for any amount of part-time CPT, this will not affect your eligibility for OPT. However, keep in mind that the International Center advises students to use caution in regard to high usage of part-time CPT which can lead to increased scrutiny and risk in the future.

Can I apply for a Social Security Number (SSN)?

Your CPT authorization is a type of US employment authorization, and therefore, allows you to apply for a SSN through the Social Security Administration. Instructions on applying can be found here. Your SSN card, when approved, will be stamped “not authorized for employment without DHS authorization.” This stamp means that the Social Security card alone does not grant you work permission. However, the CPT authorization on page 2 of your I-29 is granted in accordance with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations, and can be used along with your SSN to allow you to be paid and taxed correctly in the US for your work.

Can I paid for my CPT employment?

Once you have been granted CPT authorization, you are authorized to work and receive compensation for your CPT employment only. Federal regulations related to hiring, payment, internships and taxation of foreign nationals in the US are quite complex and are governed by US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the US Department of Labor (DOL), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The DOL has established guidelines for employers related to Fair Labor Standards for paid and unpaid internships. 

What are my tax obligations during CPT?

In general, Social Security/FICA taxes should not be withheld from earnings for F-1 non-immigrations, unless they are considered a “resident for tax purposes.” Earnings of F-1 nonimmigrants are usually subject to federal, state, and local income taxes, unless exempted by a tax treaty.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

F-1 students are allowed up to 12 months of off-campus employment authorization to gain practical experience, related to the major field of study, known as Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is granted once per degree level. Students in STEM majors may qualify for an additional 24 month extension of OPT. The information below outlines OPT but STEM OPT Extension has separate eligibility and application process.

As an F-1 student, you are eligible for up to 12 months of OPT authorization at each degree level. You may earn a new period of OPT eligibility if you move to a higher level of education (for example, from a Bachelor’s degree to a Master’s degree), but not if you move to a new program at the same or lower level.

F-1 students become eligible for OPT authorization after one full academic year but many students choose to save the OPT period for after graduation.

You may be eligible to apply for OPT if:

  • You are currently in the US in F-1 status
  • You have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student in a university degree program for at least one full academic year (two full semesters – excluding Summer)
  • You are in good academic standing with the University of Hartford

You may NOT qualify to apply for OPT if:

  • All or part of your last academic year was spent in the English Language Institute or any other English-language training programs (including the International Pathway Program)
  • You were previously authorized for 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • You have previously received opt authorization for the same or higher educational level
  • You are on a leave of absence or suspension from UHart
  • You have had a violation or break in F-1 status in the last academic year and have restarted your F-1 status by travel with a new SEVIS ID/I-20

Full Academic Year: Only a full Spring and a full Fall semester (of full-time coursework) count towards the academic year. Summer is optional and any courses that you may take during the Summer semesters do not count towards the academic year needed for OPT eligibility.

The International Center will review your academic and immigration history to evaluate in order to recommend (or not) a period of OPT. The final decision to grant OPT authorization is made by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

You will need to indicate if you are requesting work authorization for part-time or full-time, when applying for OPT.

Part-time authorization allows you to work up to 20 hours per week.

Full-time authorization is required if you will work over 20 hours per week.

You can apply for periods of OPT authorization as follows:

Part-time Authorization Full-time Authorization
While taking courses during a fall or spring semester Yes No
While enrolled during the summer semester Yes Yes
If you have completed all coursework, except thesis or dissertation (graduates only) Yes Yes
If your OPT begins after graduation No Yes

If you apply for part-time authorization, it will be deducted from your 12 month OPT total at half the rate. For example, if you apply for 4 months of part-time OPT, you have used the equivalent of 2 months of full-time OPT and are still eligible to apply for your remaining 10 months.

Pre-Completion OPT

After you have been enrolled for one full academic year, you can apply to use some or all of your OPT time during your program of study. Pre-completion OPT (OPT that is done prior to program completion) is available part-time only during semesters of required study, but you can choose either part-time or full-time during summer or if you are in the thesis or dissertation stage of your graduate degree.

Whether you are granted part-time or full-time authorization depends on the request you submit during the OPT application process and it will be reflected on your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card. Pre-completion OPT can be paid or unpaid training related to your major field of study. You may work for multiple employers as long as your cumulative number of hours is within your authorized limit.

Under pre-completion OPT, there is no limit on unemployment time. If you do not find a job during your period of authorization, you will use up the amount of OPT eligibility for which you were authorized, but you are not required to report your OPT employer information.

Post-Completion OPT

You may choose to save all or some of your 12 months of OPT eligibility to use after the completion of your degree program. You must have applied for graduation and/or have verification from your academic department confirming the expected completion date of your program of study when applying for OPT.

Post-completion OPT (OPT that is done after the completion of your degree requirements) authorizes you for full-time OPT (20 hours or more per week). Post-completion OPT can be paid or unpaid training experience related to your major field of study. You may work for multiple employers. In order for your OPT work to be considered active, you must be working a minimum of 20 hours per week between all OPT jobs combined. If your combined OPT employment is under 20 hours per week in total, this time may count against your unemployment time.

During post-completion OPT, you may not accrue more than an aggregate of 90 days of unemployment during the entire 12 month OPT period. You must be engaged in at least 20 hours of OPT activity per week to count as active employment. Any activity less than 20 hours per week will count towards your unemployment accrual.

It is highly recommended that you keep detailed and accurate records of your OPT experience/employment in case you are ever required to show proof of your OPT activity.

When to apply for OPT?

OPT applications must be received by USCIS within a specific timeframe in order to be considered. Applications that are received too early or too late will likely be denied by USCIS.

The International Center recommends that students apply for OPT as soon as they are able as it can take an average of 3 months (sometimes longer) for USCIS to respond with a decision.

  • USCIS will accept application for OPT up to 90 days before the program end date (for post-completion OPT), or up to 90 days before the request OPT start date (for pre-completion OPT)
  • Applications must arrive at USCIS no later than 30 days after the OPT recommendation is issued on your I-20 by the International Center.
  • Applications must arrive at USCIS no later than the end of the 60-day grace period after the program end date. Any applications arriving after the grace period may be denied or may not be granted for the full-12 months.
How to apply for OPT?

The International Center hosts an OPT Workshop each semester (usually in September/October and February) and we encourage you to attend prior to applying for OPT.

After attending the workshop, you will gather the documents needed to apply for OPT. Once you have all the documents, you will upload (PDFs, scans, or photos) to the International Center for review and feedback. Once you upload, the review process can take 1-2 weeks so please plan accordingly.

After your application is reviewed by the International Center, you will receive a new I-20 with your OPT recommendation listed on page 2 and you will be able to mail your completed application packet to USCIS for review. USCIS takes and average of 3-5 months to make a decision regarding your OPT.

For information regarding the application process and to get started, please email us at

24-Month STEM OPT Extension

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended and expanded Optional Practical Training (OPT) for certain Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) majors. STEM OPT Extension is not automatic and is different from Pre- or Post-Completion OPT.

  • You must currently hold valid F-1 status and be working on an approved period of post-completion OPT
  • You must have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a major field that appears on the DHS list of STEM majors based on Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) code. See the list here.
  • You must be working for a US employer in a job directly related to your STEM major area of study · Your current or prospective employer must be registered with the DHS E-Verify employment verification system
  • You may not have accrued more than 90 days of unemployment during your initial OPT period · You and your employer must complete a Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students
  • Your employment must be paid and at least 20 hours per week

If you qualify and you are interested in STEM OPT Extension, please familiarize yourself with the DHS website:


If you are eligible to apply for STEM OPT, you will need to note the end date (listed on your EAD card) of your Post-Completion OPT period. USCIS must receive your STEM application within the final 90 days of your OPT period.

This means both:

  • USCIS must NOT receive your STEM application MORE than 90 days BEFORE your OPT end date
  • USCIS must NOT receive your STEM application AFTER your OPT end date

We recommend that you plan ahead. The International Center is unable to expedite processing if you wait too long. Please plan for 1-2 weeks processing AND shipping times to ensure USCIS receives your application packet prior to your end date.


If you qualify and are within the timeframe to apply, please email the International Center at to request a STEM Extension I-20 and for information on how to upload your documents.

The International Center will provide you with a complete checklist to gather the documents needed to submit to USCIS. The International Center does not require you to submit all documents (though you may choose to do so) but you will need to upload the following 4 documents to request a STEM I-20:

  1. Copy of completed and signed Form I-765
  2. I-983 Training Plan signed and completed by you and your employer
  3. Copy of your University of Hartford diploma
  4. STEM Extension Request & Agreement Form
The International Center will process your STEM I-20 after your documents are uploaded – please allow 5-7 business for feedback to be emailed to you. Once the review is complete, you will be issued a new I-20 with the STEM OPT recommendation. You will also be given further instructions on how to mail and assemble your STEM OPT application packet. Please remember, this is your application to USCIS and it is your responsibility that you submit all the correct paperwork. This process should be familiar to you as it is very similar to your first OPT application. (Please note, during the COVID pandemic, you will receive an electronic version of your STEM OPT I-20. You must print and sign this I-20 which will serve as your valid I-20. You will include a copy of the signed I-20 with your application).

If you have any questions or wish to start the STEM OPT application process, please contact for more specific details.