F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or J-1 Academic Training (AT) for Internships
An international student in F-1 or J-1 status cannot receive pay or compensation for off-campus work in the U.S. unless and until the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) has processed the appropriate application and granted authorization, either on a new I-20 for F-1 students or in a new DS-2019 for J-1 students. It is your responsibility to understand the rules of your F-1 or J-1 status and have your international student documents in order by properly consulting with the ISSO. For more information, please visit the ISSO website, office, or contact them at [email protected] or 212-854-3587.
NOTE: SIPA Office of Career Services (OCS) strongly recommends that F-1 and J-1 international students and exchange visitors receive the proper authorization from the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) for any internship done off-campus during their program of study, regardless if it is unpaid/uncompensated or paid/compensated, because of changes in immigration agencies' interpretation of unauthorized work and its impact on your future immigration plans.
* The below application process through SIPA OCS does not apply to students in the MPA-EPM, MPA-DP, and MPA-ESP program. These departments will approve CPT forms for students in this program.
SIPA students must begin your internship by the Monday of the seventh week of the fall or spring semesters or by the last day of July for the summer semester. The internship authorized under CPT or AT must satisfy the SIPA internship requirement expected of ALL students in your program and necessary for completion of your degree.
F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) - After Degree Completion
Optional Practical Training (OPT) in F-1 status is employment related to your field of study immediately after completion of your studies, authorized by USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) through the issuance of an EAD card (Employment Authorization Document). However, your OPT application is first submitted to ISSO for review and to receive an OPT recommendation on a new I-20.
F-1 CPT eligibility: covid-19 update
Beginning with the cohort matriculating for the first time in Fall 2020, SIPA will require students in the four-semester MIA and MPA programs to fulfill their internship requirement during the first Summer following two semesters of full-time enrollment. Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the following conditions apply in AY2021:
- International students enrolled in the Hybrid program in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 will be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during Summer 2021.
- International students enrolled in the Online Only program in Fall 2020, and in the Hybrid program in Spring 2021 will be eligible for CPT during Summer 2021. SIPA Advising Deans will advise students who begin Spring semester Online about how late in the semester they will be allowed to join the Hybrid program, subject to approval of the relevant faculty member and communication with the International Students and Scholars Office; exact dates depend on which Hybrid courses the students are taking, but in no cases would students be allowed to enter the Hybrid program later than April 1.
- Students who first matriculate in the four-semester MIA or MPA program in Spring semester will be eligible for CPT in the first Summer after completing two semesters (for example students matriculating for the first time in January 2021 will be eligible for CPT in Summer 2022).
F-1 CPT Eligibility
F-1 students must be enrolled full-time for two (2) consecutive semesters and be in F-1 status at the time of application for CPT before they can receive authorization for off-campus internships in the U.S. EXCEPTIONS: A student in a formal dual degree program with SIPA and a school overseas (e.g., Sciences Po, London School of Economics, etc.) is eligible for CPT only if he/she has spent the first year overseas and will complete the final year of the program at SIPA.
In addition to meeting the status requirements for CPT eligibility, students must be enrolled full-time at SIPA at the time of application. Dual-degree students that have been admitted to SIPA but have not yet enrolled are not eligible for CPT approval through SIPA. Please review the below section regarding how to apply for CPT as a current F-1 student who is required to fulfill the SIPA internship requirement.
* The application process through SIPA OCS does not apply to students in the MPA-EPM, MPA-DP, and MPA-ESP programs. These departments will approve CPT forms for students in these programs.
Please review all details of F-1 CPT at the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) website. In summary, to be eligible for CPT, you must be:
- in lawful F-1 status for one academic year (two consecutive full-time terms), not counting time in English language preparation;
- a degree candidate;
- have an appropriate internship offer as part of the application.
F-1 CPT Requirements
CPT can be used only during the academic Program
- Students may conduct a part-time internship (20 hours or less per week).
- Students may conduct a full-time internship (more than 20 hours per week), but only when they are continuing at SIPA in the fall.
Fall & Spring Semesters
- Students may conduct a part-time internship (20 hours or less per week) only.
CPT internship start & end dates
CPT is authorized per semester and cannot be authorized for a period of work that is outside of the semester parameters, below. Each new semester of CPT requires a new complete CPT application with new supporting documents. You must begin your internship by the Monday of the seventh week of the fall or spring semesters or by the last day of July for the summer semester.
- Fall semester: September 1 – December 31
- Spring semester: January 1 – May 31
- Summer semester: End of final exams period – August 31
- Fall semester: September 1 – Official last day of semester (refer to Academic Calendar)
- Spring semester: January 1 – Official last day of semester (refer to Academic Calendar)
You CANNOT begin work until your CPT form has been approved by both OCS and ISSO. Therefore, the start date listed on your CPT form must be post-dated. You should allow at least 10 business days for ISSO processing. CPT approval cannot be granted retroactively.
F-1 CPT application process
* The application process through SIPA OCS does not apply to students in the MPA-EPM, MPA-DP, and MPA-ESP program. These departments will approve CPT forms for students in this program.
STEP 1: If you are applying for CPT for the first time, determine which section you will register in for the SIPA U9013 internship course. Most F-1 students will register in the 0-credit section (section 003), to preserve up to 3 credits for additional semesters of CPT.**
Students may earn a maximum of 3 internship credits during their degree program, which includes any credits associated with CPT. When registering for credit that is tied to CPT, you must have completed the first 1.5 credit internship and received a grade BEFORE you will be allowed to register for a second 1.5 credit CPT.
First Semester of CPT: You are not required to receive credit in SIPA U9013 sections 001 (1.5 credits) or 002 (3 credits) for your first CPT since the internship will fulfill a degree requirement. You may instead register in section 003 for 0 credits. Students should register for SIPA U9013 in the fall semester if the internship is completed in the summer or fall; if the internship is completed in the spring semester, students should register in the spring.
Registration exception: For summer internships, if you are registering your first CPT in sections 001 (1.5 credits) or 002 (3 credits), you must pre-register in the prior spring semester or upcoming fall semester, as there is no summer registration.
**Second or Third Semester of CPT: If a second or third CPT is secured, you MUST register in sections 001 (1.5 credits) or 002 (3 credits) of SIPA U9013. This is because the internship degree requirement has already been fulfilled and now any internships completed with CPT will count as electives.
Registration exception: Once again, for summer internships, if you are registering your first CPT in sections 001 (1.5 credits) or 002 (3 credits), you must pre-register in the prior spring semester or upcoming fall semester, as there is no summer registration.
To register for the SIPA U9013 internship course, students should do so during the standard registration period in SSOL or by consulting with the Office of Student Affairs.
You must complete Part 1 and Part 2 of the CPT Request Form and bring it to OCS with a letter offering internship employment from your employer printed on employer's letterhead. The offer letter from your employer must clearly include:
- start and end dates of employment (which should match the CPT form start and end dates within the semester; again, you must begin your internship by the Monday of the seventh week of the fall or spring semesters or by the last day of July for the summer semester)
- how many hours you will work weekly
- a description of duties in sufficient detail to clearly show them as appropriate to meeting the requirements for your degree
- address of the company or organization where employment will take place
OCS will not sign the CPT form without all of the above information stated clearly in the offer letter. If OCS can approve your CPT application, we will complete Part 3 of the CPT Request Form and return it to you so that you can submit your application in its entirety to ISSO for authorization. (See Step 3 of application process, below.)
Submit the below documents in-person to ISSO during ISSO walk-in hours or email to ISSO as a single PDF file at [email protected] for processing as early as 90 days but no less than 10 days before you wish to begin employment.
- CPT Request Form completed by you and signed by SIPA OCS
- Your complete offer letter with all required information
- Your passport and most recent I-94 card
The International Students and Scholars Office staff will then review your application for eligibility. If you are eligible, update your SEVIS record to authorize your CPT, print a new SEVIS I-20 form indicating the approved employment and give it to you. Your employer will need to see this authorization along with your passport and I-94 form to put you on the payroll. You may engage in CPT only after your SEVIS record has been updated by an ISSO adviser to reflect CPT authorization and a SEVIS I-20 has been printed, indicating the approved CPT. The endorsement will indicate the precise details of the authorized training, including the name and location of the employer, the specific dates of the training period, and whether it is full-time or part-time.
We encourage you to contact an ISSO adviser if you still have questions.
J-1 Academic Training (AT)
J-1 students must be enrolled full-time for at least one semester and be in J-1 status at the time of Academic Training (AT) application before they can accept paid internships in the U.S. The application for AT for J-1 students differs from CPT for F-1 students. Students in J-1 status under Columbia’s DS-2019 sponsorship should review the J-1 Academic Training section of the ISSO website for more information.
F-1 OPT Eligibility & information
Three-Step Process to Apply for OPT with ISSO
- Obtain an OPT recommendation from the ISSO on a new I-20.
- Mail your application (I-765) and all supporting documentation for an EAD to the USCIS.
- Receive the EAD in the mail. You may begin to work ONLY after you receive the EAD and no earlier than the start date on the EAD.
Eligibilty for F-1 Students
- Be physically present in the U.S. in F-1 status at the time of application. Do not leave the U.S. during the 60-day grace period following the completion date of your program if you have not yet applied for OPT;
- Have been enrolled in a University-recognized degree or certificate program in lawful student status on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year;
- Have completed all requirements for the award of your University-recognized degree or certificate at the time OPT begins;
- Not have used twelve months or more of full-time curricular practical training (CPT);
- Have received a grade for any course-related CPT done in a prior semester (if applicable);
- Have not previously been authorized for OPT at the same level of study.
Important to Note
- You do not need to have secured a job in the U.S. to process OPT.
- OPT is permitted for a period of up to a maximum of 12 months per educational level (Bachelor's, Master's, etc.).
- The ISSO OPT presentation is available for your review as a PDF under the "Before You Apply" section of the ISSO OPT webpage.
Please see the ISSO OPT website for information on:
- Application period and deadline
- How to apply
- How to mail your EAD Card to USCIS
- Receiving your EAD Card