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Hi there!!! 👋

If you are an international student in the USA doing Bachelor, Master, or Ph.D. and want to go for an internship/co-op, this post is for you.

Most students look for an internship during the Summer, and having a paid internship not only provides good monetary support but also offers the opportunity to network with potential people.

However, one cannot join an internship without the university’s approval, and the students must submit a CPT application that needs to be approved by the university.

In this post, I will discuss the difference between Internships and Co-Ops, as well as the ins and outs of the CPT application process.

Difference between Internship and Co-op

An internship is a short-term work experience, typically lasting a few months. A student works for a company or organization to gain practical experience in their field. An internship usually focuses on learning and gaining exposure to the industry. Interns may or may not receive academic credit for their work and may be paid or unpaid.

Conversely, a co-op is a longer-term work experience that usually lasts several semesters or quarters. Like an internship, co-op students work for a company or organization to gain practical experience in their field of study. Still, a co-op focuses on applying what they have learned in the classroom to real-world situations. Co-op students alternate periods of full-time work with periods of full-time study. Coop students often receive academic credit for their work, and they are almost always paid for their time.

In summary, while both internships and co-ops provide students with valuable work experience, co-ops are usually longer and more structured, emphasizing applying classroom learning to the workplace.

CPT Application

CPT stands for Curricular Practical Training. It is a type of work authorization for F-1 visa holders (aka International Students) studying in the United States.

CPT allows students to work off-campus in a position related to their field of study, such as an internship or co-op, while still enrolled in their academic program.

To be eligible for CPT, F-1 students must have been enrolled in their academic program for at least one year. They must receive academic credit for their practical training.

The work experience must also be an integral part of the student’s curriculum. The training must be directly related to the student’s major study area. And that needs to be highlighted on the Offer Letter with a job description.

To apply for CPT, students must obtain approval from their International Student and Scholar Services Office (ISSSO) and provide documentation showing that the proposed employment meets the requirements for CPT.

Once approved, the student can work for the specified employer and period of time, and the CPT authorization will be noted on their Form I-20.

CPT applications are typically renewed each semester. So, in case of Co-Op, you have to submit CPT application once again in the later semester.

Information Required for CPT Application

Typically, the company you are supposed to join, needs to provide the following information to have your CPT application approved by the ISSSO.

  1. Company Name and Address: The offer letter should have the company’s full name, address, phone number, and email address.

  2. Employment Start and End Dates: The offer letter should include the proposed start and end dates of the employment.

  3. Job Title and Description: The offer letter should mention the job title of the position the student will be employed in and provide a brief description of the duties and responsibilities.

  4. Work Schedule: The offer letter should specify the weekly work schedule, including the number of hours per week and the days and times the student will be expected to work.

  5. Compensation: The offer letter should state the hourly wage or salary the student will be paid, along with any additional benefits such as bonuses, health insurance, or paid time off.

  6. Supervisor Name and Contact Information: The offer letter should mention the name and contact information of the student’s immediate supervisor or manager.

  7. Acknowledgment of CPT Requirements: The offer letter should include a statement acknowledging that the employer is aware of the CPT requirements and agrees to comply with them.

Among the listed items, job title, job description, start and ending (if possible) dates, hours per week, company name, and location of the job (internship/co-op) are mandatory information required by almost all accredeted universities.

Most of these information are typically provided on the offer letter. If not, the student should contact his/her recruiter to provide the information either by editing the offer letter (if possible), or providing an extra letter/document/email.

Most universities require a signature on the application from a representative of the company. Maybe the supervisor, manager or the recruiter can sign the form.

Note that, many companies do not sign the step on the CPT appliocation and it is normal. In that case, you have to request your company to provide you a letter notifying why they will not sign it, that’s all!

CPT Application Process and Steps

Here are the general steps and process for applying for CPT:

  1. Check your eligibility: Before applying for CPT, you must ensure you are eligible for it. You must be a full-time student in good academic standing and have completed one full academic year.
  2. Secure a job or internship offer: To apply for CPT, you must secure a job or internship offer from an employer in your field of study.
  3. Obtain a CPT authorization letter: Once you have a job or internship offer, you must obtain a CPT authorization letter from your academic advisor or designated school official (DSO). The letter should include the following information:

    • Your name, student ID number, and program of study
    • The employer’s name, address, and contact information
    • The start and end dates of the CPT authorization
    • A description of the work you will be doing and how it relates to your field of study
    • The number of hours per week you will be working
    • The academic credit you will receive for the CPT
  4. Submit your CPT application: You will need to submit your CPT application to your university’s International Student and Scholar Services Office (ISSSO). The application should include the following documents:

    • Your CPT authorization letter
    • A completed CPT application form
    • A copy of your job or internship offer letter
  5. Wait for ISSSO approval: Once you have submitted your CPT application, you must wait for ISSSO to approve it. The processing time may vary depending on the university, so submitting your application as early as possible is best.

  6. Receive your CPT authorization: If your CPT application is approved, you will receive a CPT authorization on your I-20 form. This authorization will allow you to work for the specific employer and time period specified in your CPT authorization letter.

It is important to note that the CPT application process may vary depending on your university’s specific requirements and procedures. It is always best to consult with your academic advisor or ISSSO for guidance and support throughout the process.

So, that’s all for today! If you already received and accepted an offer letter, congratulations and all the best!


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