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CPT & OPT Explained

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) - During College

CPT authorization is available to F-1 students who would like to take part in off-campus internships relating to their degree programs. The student must receive course credit for the internship.  Internship for credit is only available to Manhattanville students after they have completed 60 credits, declared their major and completed their first portfolio review. The internship may part-time (20 hrs per week or less) during the academic year and full-time (20+ hours per week) during summers. Please note: that an internship is defined as supervised employment of limited duration, with education and experience being its primary function. Full-time, continuous, benefits-eligible employment is not appropriate for an internship. Visit the OISS and CCD to learn the steps necessary for Internship/CPT authorization and credit registration. 

OISS: F1 Internship Registration
by: oiss

Optional Practical Training (OPT) - After Graduation

Option 1

Optional Practical Training (OPT):  If you would like to get work experience in your major/minor field of study after graduation, you may apply for up to 12 months (a 17 month extension of OPT is available to some Science, Technology, Engineering and Math students with jobs directly related to their majors) of OPT employment authorization from the USCIS.  You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT! 

The deadline for filing your OPT application is 60 days after commencement (we recommend you apply much earlier up to 90 days before commencement most students apply around 80 days before commencement. You may travel while waiting for your OPT to be granted if it is BEFORE commencement.


If you are thinking about making travel plans AFTER commencement, your OPT must be authorized (and your OPT/EAD Card in hand) before you leave the country AND you should have a job to which you are returning.  When your OPT is authorized, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.  If you do travel, you will need your OPT/EAD Card, a travel endorsed I-20, a current F-1 student visa (not everyone's visa is valid through their OPT year) and a letter from an employer to return to the U.S. The OISS will assist in the OPT application process. Those that have an expired visa are allowed limited travel and not necessarily to their home country.  It can be risky to try and extend your student visa during your OPT.

It may take between 60-90 days to get your OPT authorized by the USCIS, so patience is paramount.  If you don't expect to start working soon after graduation, you can make your start date up to 60 days after graduation (this gives you some time to find a place to live).  Remember you don't need a job to get your OPT authorized!

Option 2

Are you planning to begin a new program of study? If you are going to begin a new program at another school, you need to get a new I-20 for that program and report to the International Student Office at that school within the first 15 days of the term.  We will have to release your USCIS records from the SEVIS system to your new school so they can make a new I-20, but we can't do this on your word alone, we will need documentation (acceptance letter). Your new school may want transfer notification - sometimes they require a form to be filed by the OISS.  Please do this in a timely manner and not the last minute.

YOUR IMMIGRATION STATUS ENDS (and your legal stay in the U.S.) SIXTY (60) days after commencement UNLESS you have done one of the following:

  • Applied for OPT
  • Received a new I-20 and notified the USCIS of your new program of study
  • Applied for a change to another non-immigrant status BEFORE THAT DATE! 

The USCIS has new serious penalties, which apply to individuals who "overstay" this date and remain in the U.S. unlawfully.  If you need information, contact us!

Option 3

Spend some of the sixty days sightseeing the U.S. -- pack up, return home and start your career back at home!

OPT Reporting

Once you have recieved your OPT/EAD card, it the students responsibility to report their address, employer, employer's address, the name and phone number of their supervisor.  Please see OPT Reporting for more details.



While Your OPT Application Is Pending at the USCIS

Q: I have sent my OPT application to the USCIS Service Center. Can I travel outside the U.S. while I wait for my EAD card to arrive?

YES. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently rendered a new interpretation of F-1 regulations relating to travel during post-completion OPT. If you travel outside the U.S. and your request for OPT is still pending at the Service Center, you may re-enter the U.S. to search for employment.

Q: I have a tourist visa (B-2) that is valid for 10 years. Can't I just reenter the U.S. on my tourist visa while waiting for the EAD card and then start to work with the card once I get it?

NO!! If you leave the U.S. and re-enter on a tourist visa, you will not be in F-1 student status or eligible for F-1 benefits. Therefore, if you reenter the U.S. in B-2 status, your OPT application and EAD card will not be valid for work authorization.

After Your OPT Application Has Been Approved

Q: My OPT application has been approved by the USCIS Service Center. Can I travel and then re-enter the U.S.?


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently rendered a new interpretation of F-1 regulations relating to travel during post-completion OPT:

  • If your OPT has been approved and you depart the U.S. before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot reenter. 
  • If your OPT has been approved and you have a job or a job offer, you may travel and reenter the U.S. to continue working at the same job - but only if you have a valid visa.

Q: What documents will I need to reenter the U.S.?

  • A letter from your employer verifying that you are employed under OPT or a letter from an employer offering you a job
  • Your SEVIS I-20 with an OISS Advisor's signature on page 3. The signature must not be more than six months old.
  • Your valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) 
  • Your valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa  (except for re-entry from Canada, Mexico and contiguous territories after short trips of < 30 days). PLEASE NOTE: Citizens of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria may not reenter the U.S. with an expired visa. Also, individuals who have a U.S. visa application pending at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate will not be able to reenter the U.S. Last, individuals whose U.S. visa application was denied will not be able to reenter the U.S. 

Q: The completion date in section 5 (page 1) of my I-20 is my graduation date and that date has passed. Is this a problem for me if I have a valid EAD Card?

NO. When you have an EAD card, the "validity" of your I-20 is automatically extended until the ending date of your OPT period. Therefore, with proof of employment, and your EAD card, you may travel with your I-20 even if the completion date in Section 5 (page 1) has passed.

Q: Do I still need to get my I-20 signed by OISS during my year of OPT?

During your OPT year, you need to have your I-20 signed once for travel outside the U.S. But if you feel unsure, we will gladly sign it again.

Q: The F-1 visa in my passport has expired, but I want to travel outside the U.S. while on OPT. Do I need to get a new visa to return to the U.S.?

If you are visiting Canada or Mexico and staying less than 30 days (and you are not a citizen of Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan or Syria) Read more about AUTOMATIC REVALIDATION

NO, you do not need a new F-1 visa. You may re-enter the U.S. with your expired F-1 visa, letter from your employer verifying your employment, valid passport, valid EAD card and your I-20 (which must have a DSO signature on page 3, signed within the past 6 months).

If you will travel elsewhere …

YES, you will need a new F-1 visa. You will need to go to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and obtain a new F-1 visa to be eligible to reenter the U.S.

Q: In what ways is my application for a new F-1 visa affected by being on OPT?

While on OPT, you are still considered to be in F-1 student status and can apply for an  F-1 visa . However, while on OPT, the risk of denial of your application may be higher than when you were a student. This is because the Consular Officer may think that your OPT is an avenue for you to immigrate to the U.S. You must prove non-immigrant intent to qualify for an F-1 visa. If the Consular official is not convinced of your intention to return home, your F-1 visa application may be denied.

Q: What documents do I need to show at the U.S. Consulate for a new F-1 visa  while on OPT?

An official letter offering employment and showing salary, location, job duties and beginning date. The letter should indicate that you will be working only during your OPT period and that you will stop working on your OPT ending date.

  • Your valid passport
  • Your SEVIS I-20  with unexpired DSO signature on page 3
  • Financial documents
  • Your OPT/EAD card

You should also be prepared to discuss how this job experience will help you find a job in your home country.

OPT Application Procedures

Traditionally, we make the OPT application together in the OISS - you will need an appointment and the majority of the students apply early in the Spring semester before they graduate.  February or March - watch emails for more information.

During your one-hour appointment we (together) will assemble the following:

  • $380 fee in the form of a check or money order made to "U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service"
  • I-765 completed and signed
  • photocopy of SEVIS I-20 with OPT recommendation on page 3
  • photocopy of all previous I-20s including endorsement page to prove whether OPT was recommended in the past.
  • photocopy of any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)
  • photocopy of biographical page(s) of passport
  • photocopy of most recent visa
  • photocopy of I-94 card (front and back)
  • two recent photos according to USCIS specifications

With all that in mind, an F-1 student applying for Optional Practical Training, applications are sent to the Vermont Service Center.

Travel with an Expired F-1 Visa

Yes, there are some options for those of students whose visa has expired.  Most students are unaware of two facts.  You can stay in the U.S. with an expired visa, as long as you have the other supporting documents for your status (current I-20, I-94, passport and attending school as required.  The other is automatic revalidation if your travel is less than 30 days and you visit one of the following countries.  Read more about AUTOMATIC REVALIDATION