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Practical Training

What is CPT?

CPT is for F-1 Student visa holders who wish to take part in a paid or unpaid off-campus internship provided they have maintained their visa status. It is a class and is not meant to be a road to employment. It is vital that your CPT learning experience be an instrumental part of achieving a curricular academic objective.

To maintain your status, you must register, update addresses, obtain authorization for all employment with or from ISSS.

Do I have to register for credit?

Yes. Because CPT is a class, enrollment is required. The Career Management Center and your academic department can help you with determining both how many credits you need and the course number.

Is this a way to obtain long-term employment?

While on CPT, you are on a Student visa and, therefore, your focus must legally remain your studies and graduation. CPT can help you learn what you are looking for in your field or in an employer. In some cases, CPT employers are interested in hiring students when they start their OPT after graduation.

What are the requirements for obtaining CPT?

The following items are requirements for CPT eligibility:

  • Attend the CPT workshop within six months of your internship
  • GPA--Undergraduates: 2.0, Graduates: 3.0
  • Two semesters of full-time enrollment in a fall/spring or spring/fall combination completed
  • Approved RCL in ISSS for any semester in which you took fewer than the required number of credits (ANY time undergraduates go below 12 hours and graduates go below 9 hours)

What is full-time and part-time CPT?

Full-time CPT is an internship where you work 21 or more hours per week. Part-time is 20 or fewer. If, once you have started your CPT, you find you need to decrease or increase your hours, a new application must be filed and approved before you work the new hours.

Can I have a graduate assistantship and do CPT at the same time?

If everyone in your program is required to have the internship or practicum, you may have both a part-time CPT and a graduate assistantship.

If an internship is not required of everyone in your program, you may not have a graduate assistantship and do CPT at the same time during the fall or spring semester.

If you are in your graduating semester and CPT is not required of everyone in your program, you may not have an assistantship or on-campus employment of any kind.

When can I do CPT?

As stated above, you must have been in full-time student status for two full semesters (an academic year) before you can do CPT. Students may do one semester of part-time CPT any semester after that while they are full-time students. Full-time CPT can only be done in the summer or in the graduating semester.

Between which dates can I do CPT?

CPT is a class and, therefore, can only be done within the dates of the academic semester.


Earliest Possible Start Date

Latest Possible End Date

Summer 2014

19 May 2014

8 August 2014

Fall 2014

23 August 2014

12 December 2014

Spring 2015

10 January 2015

8 May 2015

Are there any exceptions to the above date/hour requirements?

Yes. If an internship is required of every student in your program, you may do your CPT when required after obtaining approval from your ISSS advisor, who will require documentation of the mandatory internship/practicum from your department.

Can I use elective credits for my internship?

Yes, but please note that just because an elective is required, that does not mean an internship is required. There are currently only eight programs at ODU that require ALL participants complete an internship.

What do I need to know if I am doing CPT in my graduating semester?

You must register for CPT and additional academic credits; part-time or full-time CPT is permitted (see Question 6 above for more info). Note that you may have only one graduating semester; if you do not graduate as planned, you must wait for OPT upon graduation.

Can I apply for CPT after I've submitted my OPT application?

No, this is not permitted by Immigration.

What items must I submit to ISSS to apply for CPT?

You only need to submit the CPT Request Form, the CPT Responsibilities Form and the original internship offer letter (see Question 15 below). Be sure you do not have any registration holds and that the CMC has added the course to your schedule.

Your start date can never be in the past; it must be at least 10 business days in the future from the date you submit your application.

What information does my employer need to add to my offer letter?

All of the following must be included in your letter:

  • Your name
  • Internship site's name and address
  • Hours of work per week
  • Stating if position is paid or unpaid; if paid, wages must be states at an hourly rate
  • Brief description of duties
  • Start and end dates (current semester only)
  • Statement that this is an internship only (i.e. not long-term employment); a template of the letter is part of the CPT application packet.

What if my supervisor wants me to start immediately; is that possible?

No. Your supervisor, to ensure that the internship site and you are following the law, must allow time for your paperwork to be processed. If you go to your internship site before you have your CPT I-20, you will be in violation of the law and ineligible for future benefits like OPT.

If my supervisor has questions about taxes or offering me employment, what should I do?

Refer your supervisor to the Off-Campus Employers section of the ISSS web site for more information.

How long does it take to get my CPT processed?

In the CMC, it will take a few days and, in ISSS, it takes up to 10 business days for us to process your application and issue your new I-20. We will do our best to process your application as quickly as possible. Please do not call or come to the office for a status check. Instead, you can e-mail the office at the end of the 10 business-day processing time.

What happens when my CPT is approved?

You'll get an e-mail in your ODU student e-mail inbox. This will let you know that your I-20 is ready for pick-up in ISSS. Once you have your I-20 and the start date of your CPT has arrived, you may begin your internship.

If my CPT is out of the Norfolk area, do I need to do anything special?

First, make sure your addresses (SEVIS U.S. and ODU Permanent) are updated. Keep an eye on ISSlist e-mails for updates and reminders of paperwork requirements. Attend the OPT workshop BEFORE you leave for your CPT.

What if my department requires an internship or practicum of everyone in the program?

The best thing to do is to attend the CPT workshop and then follow up by meeting with your ISSS advisor. Also, see Question 6 above for more information.

Please fill these forms out online FIRST and then print to sign and submit to your department. Thanks!


What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

There are two types of OPT. This section discusses Regular OPT; for information about STEM OPT, please visit that tab above. Regular OPT is temporary employment authorized by Immigration for F-1 visa holders for 12 months. It must be directly related to your major and gives you a chance to put your classroom knowledge into real world practice.

When should I submit my OPT application?

Between 14 weeks before graduation and 4 weeks after graduation. Once you pick up your application and new I-20 from ISSS, be sure to send it immediately to Immigration because your I-20 must be received by them within 30 days of the I-20's issuance.

Do I have to be graduating to apply for OPT?

Yes, with some exceptions for Ph.D. students who have completed their coursework (discussed in detail in the OPT workshop). You must have already applied for graduation with the Registrar.

What are the eligibility requirements?

  • Sufficient GPA: 3.0 for graduates and 2.0 for undergraduates
  • SEVIS U.S., SEVIS Home Country and ODU U.S. "Permanent" addresses updated
  • Full-time course registration; if you took fewer than 9 credits (GRADUATE students) or 12 credits (UNDERGRADUATE students) in a fall or spring semester, you had an approved Reduced Courseload Request (RCL) from ISSS
  • Passport valid for at least six months into the future
  • OPT workshop within six months of your OPT application

How long does it take for my application to be processed?

ISSS' processing time for OPT applications--once all required documentation is received and is verified to be complete--is ten business days. Immigration is permitted to take 90 days to issue your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). In reality, your EAD may arrive at any time within the two- to four-month period after your application is received by USCIS.

Are there any special circumstances for Ph.D. students?

Yes. If you successfully complete ALL requirements for your degree and you have applied for graduation, you may submit your application for OPT. Note that you are also able to apply for CPT, but that application must be processed before your OPT because SEVIS does not permit the issuance of a CPT I-20 after an OPT I-20 has been prcoessed. Please see your ISSS advisor for more details.

What documents must I submit for OPT?

  • OPT Request Form (filled out online and then printed)
  • Copies of ALL I-20s EVER issued to and used by you from ODU and any other school
  • Copies of biographical information page from your passport (if the picture and/or expiration date are on different pages, include those as well)
  • Copy of most recent visa stamp
  • I-94: if you have the card (from a pre-May 2013 entry), copy of BOTH sides OR I-94 print-out
  • Copies of the front only of any previous EADs
  • Personal or cashier's check for $380 made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    • Your SEVIS ID number and "OPT" must be in the bottom left section
    • If your name and full address are not on the check, please write them in
    • A money order is not acceptable
  • Two passport-style photos (be sure to save your receipt in case Immigration returns your application because the pictures don't meet requirements)
  • See the OPT example to make sure you properly prepare your application

Should I submit my application in any special format?

See the OPT example and follow it carefully to be sure you have properly prepared the application.

After my OPT I-20 is issued, what are the next steps?

ISSS will send an e-mail to your ODU student e-mail account with information on how you will send your application to Immigration. We strongly recommend you send your application via FedEx or United Parcel Service (UPS) to track its progress and, most especially, delivery confirmation, an extra service for a few more dollars.

Immigration will not accept your application more than 90 days before your requested start date, so be sure you plan well when sending in your application.

What happens if Immigration has questions after getting my application?

Sometimes, Immigration will contact you because they can't read something clearly, your pictures do not meet requirements, you haven't submitted all I-20s or some other reason. This is called an Request for Evidence (RFE) or Request for Information (RFI). Simply respond with what they are requesting; if you want ISSS to be sure you are responding properly, you can scan the RFE in PDF format to our office e-mail address. Any time you subit something to Immigration, be sure to keep a scan/copy with your important papers.

When does my OPT start?

Many students request to start the Monday after graduation, depending on when the application is submitted or other plans. You may submit an OPT application up to 30 days past the program end date of your graduating semester. Your Regular OPT must be completed within 14 months of your program end date.

What happens if my requested start date passes and I still don't have my EAD?

You must not work unless your EAD card is with you and the date on the card has arrived. Call the phone number on the receipt you get from Immigration to learn your options. Note that multiple calls will result in a longer processing time.

What if I want to start another degree program at ODU or another school while on OPT?

Immigration requires that your OPT time is to be primarily spent working. Therefore, Immigration does not permit students to be degree-seeking in any program. If you wish to begin another degree, you will need to get a new I-20 and be prepared to stop work when the I-20 is issued.

Do I have to notify you about where I am working/volunteering?

Yes. Every six months and/or when there is change in your employment, you must submit the OPT Employment Update within five days of any updates. Your first OPT Employment Update as soon as you receive your card.

IMPORTANT: Because Immigration does require it, ISSS will not issue a new I-20 for you if your employer has changed. At this time, the SEVIS system does not update that information for print-outs.

Do I have to have a job before applying for OPT?

No, many students have no idea where they'll be working when they start their OPT. You may have a maximum of 90 days' unemployment on Regular OPT; this time counts both inside and outside the U.S. In your final semester, you should be seeking advice and resources from the Career Management Center with the goal of beginning your OPT upon graduation (for most students).

What if I can't find a job within 90 days?

Per Immigration, before the end of 90, you must do one of the following:

  • Leave the U.S. and continue your job search from your home country (but return in another visa status)
  • Return to school for a new degree program (but lose OPT)
  • Change to another visa status

Do I still need to update my addresses with ISSS?

Yes. Your OPT is granted on an ODU I-20 and, therefore, we are the office who forwards your address updates to Immigration. Current information is required to properly maintain your status. The following pieces of information must be current at all times while on OPT:

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your address changes while your application is pending with USCIS, you must contact them at the phone number found at the bottom of your OPT receipt.

If I change my visa status or update my passport, what do I need to do?

Please submit a grayscale PDF scan of your new visa status or updated passport to ISSS so we can make the proper updates in our file and your SEVIS record.

Is there anything else I need to keep updated with ISSS?

Yes, along with your address, visa status and employment updates, we also ask that you submit a grayscale scan of your EAD.

How does OPT affect travel outside the U.S.?

While Immigration is processing your Regular OPT application, ISSS recommends you not leave the U.S. because they may contact you for additional information. If you aren't here, you won't be able to provide it.

A travel signature is required just as when you are studying but you can only return to the U.S. on OPT if it is to begin or resume a job. You must have a job offer letter and, if you were previously working the company, pay stubs as well. Your OPT I-20 will have your first travel signature; beyond that, you must submit your I-20 (and your dependents', if applicable) to ISSS. An e-mail will be sent to your ODU student e-mail account when it is ready for pick-up.

What if my visa stamp has expired?

If you are leaving the U.S., you must get an F-1 visa to re-enter for your OPT. Special travel conditions apply for trips to Mexico, Canada and islands adjacent to the U.S. Most students' visa stamps will expire while they are on OPT--or even before--but stamps are only required to enter not to stay.

My major was Accounting but I now work at a restaurant. Will Immigration ask me about this?

If your job is "borderline" (may not appear to be directly related to your major), ask your supervisor to write a letter on company letterhead to justify the connection between your education and your position. Keep this letter for future reference. In this example, the student is actually the accountant for the restaurant.

My OPT I-20 expires on my graduation date. Don't I need to extend it?

No. Your OPT I-20 is valid together with your EAD. Your OPT I-20 expires when your EAD expires.

Can I take a class for fun or for my job?

Yes. You can take up to two nondegree courses per semester as an OPT participant.

Is it possible for me to expedite the processing done at Immigration?

Unfortunately, Immigration has not informed us of any procedure that will achieve this. As stated above, you should not call regularly to check on the status of your OPT; doing so will lengthen the processing time.

Can I work for more than one employer?

Yes. You can work in any position that applies to your major--as long as you submit an OPT Employment Update for each position.

How many hours per week can/must I work?

To qualify as being employed (i.e. to stop count for the 90 days of unemployment), you must work at least 20 hours per week. There is no maximum to the number of hours you can work.

Can I volunteer to stop the 90-day clock?

Yes. You may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern while on OPT where it does not violate labor laws. Check with the HR office at the company or a labor lawyer to verify this. The volunteer work must be at least 20 hours per week. You must still obtain a letter--for your own records, not for submission to ISSS--from your supervisor for the volunteer position to verify that you are not being paid and that you are volunteering at least 20 hours per week. Volunteer positions must be within your field of study and submitted to the OPT Employment Update form.

Do I have to submit an OPT Employment Update for a volunteer position?

If you are ONLY volunteering and the position meets the criteria mentioned above, yes. If you have a primary position (already submitted to the OPT Employment Update form) and are doing something for, say, the Red Cross in your free time, no.

How do I renew my driver's license?

You need your OPT I-20 and EAD to do this. If you don't yet have your EAD, you can request a letter from ISSS and take that along with your OPT I-20 to the DMV along with their other required documents.

Do I have to continue with ODU's insurance requirement while on OPT?

No, but we strongly recommend you maintain insurance on a month-to-month basis until you get a job where it is offered to you. You are eligible to continue with ODU's insurance; please contact ISSS to request the form.

What if my employer applies for an H-1B for me?

Immigration will allow you to continue working on OPT provided your EAD has not expired, you made a timely application and your H-1B has a requested start date of 1 October. This is call the cap gap and a special I-20 is required to maintain your status from the end of your EAD until the start of your H-1B. To request a cap-gap I-20, submit an I-20 request and e-mail a grayscale PDF of your receipt notice to ISSS. The standard processing time for I-20s applies.

Note that, per Immigration, you cannot travel while during your cap gap period. ISSS recommends you confer with your immigration attorney for further questions about this Immigration benefit.

What is STEM OPT?

STEM refers to majors in Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It allows a student who majored in one of those areas to obtain a STEM OPT extension of an additional 17 months, bringing the total OPT time to 29 months. Minors do not count for STEM.

What is the STEM OPT application procedure?

The following items must be submitted to apply for STEM OPT:

  • Request for STEM (filled out online)
  • I-765 (filled out online)
  • STEM OPT Responsibilities form
  • Copies of all I-20s ever issued to you by ODU and any other school
  • Biographical information page from your passport (if the picture and/or expiration date are on different pages, include those as well)
  • Most recent visa stamp
  • I-94: if you have the card (from a pre-May 2013 entry), copy of BOTH sides OR I-94 print-out
  • Any previous EADs (front side only)
  • Two passport-style photos (can be taken at University Card Center)
  • Personal check for $380 made out to USCIS
  • Copy of diploma

Please note that copies should be submitted on 8.5 x 11 paper ("American-sized") and documents should be copied both in actual size and centered on the page. The only exception to this is your diploma, which must be reduced in size to fit on 8.5 x 11 paper. NO COLOR COPIES, PLEASE!

What if I change employers while my STEM OPT application is pending?

Notify ISSS immediately via e-mail AND submit the OPT Employment Update. In your e-mail, be sure to provide both your UIN and your SEVIS ID number, as well as specifically state that your STEM OPT application is pending. ISSS must then notify Immigration directly.

What is the STEM OPT application timeline?

Per Immigration, you should submit your STEM OPT application 120 days before your Regular OPT expires--no sooner than that. As always, your application will take up to ten business days to be processed in ISSS. As with Regular OPT, you will be sent an e-mail to notify you when it is ready for you to pick up and then you will mail it to the address we have indicated in that e-mail.

What happens if I don't get my EAD in time?

Provided you have submitted your application to ISSS within the time period mentioned in the previous question, you should get a receipt from Immigration that will allow you to continue working up to 180 days while your EAD is being issued. Be sure to keep your receipt--even after your EAD is issued.

What are the STEM OPT employment requirements?

Your employer must be registered with E-Verify, a Department of Labor system. STEM OPT employment must be for at least 20 hours per week.

Can I travel on STEM?

Yes, however, Immigration states that you may not travel after your application has been sent to USCIS. Once your STEM OPT EAD has been issued, you'll be able to travel with proof of employment with an E-Verify employer and other documents as detailed on our Travel Reminders. If you need to get a new visa in your passport, you'll get an F-1 stamp.

Do I need any special documentation to re-enter the U.S. after travel while on STEM?

Yes. You must have the following:

  • Proof of employment that you'll be starting or resuming a job
  • Pay stubs from current employer(s)
  • STEM OPT I-20 with a signature from ISSS less than six months old upon re-entry
  • EAD
  • Transcript or copy of diploma

While I am on STEM, do I need to notify ODU of anything?

Yes, you must continue with address updates (SEVIS U.S., SEVIS Home Country and U.S. Permanent) just as when you were a registered student. You must also submit OPT Employment updates every six months--or sooner if there is a change in your work situation. IMMIGRATION WILL TERMINATE YOUR SEVIS RECORD (AND OPT) IF YOU DO NOT GET THE UPDATES TO US IN TIME.

Am I allowed to have any unemployment days on STEM?

Yes, you may be unemployed up to 120 days on STEM.

Can I volunteer while on STEM OPT to stop the unemployment "clock?"

Yes. With STEM OPT, you are given an additional 30 days (total 120 if combined with the 90 days from Regular OPT) to be without a job.

You may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern while on STEM OPT where it does not violate labor laws. Check with the HR office at the company or a labor lawyer to verify this. The volunteer work must be at least 20 hours per week and the organization must be E-Verified. You must still obtain a letter--for your own records, not for submission to ISSS--from your supervisor for the volunteer position to verify that you are not being paid and that you are volunteering at least 20 hours per week. Volunteer positions must be within your field of study and submitted to the OPT Employment Update form.

Can I have more than one employer on STEM OPT?

Yes, but all employers must be registered with E-Verify.