Student Immigration Definitions

Obtaining F-1 Student Status at Columbia

Important Information for Students Fully Funded
by Columbia University

Transfer of F-1 Supervision

Change of Status to F-1

Message for Canadian Students

Potential Delays in Visa Issuance


Student Tax Information

Maintaining F-1 Status

Academic Certification for Travel

F-1 Travel Information

Govt Q & A for F-1 Travel

DHS Information on Arrival Problems

F-1 Extension of Stay (Current Program)

F-1 Extension of Stay to Begin New Program

F-1 Reinstatement

F-1 Work Opportunities

F-1 Practical Training (PT) Overview

F-1 Curricular Practical Training

F-1 Optional PT Before Degree Completion

F-1 Employment Before Graduation PowerPoint

F-1 Optional PT After Degree Completion

Post-Completion OPT PowerPoint

STEM 17-month OPT extension

F-1 Internship with an International Organization

F-1 Leave of Absence, Suspension or Withdrawal

Student Departure Information

F-1 Reduced Course Load Request

Inviting Relatives/Friends to Visit You

Address Change Form

Applying for a Social Security Number

Curricular Practical Training in F-1 Status

Definition: Curricular practical training (CPT) is employment pursuant to an internship requirement or internship elective which is an integral part of the established curriculum of your school, which will be counted towards completion of your degree.

Eligibility to engage in CPT: You must be a degree candidate who has been in lawful status for at least one academic year. You must have been offered a specific training opportunity that must fall into one of the following categories:

  • to satisfy an internship requirement expected of ALL students in your program and necessary for completion of your degree.
  • to satisfy an internship elective which counts towards completion of your degree. The internship elective must be listed in your school's bulletin and must state in the official course description that it is specifically designed to allow students enrolled in the course to engage in off-campus internships.
  • the internship may be done to engage in research necessary and integral to the completion of the doctoral dissertation.

Restrictions: US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations do not place an absolute limit on the amount of CPT you may utilize. However, if you engage in one year or more of full-time CPT, you will lose your eligibility to engage in Optional Practical Training.

CPT is always part-time during the academic year (maximum of 20 hrs/wk) unless the student is engaged in doctoral dissertation research and has completed all degree requirements except the dissertation. CPT may be full-time during the annual vacation.

CPT taken with academic year coursework should, as with all other courses, be approved at the beginning of the semester in which the course is taken. In no case will the ISSO approve CPT for employment that begins later than 7 weeks prior to the end of classes. Your school may require an earlier start date. The CPT must also be completed during the same semester.

CPT taken without coursework does not sustain F-1 nonimmigrant status, except in the case of doctoral students. If you are a Master's Degree student in your final semester, you must take at least 3 credits of coursework (or more, depending on your school's policy) along with the CPT.

Do not begin CPT employment until after your SEVIS record has been updated by an ISSO adviser and a SEVIS I-20 has been printed with approved employment indicated on it, and you have picked it up. 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.

Procedure: Submit the following documentation to the ISSO as early as possible before you wish to begin employment. The ISSO recommendation requires 10 working days and you should make every effort to apply in a timely manner. If this internship is tied to a specific course, you must register for the course before you apply for CPT and must apply for curricular practical training before or during the normal registration period.

  1. Your current and all previously issued I-20s
  2. Your passport and I-94 card
  3. Letter from the faculty member who will supervise your internship stating:
    1. the specific internship opportunity
    2. the specific degree requirement or elective course (e.g. G7621y) that it satisfies
    3. the minimum requirements to complete the internship
    4. a reasonable period of time needed to complete the internship (e.g., satisfying the requirements of a 1 semester, 3 credit course would normally be done in 1 semester or less )
    5. if CPT is for dissertation research, the student's adviser should provide a detailed letter stating the dissertation topic, what research will be carried out, and why it is necessary for the dissertation.
  4. Letter offering internship employment from your employer including the following information:
    1. beginning and ending dates of employment
    2. how many hours you will work weekly
    3. a description of duties in sufficient detail to clearly show them as appropriate to meeting the requirements for your degree
    4. location of the company or organization where employment will take place


  1. SIPA students: must substitute an approved internship request form from their Office of Career Services in place of the above letters
  2. MBA students: must substitute an approved internship request form from the Graduate School of Business Student Affairs Office in place of the letter from the faculty member.
  3. PhD students in Statistics: who are taking G8520 must obtain approval from the Chairman of the Statistics Department.
  4. JD students: must also include the CPT form completed by Registration Services along with the documents and 2 letters listed above.

The International Students and Scholars Office staff will:

  1. Review your application for eligibility
  2. If you are eligible, update your SEVIS record, print a SEVIS I-20 form indicating the approved employment and give it to you. Your employer will need to see this authorization to put you on the payroll.

Special Considerations:

  • You are still required to register full-time if you are authorized for curricular practical training during the academic year.
  • Curricular practical training that exceeds 20 hours per week constitutes full-time CPT. Students who engage in full-time CPT for twelve months or more prior to graduation will not be eligible for optional practical training (before or after completion of studies).
  • You must have received a grade for any course-related CPT done in a prior semester to be eligible to apply at this time.

We encourage you to contact an adviser at the ISSO if you have questions. Students whose immigration documents were processed by the International Affairs Office at the Columbia University Medical Center should contact the IAO for specific procedures.

Last Reviewed: 09 February 2015 Last modified: 09 February 2015
Columbia University International Students and Scholars Office