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Practical Training

Practical training is temporary employment authorization to gain practical experience in your major area of study. Accordingly, work experiences must be directly related to an F-1 student’s program of study as indicated in item 5 on the Form I-20. F-1 students pursuing a program of study other than an English language program or distance degree program who have maintained status and been lawfully enrolled in a full course of study for one full academic year without an interruption in status (e.g., leave of absence) are eligible to apply for practical training employment authorization if they meet all of the eligibility requirements.

There are two types of Practical Training experiences: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is temporary work authorization for an internship, co-op, practicum, or professional experience occurring prior to degree completion that is directly related and integral to an F-1 student’s major program of study as indicated in item 5 on the Form I-20 (not a minor or previous major).

Immigration regulations allow for CPT experiences to be authorized as part-time (fewer than 20 hours a week) or full-time (20+ hours a week) if proper ESF approval is obtained. On-campus employment (including assistantships) and CPT together cannot amount to over 20 hours of work a week (reference: see 1.13. ). CPT is designed to provide work experience directly related and integral to a student’s degree. It is not intended for general, ongoing work authorization. Traditional volunteer work (e.g. at a soup-kitchen) does not require CPT. However any internship, even if it is unpaid, requires CPT authorization.

Students who utilize an aggregate 12 or more months of CPT lose their eligibility to engage in OPT at the current degree level.

CPT Application Process

To request authorization for CPT, please take the following actions at least two weeks in advance of your requested CPT start date:

  1. Attend the CPT Seminar at the Slutzker Center (310 Walnut Place) and review the information contained on the CPT web page.
  2. Submit the following to the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies (227 Bray Hall):
  • A Recommendation Letter from your Major Professor/ Academic Advisor Supporting the Academic Value of the CPT Work Experience: The letter must be printed on department letterhead and include the following information related to your academic program and proposed CPT work experience: your full name; program of study; expected date of degree completion/graduation; title of your position with employer; employer’s name; employer’s exact street address (this should be the physical work location); exact beginning and ending dates of the work experience; number of hours per week you will be engaged in the work experience; and course number, number of credits to be received (minimum requirement is one credit), faculty member supervising aforementioned course, and semester you will register for the course (must be the same semester of CPT experience). (You may want to bring a copy of the job description and your offer letter to your advisor when asking for a recommendation letter so that s/he can provide all of the required information in the recommendation letter.)
  • Enrollment Certification from the Registrar’s Office: Must indicate full-time enrollment for every semester you were in F-1 status; if it does not, seek guidance from the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies.
  • Petition to the Faculty: The Petition should request permission to engage in a CPT work experience. It must be signed by you, your Major Professor, and Department Chair or designee. Petition forms can be obtained at the Registrar's Office.
  • Graduate Students Only: Program of Study (3B Form): Your Program of Study Form must include the course referenced in the departmental support letter and be registered for at least one credit as a required course for your academic program. It must be signed by you, your Steering Committee, and your Department Chair or designee.

Upon submission, the Dean will review your request; if it is approved, the Dean will endorse the bottom of your Major Professor's CPT Recommendation Letter.

3.  Register for the course designated in the CPT Recommendation Letter. (e.g., EFB 898: Professional Experience)

4.  Schedule an appointment to submit the following documentation to the Office of International Education (cmsalter@esf.edu / 302 Bray Hall):

  • CPT Recommendation Letter signed by your advisor and the Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies
  • Proof of registration in the CPT course for at least 1 credit
  • Enrollment Certification from the Registrar’s Office to confirm continuous maintenance of full-time status
  • CPT Job Offer Letter
  • Completed CPT Request Form
  • Copies of your passport, visa, I-94 card, and I-20s
  • Proof of health insurance including Medical Evacuation and Repatriation coverage.
    • If you do not currently have health insurance that includes this coverage, it can be purchased at the Cashier's Office.
    • If you have ESF health insurance and do not currently have your insurance card, please request one at the Cashier's Office.

If all the submitted documentation is acceptable, a new I-20 authorizing CPT (on page three) will be issued. You are not eligible to begin employment until your have received the new I-20 and it is at least the start date indicated on the document.

5.  If your CPT experience will require you to relocate, you must submit your new address to cmsalter@esf.edu within 10 days in order to fulfill the US immigration maintenance of status reporting requirement.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is temporary employment authorization for practical training directly related to a student’s major field of study. Standard OPT is available for a cumulative maximum of 12 months per degree level. A one-time extension of 17 months (for a total of 29 months) is available to certain Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics degree recipients.

OPT can occur both before and after completion of degree: part-time while school is in session [On-campus employment (including assistantships) and CPT together cannot amount to over 20 hours of work a week (reference: see 1.13. )]; part-time or full-time during vacation periods when school is not in session; and full-time when a student has completed all degree requirements or has completed all required coursework and only has a thesis or dissertation remaining. 

OPT is authorized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There is a $340 application processing fee. Students can apply for OPT up to 90 days prior to their program completion date and as late as 60 days after they complete their program of study. Application processing can take up to three months, so applying early is highly recommended.

OPT authorization is granted in the form of an Employment Authorization Document or EAD card. It is date specific but not employer specific. Students cannot begin working until they have received their EAD card and it is at least the start date indicated on the EAD card. Students are limited to a maximum accrual of 90 days of unemployment during the standard authorization period of post-completion OPT.

In order to apply for OPT:

  1. Attend the OPT Seminar at the Slutzker Center (310 Walnut Place) and review the information contained on the OPT web page.
  2. Submit the following documentation to the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies (227 Bray Hall):

Graduate Students

  • Enrollment Certification from the Registrar’s Office: Must indicate full-time enrollment  for every semester you were in F-1 status; if it does not, seek guidance from the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies.
  • A Recommendation Letter from your Major Professor/ Academic Advisor Supporting the Academic Value of OPT: The letter must include the following information related to your academic program: your full name; undergraduate or graduate status; degree level, academic program of study; whether you have completed all degree requirements, completed all of your course work for your degree, or still have course work remaining; if applicable, confirmation that you have established a defense committee and defense date; your expected date of degree completion/graduation. Please use the template below that best reflects your OPT request. Recommendation letters must be printed on department letterhead and endorsed by your Major Professor and the Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies.
  • If not included in your recommendation letter, Evidence of Your Anticipated Degree Completion Date: Include proof that you have completed all course work and/or proof that you have established a defense date and met all other degree requirements.

Undergraduate Students

  • Enrollment Certification from the Registrar’s Office: Must indicate full-time enrollment for every semester you were in F-1 status.
  • Degree Audit from the Registrar’s Office: Must indicate your upcoming degree completion.
  • A Recommendation Letter from your Major Professor/ Academic Advisor Supporting the Academic Value of OPT: The letter must include the following information related to your academic program: your full name; undergraduate or graduate status; degree level, academic program of study; whether you have completed all degree requirements, completed all of your course work for your degree, or still have course work remaining; and your expected date of degree completion/graduation. Please use the template below that best reflects your OPT request. Recommendation letters must be printed on department letterhead and endorsed by your Major Professor and the Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies.
  • Upon submission, the Dean will review your academic record to determine if your OPT request is appropriate; if it is approved, the Dean will endorse an OPT Recommendation Letter with be issued.

    3.  Schedule an appointment to meet with the Coordinator of International Education

         Bring the following documentation to your appointment:

    • OPT Recommendation Letter
      - Must be signed by the Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies
    • Enrollment Certification from the Registrar’s Office
      - Must indicate full-time enrollment for every semester your attended SUNY-ESF in F-1 status
    • OPT Request Form
      - Type information into the form and be sure to include requested employment dates
    • Check or money order for $340.00 made payable to the "Department of Homeland Security"
    • Form I-765
      - Check the box “Permission to accept employment”
      - Filling in item 16 (Eligibility Category)
      ___For Pre-Completion OPT: (c)(3)(A)
      ___For Post-Completion OPT: (c)(3)(B)
      ___For 17-Month STEM OPT Extension: (c)(3)(C)

      -  Type information into the form and sign in blue ink
      -   It is highly recommended that students utilize an address that is located in the
      Vermont Service Center jurisdiction
      - If you have moved out of the area, you may include an address that is in care
      of an acquaintance who lives in the VSC jurisdiction; your acquaintance will
      have to forward all correspondences to you

    • Clear photocopies of pages 1 & 3 of all I-20’s that have been issued to you  
    • Clear photocopy of your passport identity page and expiration date page
    • Clear photocopy of your I-94 card front and back
    • Clear photocopy of your visa
    • Two identical color passport-size photographs
      -  Write your name and I-94 number gently on the back of each photo
    •  Photos must meet frontal passport specifications and should be on a white background taken no earlier than 30 days prior to submitting your OPT application.
    • Proof of health insurance including Medical Evacuation and Repatriation coverage. (If your plan does not include this, you may purchase a supplemental MEDEX plan for $6/month at the Cashier's Office.
    • If you were issued an EAD card previously (e.g. for previous OPT, economic hardship employment),  include a clear copy of your previous EAD card

    If all the submitted documentation is acceptable, a new I-20 recommending OPT (on page three) will be issued (required for the USCIS employment authorization application)

    4.  You must mail your completed application to the USCIS Service Center that has jurisdiction over the residence indicated on your I-765. It is recommended that students utilize an address in the Vermont Service Center jurisdiction as SUNY-ESF is located in this jurisdiction.

    Applications should be mailed to:
    USCIS
    Vermont Service Center
    Attn: I-765
    75 Lower Welden St.
    St. Albans, VT
    05479-0001

    Please review the application checklist below and make a copy of your completed application for your personal records prior to mailing.

    A completed application must include:

    • Check or money order for $340 made out to the "Department of Homeland Security";
    • Two 2 x 2 passport-style photographs;
    • Completed and signed Form I-765 (original);
    • One clear photocopy of page 1 & 3 of all I-20s including new I-20 recommending OPT;
    • One clear photocopy of your visa;
    • One clear photocopy of your passport identify page and expiration page; and
    • One clear photocopy of the front and the back of your I-94 card.
    • If you were issued an EAD card previously, include one clear photocopy.

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