Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Job eligibility requirements:
To be considered for CPT, the work MUST be directly related to your academic major. If you have an internship/practicum opportunity which involves employment, check with OIP and/or your academic adviser to determine if it qualifies as CPT.
Student eligibility requirements:
- Employment which IS a required part of your degree program- An internship/practicum which is required by your degree program always meets the requirements for CPT, regardless of whether or not you receive academic credit for your work. As long as you are maintaining lawful F-1 status, you may apply for permission to engage in CPT whenever your program requires your participation, even if it is immediately upon beginning your studies.
- Employment which is NOT a required part of your degree program- An internship/practicum which is not required by your degree program may meet the requirements for CPT if you receive academic credit for the employment experience and if it is an integral part of your studies. In order to be eligible to apply for CPT permission, you must (1) be in lawful F-1 status and (2) have been a full-time student for at least 9 months.
Part-time vs. full-time CPT:
- Part-time CPT- While completing course work, you may only be authorized for part-time employment (less than 20 hours a week). This time is inclusive of any on-campus employment you may have. There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in part-time CPT, but you must be simultaneously enrolled in order to maintain lawful F-1 status. The authorization will be granted on a semester by semester basis. Note: If you are part-time in your last semester of coursework of study at NWC, you may be authorized for full-time CPT.
- Full-time CPT- While part-time in your final semester of coursework and/or during school breaks (i.e. winter break, summer semester or spring break), you may be authorized for full-time CPT (20+ hours per week). There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in full-time CPT, but a cumulative total of twelve months or more of full-time CPT will make you ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Application and authorization procedures:
- Talk to your academic adviser about possible/helpful resources on how to find an internship/practicum related to your field of study.
- Once you find an internship/practicum opportunity, you MUST write a one-page paper (minimum, 12 sized font, double spaced) on how this experience will connect you with your academic major.
- Complete the attached NWC Internship/Practicum Approval Form.
- State at least 5 learning outcomes this internship/practicum will provide.
- Request a contract/job offer letter from your internship/practicum.
- Make an appointment to meet with an OIP (Office of Intercultural Program) staff member.
- You must bring the following documents to this meeting:
- Completed NWC Internship/Practicum Approval Form with approval and signature from a faculty member in your department
- Address and contact information for your internship/practicum
- Start and end date of your internship/practicum
- Contract/job offer letter from employer confirming your internship/practicum
- One-page paper outlining how this experience is related to your field of study
- Stated learning outcomes (attached to the NWC Internship/Practicum Approval Form)
- Once your CPT has been approved by OIP, you will be issued a new I-20 that shows your CPT. You MUST have this I-20 BEFORE you can start your CPT
Important CPT reminders:
- DO NOT work without proper authorization. Working without CPT authorization is a serious violation of your status and is grounds for automatic termination of your immigration record.
- Emelee Volden and Amanda Enriquez can advise and counsel you regarding your responsibilities, but it is your obligation to comply with all USCIS F-1 regulations.
- When you begin work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled “Employment Eligibility Verification” (Form I-9) which the employer retains. The I-9 must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission.
- Your earnings are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. ALL students must file a tax return on or before April 15th of each year, which will determine if any of the withheld taxes can be refunded.
*Click here to download a CPT application packet*
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Post-completion OPT provides F-1 students an opportunity to gain work experience in the United States after graduation. To find out if you are eligible for OPT please contact the Office of Intercultural Programs (OIP).
You will need to carefully read all OPT instructions. The OPT application is your application. OIP can provide you with information about the OPT process but we cannot approve your application or influence your acceptance.
How To Apply for OPT
Step 1: Attend an OPT Workshop
OIP sponsored workshops are held in September (for students graduating in December) and in January (for students graduating in May).
Step 2: Gather Your Documents
An OPT application must include all of the following documents:
- I-765 Form: make sure you are using the current version of the form
- Photocopies of your valid passport photo page, latest F-1 visa, most recent I-94, and all previously issued I-20's
- Graduation eligibility letter: request the letter from the NWC Registration and Records Office in ORB 100
- Form I-765 filing fee paid by money order or check for $410 and payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The filing fee will increase to $550 for applications postmarked on or after October 2, 2020.
- 2 identical color passport photos of yourself taken within the last 30 days. Photos must be 2 x 2 inches, contain a white or off-white background, and be printed on thin paper with a glossy finish. Full photo requirements can be found on the Instructions for Form I-765. Passport photos can be taken at Sunlight Photo (Powell), U.S. Post Office (Ralston), and Walgreens (Cody).
Tips for Completing the I-765 Form
- Type your I-765 Form or clearly print in black ink
- Sign the I-765 Form in black ink. Typed signatures will not be accepted. Make sure your signature fits in the box.
- Answer all questions. If a question does not apply to you write "NA" unless otherwise directed. If a question that asks for a numerical response does not apply to you write "none".
- Date and place of your last arrival into the Unites States can be found on your I-94 record under Travel History
- Eligibility category (Part 2: Item 27) is (c)(3)(B)
- You must include all pages of the Form I-765, even pages that do not apply to you, when you submit your application to USCIS
- Send single-sided copies of all documents and the I-765 form
- If you make a mistake on the I-765 form you will need to start over
Step 3: Choose Your OPT Start Date
Your OPT start date is the date you request your work permission to begin. You cannot work earlier than your start date. Your requested start date must be within 60 days after your program completion date. For example, if your final semester of study ends on May 15 your OPT start date must be between May 16 and July 14. Keep in mind that it typically takes 90 days or more to receive your EAD card and you cannot begin working until you receive the EAD card. Choose your start date carefully! It is very difficult to change your start date after you submit your application. Your OIP adviser can help you weigh the pros and cons of early and late start dates.
Step 4: Request an OPT Endorsed I-20
Bring all of the documents in Step 1 to your OIP adviser and request an OPT endorsed I-20. Your OIP adviser will also need to know the OPT start date that you have chosen. Your adviser will review your application for OPT eligibility and if approved will issue your new OPT endorsed I-20.
Step 5: Pick-up Your Application and Mail to USCIS
Your OIP adviser will contact you when your OPT application is ready to pick up. Please allow 3 business days for processing. To prepare your application for mailing follow this checklist:
- Sign and date your OPT-endorsed I-20 before making a photocopy of it. A copy of the new OPT endorsed I-20 must be included with your application packet.
- Review your application to make sure the I-765 is complete and all required documents are included. We recommend that you make a copy of the entire application packet for your records before mailing it.
- Mail your application. USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of the new OPT endorsed I-20 being issued. The application must also be received within 60 days of your I-20 program end date. Late applications will be denied.
- Do NOT mail your original passport or original I-20's.
- Send your OPT application from the U.S. Post Office via Certified Mail . If you live outside of Wyoming or need to send your application via Express Mail (FedEx, UPS or DHL), review the USCIS mailing information. If you live in Wyoming and are using the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) send the application to:
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
Waiting For Your OPT Approval
USCIS will send you the I-797 Notice of Action confirming receipt of your OPT application and assigning you a personal receipt number. You can use this receipt number to check the status of your application on the USCIS website.
You will receive your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card within 2.5 to 5 months from the date on the receipt. Typically EAD cards arrive within 90 days but it depends on the timing of your application. To ensure that you receive your EAD card it is not recommended that you move while waiting for your OPT approval.
Do NOT begin working until you have received your EAD card and the date on the card has been reached.
When your EAD card arrives check it closely to make sure all information is correct. If there are any errors on your card contact OIP as soon as possible.
Travel outside of the United States after your program end date and before your EAD card arrives is not recommended. If you must travel consult with your OIP adviser.
Employment & Unemployment While on OPT
- You should be employed at least 20 hours per week with work directly related to your Northwest College major.
- You can work for multiple employers as long as all work is directly related to your major.
- Volunteering or working in an unpaid internship position is permitted as long as the work directly relates to your major and does not violate any labor laws.
- It is your responsibility to determine if the job relates to your major. If USCIS questions the relationship between your job and your major of study the burden of proof will be on you to demonstrate the relationship. OIP will not be able to advise you on whether your job does or does not relate to your major. If you need assistance determining the fit of your job offer, we recommend contacting your academic adviser or other professionals in your field.
- It is a violation of your F-1 status to work in a job that is not directly related to your major. USCIS can terminate your OPT work authorization and your I-20 record if your employment does not relate to your studies.
- For your records, you should keep documentation of all employment while on OPT. This may be important if USCIS challenges your employment or you apply for a change of status in the future. Examples of documentation to keep include: offer letter from your employer, timesheets or pay stubs, screenshot of information entered into SEVP portal, and a letter from your supervisor explaining how your employment relates to your major if the connection is not obvious.
The following information must be reported to OIP as soon as you begin working:
- Employer's name
- Employer's address
- Supervisor's name, email address, and phone number
- Job title
- Start date of employment
- Part-time (less than 20 hours per week) or full-time (20 hours per week or more)
- Description of how your job relates to your major of study at Northwest College
The following information must be reported to OIP within 10 days of a change:
- Residential address, phone number, or email address change
- Start and end dates of employment
- Change between part-time (less than 20 hours per week) and full-time (20 hours per week or more) employment status
- Change in job title, employer's address, or a change in the description of how your job relates to your major of study at Northwest College
OIP will update your SEVIS record with the information that you provide. You are required to report all employment information to OIP even if you are also updating the information in your SEVP Portal.
You cannot exceed 90 days of unemployment between the start and end date of your OPT authorization (the dates on your EAD card). Each day that you do not have qualifying employment listed in SEVIS counts as a day of unemployment. Therefore, you could exceed your unemployment limit by having more than 90 days that you are not working, or by failing to report your employment to OIP. USCIS counts the days of unemployment that you accrue and will automatically terminate your F-1 SEVIS record after 90 days. If your SEVIS record is terminated your OPT is cancelled and you must leave the U.S.
If you are reaching your unemployment limit and cannot find a job, USCIS recommends that you prepare to transfer to another school, change education levels, depart the United States, or change to a different immigration status before your 90 day unemployment limit is reached. If you are nearing your 90 day limit contact your OIP adviser.
Taxes & Health Insurance
Your employment in the United States is subject to federal, state and local taxes. You will receive a W-2 form from all of your employers and you are required to file taxes to report your earned income for each calendar year you are in the United States. You can use Sprintax to file your taxes and can log into the same account you used when you were a Northwest College student. However, you will have to pay to use Sprintax as payment codes are only provided to current students. Remember, that if you use another tax software or work with a tax professional you will need to first verify that the tax advice you are receiving is for nonresident F-1 students. TurboTax, which is a popular tax program used by Americans, does not prepare nonresident taxes. Visit Filing Taxes for more information.
Healthcare in the United States is very expensive so we strongly recommend that you have insurance coverage. If your employer does not provide you with health insurance, or the coverage is not adequate, you should purchase your own plan. Many companies offer health insurance to international students on OPT including International Student Insurance, which is the company that most current Northwest College students use for coverage. Visit Health Insurance & Healthcare for more information.
Travel & OPT
Whether traveling outside of the U.S. during your OPT period is recommended will depend on your specific situation. If you need to travel contact your OIP adviser before making your travel plans. In general, traveling before you have received your EAD card is not recommended. Travel after you have your EAD card, and you are employed, is permitted. To travel you will need your OPT endorsed I-20 with a recent travel signature from OIP, letter from your employer verifying proof of your continuing employment upon your return, EAD card, valid passport, and unexpired F-1 visa.
Ending or Completing OPT
Leaving the U.S.: If you decide to leave the United States before the end date on your EAD card you must inform OIP of the date you will depart the U.S.
Transferring: If you plan to transfer to another college or university within the U.S. before your EAD card expires you will need to work with OIP to arrange the transfer of your SEVIS record. Transferring your SEVIS record to another school will cancel your employment authorization and you must immediately stop working. Visit Graduation & Transfer for more information.
Completing OPT: You are authorized to work only until the end date on your EAD card. Working past the end date is a violation of your immigration status. After your EAD card end date is reached you have a 60-day grace period to leave the United States or have your I-20 SEVIS record transferred to another college or university. Contact OIP before your OPT expires to discuss your plans.