OPT and CPT are two different types of work authorization that international students can apply for while they are studying in the US. While both the programs share some common lines, they are quite different. If you’re planning to study abroad in the USA, it’s important to understand what’s the difference between OPT and CPT.
What is OPT?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment authorization for international students in the US that’s temporary in scope. This authorization is available to most F-1 nonimmigrant students, who have completed or are nearing completion of a degree or certificate program at an institution of higher education. OPT can be authorized for 12 months or longer.
F-1 students, in certain STEP programs, may apply for OPT if they have completed at least 1 academic year (2 semesters or 3 quarters) in a full course of study in an eligible program at the time they file an application for OPT. An eligible program is one that leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate recognized by the institution offering the program and by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
What is CPT?
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) allows F-1 students to gain practical experience related to their coursework by working for a certain period of time on an internship or other employment opportunity related to their major field of study.
The purpose of CPT is to allow foreign students to gain valuable skills and knowledge through real-world experience. By participating in this program, you will be able to apply what you have learned in the classroom to real-life situations. For example, an engineering student may want to find an internship at a local engineering firm so that they can get hands-on experience in the field of engineering before graduating with a degree in that subject.
OPT vs CPT: What’s the difference?
There are some key differences between Curriculum Practical Training and Optional Practical Training.
CPT is required for some majors and degrees. For example, if you’re a computer science major at a four-year university, then your degree requires CPT. In contrast, if you’re studying music or at the same university, you may not require practical training. In contrast, OPT is optional; students who want to participate in this kind of training must apply before they start their program of study.
You need a job offer from an employer to apply for OPT. You can apply for CPT without an offer, but it may be harder to find one since employers often prefer to hire graduates who already have experience with them.
CPT allows you to work full-time while still enrolled at school (if you’re getting paid by the school), but OPT has strict limits on working hours per week and total hours during the entire period of employment.
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