Students must not pursue any off-campus employment without proper authorization. Authorization must be received before beginning any off-campus work, internship, or related employment activity. Pursuing off-campus employment activity without proper authorization could jeopardize the ability to complete your MIT academic program and any future US visas.
After students (pursuing an MIT degree) have been in legal F-1 immigration status for “one full academic year” (a combination of Fall and Spring terms), immigration regulations allow them to apply for employment in areas related to their field of study through “Practical Training”. There are two types of Practical Training: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). This page only refers to Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
Under Curricular Practical Training, all activity pursued must be “directly related to the student’s major area of study” and an integral part of the student’s established curriculum [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)].
Off-Campus Employment (including Curricular Practical Training) Must be Directly Related to MIT Degree Field of Study
F-1 visa regulations require all authorized off-campus employment be “directly related to the student’s major area of study” and an integral part of the student’s established curriculum [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)], in addition to other criteria.
The U.S Department of Homeland Security reviews employment by international students with great scrutiny, and therefore all activity must be directly related to the student’s major field of study for the degree earned at MIT.
USDHS, on September 30, 2019, issued Policy Guidance re-affirming this requirement and their additional focus on this issue, including a new requirement that ISO Advisors review employment under CPT/OPT/STEM OPT Extension to confirm it meets these requirements. The ISO had seen additional scrutiny even before this Policy Guidance—with student visa applications at US Embassies/Consulates, as well as applications for employment authorizations and Change of Status (including H-1B and Green Card) with USCIS, be delayed with questions about direct relationship to degree. Students must take great care to be sure the position being pursued under CPT, OPT, or STEM OPT requires their specific degree program and is an application of that degree (not just general concepts or one course taken during a degree program). The ISO addresses this requirement further in our Employment webpages and in our Employment Information Sessions. Please feel free to contact your ISO Advisor if you have questions about an internship/training/employment being directly related to your degree field of study.
Only full-time enrolled students pursuing an MIT degree may receive CPT.
- Special non-degree students do not qualify for any CPT.
- Students in NON-RESIDENT status are also not allowed to apply for CPT (enrollment in courses is not allowed during a Non-Resident term at MIT). However, these students are usually eligible to apply for PRE-Completion OPT.
Students have the option of using CPT only before completion of their studies. CPT can be authorized full-time during the annual vacation (summer and during IAP) and part-time (20 hours a week or less) during the academic year in the following cases in which working off campus with a company must be either:
- a required component of the curriculum, which all students (including domestic students) in the program must complete
- an internship that is evaluated by an MIT Professor, meets the criteria specified below, and is granted academic credit under a specific course number in the student’s major degree requirement AND the course and academic credit must count towards completion of the degree (must fulfill an elective or mandatory credit that counts towards degree requirements)
- be enrolled in the specific internship/experiential learning course during the academic term in which the experience is conducted and CPT is authorized (note: some exceptions apply)
Please note that the ISO advises that eligible courses for CPT within a program’s curriculum should, in its description in the MIT Bulletin, include an internship or an experience component be completed for a required component for a grade within the course. Academic programs should feel free to contact their ISO Advisor Point-of-Contact with any questions about eligible courses or as you consider creation of new courses with internship/experiential learning components as it relates to CPT eligibility.
For questions regarding Master’s/Ph.D. Thesis and CPT eligibility, please see the section later on this webpage.
Internship/Experience Subject Enrollment
CPT authorization is granted with proof of enrollment in the required/elective subject under which you are pursuing the internship/experience. Students will need to provide to the ISO proof of enrollment in the subject in the term the student is pursuing the internship/experience.
Students enrolled in the Fall or Spring term for the internship/experience subject will have tuition costs included under standard tuition charges for that term (based on MIT policy). For students enrolling in the internship/experience subject for Summer term, there will be the appropriate summer tuition. According to the official policy for Summer Internship Subject Only Tuition Charge, beginning in Summer 2018, when the student is not enrolled in any other coursework except for that internship/experience subject, the student will be required to only pay a per unit charge based on the number of units earned for that subject.
Students pursuing a non-paid internship/experience can request a waiver of the summer intership subject only tuition charge (with a copy of the official offer letter from the host organization confirming no pay or benefit is being received).
The Registrar’s Office also maintains a webpage with the current academic year tuition and fees for reference, available here.
CPT Authorization Dates by Term
CPT is granted on a term-by-term basis. The start and end dates of the CPT authorization period allowed are limited by the preceding term and exam period and the official end date of the academic term in which the experience is conducted. Please see guidelines below for the earliest and latest dates allowed for internships authorized by CPT in the 2019-2020 academic years.
- Fall 2019 – August 24, 2019 to December 20, 2019 (Part-Time)
- IAP 2020 – December 21, 2019 to January 31, 2020 (Part-Time or Full-Time)
- Spring 2020 – February 1, 2020 to May 20, 2020 (Part-Time)
- Summer 2020 * – May 21, 2020 to August 21, 2020 (Part-Time or Full-Time)
- Fall 2020 – August 22, 2020 to December 18, 2020 (Part-Time)
- IAP 2021 – December 19, 2020 to January 29, 2021 (Part-Time or Full-Time)
* First-year undergraduate students and/or students who begin a new program in the summer (e.g. Course 6 MEng) may not be authorized for CPT until after the start date of the summer term (with CPT request processing time, no earlier than June 10, 2020 for Summer 2020). For more information, please contact your ISO Advisor.
- Part-time = maximum 20 hours / week, Full-time = 20+ hours / week
- For internship employers that have established intern programs with set/non-flexible dates for all interns (international and domestic) that must be completed, please have the employer confirm in writing this requirement and students must consult with their ISO Advisor on this issue.
How to Apply
In order to apply for CPT, at least 3 weeks prior to the beginning date of employment, submit a request for your CPT Form I-20 online at iMIT.mit.edu; choose “F-1 Practical Training”, then “Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Application”.
For the CPT I-20 request to the ISO on iMIT.mit.edu, please prepare the following documents.
- A copy of the job offer letter from organization or company (see sample letter)
Fields of information required from the employer in order to authorize CPT include (see also link to “sample letter”) — Position title; Start and End Date of the internship; number of hours per week; salary/stipend amount (if applicable); name and contact information (phone and email) of intern’s supervisor; overview of day-to-day responsibilities/duties of the intern; office address/work location address where intern will work; contact information of the individual responsible for the intern program/hiring at the company/organization (if different from supervisor).
- Confirmation of (pre) registration for the internship/experiential learning course for the academic term in which the experience is conducted (for the summer term course registration confirmation, students may first submit the CPT application online and pick up the I-20 on or after May 1st with the course confirmation.)
- A copy of the I-94 admission record and passport identity page with expiration information
- A copy of current passport, including pages with full name, date of birth, passport number, and issue/expiration date of the passport
- A letter on departmental letterhead, signed by an MIT faculty advisor, Graduate or Undergraduate officer, program director, or program administrator recommending the CPT. The departmental/faculty letter must specify the following:
- that the student is in good academic standing
- current expected date of completion of the degree program
- that the work is integrally related to the student’s major field of study
- how the work is integrally related to the student’s major field of study
- the name of the faculty member who will evaluate the work (that name will appear on the new Form I-20)
- stating the subject number the student will be enrolled in, how the work will be evaluated and how many units of credit will be given and when the credit will be granted. The credit must be given under a specific course number in the student’s major field of study in the term in which the internship/experience is conducted.
- Name and address of company/organization, including zip code where the CPT will be conducted.
- Specific start date and end date of the internship/experience (CPT authorization)
- For Master’s/Ph.D. students requesting CPT based on Thesis course, this letter must be completed/signed by your academic (thesis) advisor and also include the additional four (4) pieces of information highlighted below.
Please be aware that these are federal regulations and the CPT cannot be granted if the departmental/faculty letter does not include all of the points specified above.
Students who are authorized for 12 or more months of Full-time Curricular Practical Training are ineligible to apply for Optional Practical Training based on that degree.
IMPORTANT: During the duration of both your studies and your CPT, you are required to inform both the ISO and DHS of any address change within 10 days. You may inform the ISO by updating your address on WEBSIS (websis.mit.edu) under the “SEVIS US Address” field. Failure to report an address change could result in the loss of your legal status in the US.
As an international student at MIT, you are responsible for maintaining your own legal status. This means you must ensure that you are registered full-time each semester, and that the validity of your immigration documents does not expire. Be certain to report any changes in your academic level, funding, and/or completion of studies date within a timely manner to the ISO. If you allow the date on your I-20 to expire, you will fall out of legal status in the US and may suffer serious consequences.
Master’s/Ph.D. Students, Thesis, and F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
At MIT, some students who pursue a thesis requirement in their program may require employment authorization at a non-MIT employer in order to successfully complete the thesis. Thus, the ISO will consider eligibility for CPT authorization under Masters/Ph.D. thesis credit under the following conditions only (all must apply):
- Student has an approved Master’s/Ph.D. thesis proposal by the academic department; and
- Location of activity is the only company/organization where the piece of machinery, or access to unique secured data, that is a vital component for the student’s approved thesis is available; and
- The company/organization requires the student to be considered an employee, or other category, that requires employment authorization to be on premises to have access to the essential piece of machinery or secured data; and
- The student’s thesis advisor must confirm that if the student is unable to pursue this experience at this specified location, the student will not be able to complete the planned approved thesis topic.
Note that each academic department may have their own conditions that must be met for approval. For review of eligibility, a student’s thesis advisor in their Master’s/Ph.D. program should provide the required CPT letter (refer to #5, points a-h), on department letterhead, with detailed summary of the proposed experience and include reference to the four areas above. Requests will be considered on a term-by-term basis, and eligible authorizations would generally be for no longer than two terms.
PhD students approved for Non-Resident Status may qualify for CPT authorization based on Thesis.
Students who have received the letter from their thesis advisor should contact the ISO and schedule an in-person appointment with your ISO Advisor to review their request for CPT eligibility under thesis credit.
F-1 CPT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can I pursue both a Teaching/Research Assistantship and an off-campus internship under CPT at the same time?
If during an academic term (Fall/Spring) you are pursuing a 20 hour per week research or teaching assistantship, or other on-campus position at MIT, and want to pursue an off-campus internship at the same time, students will require approval of their academic department to do so. Generally at MIT, an on-campus position for the maximum 20 hours per week during academic term plus an off-campus internship is not granted, given concerns of the availability of time to pursue both activities and impact on being able to effectively pursue studies and make proper progress towards completion of degree. Please see current MIT policy on the OGE website.
If the student’s academic department feel the additional off-campus internship is beneficial for the student’s academic program, support such activity, and the student meets all other eligibility requirements for CPT authorization, the visa regulations may allow such authorization. Please consult with your ISO Advisor for eligibility details.
Do I need CPT authorization if I am pursuing my internship experience outside of the U.S.?
If you are working for a non-U.S.-based company, paid by the non-U.S.-based company, and doing all of the work abroad, then you do not need to get CPT authorization for that experience. It would still be helpful, if you are earning academic credit for the experience, to provide to the ISO for your file a copy of the CPT recommendation letter from your academic department and your internship offer letter just for our records (in case there are questions in the future from USDHS as to why CPT authorization is/was not needed, we have that documentation).
The following are additional important points to confirm if your experience abroad would need employment authorization or not:
(1) If you are working for a multi-national company, be sure the hiring and payroll paperwork for your position is all being done by the foreign entity. We have had students who have internship/position offers from companies oversees, but discover that the internship or hiring program is through the U.S.-based office – therefore CPT authorization would be required since the employment status of the student is through the U.S.-based employer (where payroll and tax paperwork, such as the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification and E-Verify are done for the student by the U.S.-based employer).
(2) If you are doing ANY work inside the U.S., including any orientation or training program before or during your internship experience, even for 1 day, you would need employment (CPT) authorization for that experience.