Students CAN NOT pursue any off-campus employment (paid or unpaid) without proper authorization from the ISO or USCIS. Authorization must be received before any off-campus employment (paid or unpaid) begins (e.g., internship, start-ups, or related employment activity).
Pursuing an off-campus employment activity before receiving prior authorization will jeopardize the student’s current U.S. immigration status, future U.S immigration benefits, and the ability to complete their MIT academic program.
F-1 students are allowed to pursue off-campus employment/“Practical Training” opportunities if the following criteria are met by the student:
- Pursuing a degree program at MIT.
- Has been in legal F-1 status (inside the U.S.) for “one full academic year” (e.g., a combination of Fall and Spring terms).
- Is in good academic standing.
- Immigration regulations allow for off-campus employment/“Practical Training” opportunities only in areas that are related to a student’s degree/field of study.
There are two types of “Practical Training” opportunities for F-1 students:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT): CPT is off-campus employment authorization that is an integral part of an established curriculum and is directly related to the student’s major field of study. Students must be enrolled in an internship or practicum course to be eligible for CPT authorization (Independent Study does not qualify for CPT). CPT off-campus work authorization is approved by the ISO and is specific to the experience, employer, and location. Examples include a co-op program, internship, or research that is a required part of a thesis or dissertation. Under Curricular Practical Training, all activities 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)], in addition to other criteria.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT): Pre-Completion OPT, Post-Completion OPT, and STEM OPT Extension.
**NOTE: This webpage will only refer to Curricular Practical Training (CPT).**
How to apply for CPT off-campus work authorization
Only full-time enrolled students, pursuing an MIT degree program may receive CPT authorization.
- Special non-degree students do not qualify for any CPT.
- Students in NON-RESIDENT enrollment status at MIT are also not eligible to apply for CPT (enrollment in courses is not allowed during a Non-Resident term at MIT). However, Non-Resident students are usually eligible to apply for Pre-Completion OPT.
Students can only pursue and apply for CPT off-campus work authorization before the completion of their MIT degree program. CPT may be authorized Part-Time (20 hours a week or less) during the academic terms Fall and Spring (some exceptions may apply*). CPT may be authorized Full-Time (more than 20 hours per week) during an annual vacation term (e.g., Summer or IAP, as long as the student is not required to be enrolled in coursework during that term as then it would not be a vacation period). Full-time CPT may also be authorized if an experience in the academic program is required for ALL students in the degree program during that term.
An F-1 student is only eligible to apply for CPT off-campus work authorization if one of the below options applies:
- The work is a required component of the curriculum, which ALL students (international and domestic students) in the program must complete to earn the degree.
- The internship/experience that is evaluated by an MIT Professor and meets the criteria specified below:
- is granted academic credit under a specific course/subject number in the student’s major degree requirement, AND
- the course/subject and academic credit must count towards completion of the degree (must fulfill an elective or mandatory credit that counts towards fulfilling minimum degree requirements), AND
- the student must be enrolled in the specific internship/experiential learning course/subject in the student’s major degree program curriculum during the academic term in which the experience is conducted and CPT is authorized.
NOTE: The ISO advises that CPT eligible courses within a program’s curriculum should, in its description in the MIT Bulletin, include an internship or an experience component, and mention that the internship must be completed for a required component to receive a grade within the course/subject. Academic program coordinators should feel free to contact their ISO Advisor Point-of-Contact with any questions about eligible courses or as they consider the creation of new courses with internship/experiential learning components as it relates to CPT eligibility.
**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 based on confirmation from the student’s academic department that they will be enrolled in the required/elective subject during the term in which the student is pursuing the internship/experience.
When a student submits their CPT application request in iMIT they must certify that they will register for the appropriate CPT course subject at MIT, and complete the course subject requirements to earn the academic credit from the course subject for which the CPT authorization is linked. The student must also certify that if they do not complete the CPT course subject requirements or withdraws from the CPT course subject but does not end participation in the experience, then they understand that it will be considered a violation of their U.S. (F-1) student immigration status and the ISO would be required to terminate my U.S. immigration record for “unauthorized employment”. Students should plan to complete the subject deliverable to earn the academic credit if authorized for CPT. If a student must end the experience early for any reason, they must contact their ISO Advisor immediately.
Students enrolled in the Fall or Spring term for an internship/experience course subject will have tuition costs included under standard tuition charges for that term (based on MIT policy). For students enrolling in the internship/experience course subject for a Summer term, there will be the appropriate summer tuition. According to the official policy for Summer Internship Subject-Only Tuition Charge, when the student is not enrolled in any other course subject, except for the internship/experience course subject, then the student will be required to only pay a per unit charge based on the number of units earned for that course subject (NOTE: Please check the Registrar’s Office page on Summer tuition, referenced below, to confirm the current academic year summer term per unit tuition charge). Students pursuing a non-paid internship/experience can request a waiver of the summer internship course subject only tuition charge (with a copy of the official offer letter from the host organization confirming no pay or benefit will be received).
The Registrar’s Office maintains separate pages for Summer Tuition guidance for Undergraduates and Graduate Students. 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 based on each specific academic term. The start and end dates of the CPT authorization period allowed are limited by the preceding term and exam periods and the official grading deadline of the academic term in which the experience is conducted. Students can review the guidelines below for the earliest and latest dates allowed for internships/experiences authorized by CPT during upcoming academic terms:
- Summer 2023: May 25, 2023 to August 25, 2023 (Part-Time or Full-Time)
- Fall 2023: August 26, 2023 to December 22, 2023 (Part-Time)
- IAP 2024: December 23, 2023 to February 2, 2024 (Part-Time or Full-Time)
- Spring 2024: February 3, 2024 to May 22, 2024 (Part-Time)
- Summer 2024: May 23, 2024 to August 23, 2024 (Part-Time or Full-Time)
- Fall 2024: August 24, 2024 to December 20, 2024 (Part-Time)
- IAP 2025: December 21, 2024 to January 31, 2025 (Part-Time or Full-Time)
- Spring 2025: February 1, 2025 to May 21, 2025 (Part-Time)
- Summer 2025: May 22, 2025 to August 22, 2025 (Part-Time or Full-Time)
- Fall 2025: August 23, 2025 to December 19, 2025 (Part-Time)
- IAP 2026: December 20, 2025 to January 30, 2026 (Part-Time or Full-Time)
- Spring 2026: January 31, 2026 to May 20, 2026 (Part-Time)
- Summer 2026: May 21, 2026 to August 21, 2026 (Part-Time or Full-Time)
- Fall 2026: August 22, 2026 to December 18, 2026 (Part-Time)
- CPT Authorization Part-time = maximum 20 hours / week, Full-time = 21+ hours / week [Regulatory requirements for employment hours per week referenced here is available at 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(A)].
- Employers that have established internship programs, with set/non-flexible dates for ALL interns (international and domestic), where the internship end date must be later than the MIT term end date referenced above, Employers must confirm (in writing) that this requirement for ALL interns at their organization and that the student did not have an earlier eligible start date (after the exam period end of the previous term in the MIT academic calendar) to complete by the posted MIT term end date. ISO Advisor will review the document to determine if a later CPT end date can be authorized.
- Students should consult with their ISO Advisor on this issue to determine eligibility. If CPT cannot have an end date later than the designated term end date, then a student can consider applying for Pre-Completion OPT authorization with USCIS to work off-campus for the additional period; and if their Pre-Completion OPT is approved, then the student can continue working for the additional time.
How to Apply
In order to apply for CPT off-campus work authorization, a student must submit their CPT application to iMIT at least 3 weeks prior to the start date of the CPT employment opportunity. Students will login to iMIT > click on “F-1 Practical Training” > “Curricular Practical Training” > and then submit all the required eForms to iMIT.
For the CPT Form I-20 application to the ISO (through iMIT), the student must have the documents listed below to be eligible to apply for CPT off-campus work authorization:
- Copy of the job offer letter from organization or company. Example of an Employer Offer Letter can be found on the ISO website. 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 completion of ISO Canvas CPT eCourse and the ISO Canvas CPT eCourse Quiz (with a 90% or better grade).
- Copy of the students most recently issued I-94 Admission Record.
- Copy of current passport photo identity page (that includes the student’s name, date of birth, passport number, and passport issue and expiration dates).
- Academic Department Support Letter (on departmental letterhead), signed by an MIT faculty advisor, Graduate or Undergraduate officer, program director, or program administrator confirming support for the internship/experience and eligibility for CPT authorization. The departmental/faculty letter must specify ALL of the following:
a. Confirm the date/term student began their academic degree program at MIT, that the student is in good standing, and is enrolled as a full-time student in their degree program at MIT.
b. Confirm the student’s current expected date of degree completion.
c. Confirm that the training/experience is integrally related to the student’s major field of study and also how the training/experience is integrally related to the student’s major field of study.
*If internship/experience is required for all students in the program to complete the degree program, then the department must state this in the letter.
*If the internship/experience is an elective option for the completion of the degree program, then the letter must state the number of units/credits needed for the internship/experience and that these units/credits will count towards fulfilling the minimum degree requirements to complete the degree program.
d. Confirm the name of the faculty member who will evaluate the work (that name will appear on the new Form I-20).
e. Confirm the course subject number and academic term the student will be enrolled in when pursuing the internship/experience and receiving the credit towards their degree program requirements.
f. Confirm how the internship/experience will be evaluated (e.g., a deliverable such as a paper/report, presentation, etc.), how many units of credit will be given, and when the credit will be granted.
*NOTE: The units of credit MUST be given under a specific course subject number in the student’s major field of study and in the term in which the internship/experience is conducted. A student may not enroll in an internship/experiential learning course subject in another degree program for purposes of CPT authorization.
g. Confirm how many units the student has remaining in their degree program, to complete the minimally required units/credits for degree completion.
h. Confirm that all units/credit assigned to the internship/experience course subject will count towards fulfilling the minimum requirements for the student to complete their degree program.
i. Confirm Name and address of company/organization, including zip code, where the CPT internship/experiential learning will be conducted. If the experience will be performed remotely, the student must provide the address of the company/organization to which the student reports and/or would normally perform the experience if in-person.
j. Confirm the specific start and end dates of the internship/experience, which will be the exact dates authorized for the CPT authorization. The dates must be within the allowable dates (listed above) for the specific academic term.
*For Master’s/Ph.D. students requesting CPT based on thesis and/or dissertation course subject, this letter must be completed/signed by the student’s academic (thesis) advisor and also include the additional four (4) pieces of information listed below.
k. If student normally receives a Research or Teaching Assistantship during the term of the planned internship/experience, please confirm that student will continue to receive that MIT funding for that term. (NOTE: If a student will have a pause in receiving MIT funding while pursuing the off-campus experience, the student will need to document to the ISO a new source of funding for that term replacing the RA/TA so that an updated visa document can be issued).
Master’s/Ph.D. Students, Thesis, and F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
At MIT, 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 requirement. Thus, the ISO will consider eligibility for CPT authorization under Masters/Ph.D. thesis credit under the following conditions ONLY.
ALL four (4) conditions MUST apply:
- Student has an approved Master’s/Ph.D. thesis proposal by the academic department, and the experience is an integral component of that thesis proposal; and
- Location of activity is the only company/organization where the piece of equipment, 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 equipment 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 and would need to begin a new approved thesis topic for the degree. Simply for the benefit of an additional chapter for a thesis, which would not be absolutely required for completion of the thesis, would not be a sufficient basis to authorize CPT.
NOTE: Each academic department may have their own conditions that must be met for a student to receive 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, a-j), 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 based on thesis would generally be for no longer than two terms.
Students who have received the letter from their thesis advisor can contact their ISO Advisor to review their request for CPT eligibility under the thesis credit option. Ph.D. students approved for Non-Resident Status may qualify for CPT authorization based on thesis.
Be aware that these are federal regulations and that CPT cannot be granted if the departmental/faculty letter does not include all of the points specified above.
IMPORTANT REMINDERS: Students who are authorized for 12 or more months of Full-Time CPT during a degree program become ineligible to apply in the future for Optional Practical Training authorization during or after the completion of their degree program.
DIRECTLY RELATED TO STUDENT’S MAJOR FIELD OF STUDY
Off-campus employment (CPT/OPT) MUST always be directly related to a student’s MIT degree field of study. As mentioned earlier, F-1 immigration regulations require that 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 (USDHS) reviews employment issued to international students with great scrutiny, and therefore all activity must be directly related to the student’s major field of study for their degree earned at MIT.
USDHS, on September 27, 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 U.S. 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 F-1 CPT, OPT, or STEM OPT Extension 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, in our Employment Information Sessions, and in a specific article on this topic in the ISO Knowledge Base.
NOTE: Students must remember, that as an international student at MIT, they are responsible for maintaining their own U.S immigration status. This means that a student must ensure that they are registered full-time each academic term, and that the validity of their immigration documents does not expire. Students must always report any changes in their academic level, funding, and/or completion of their degree program within 10 days to the ISO. If a student allows the program end date listed on their Form I-20 to expire, then they will fall out of their legal U.S. immigration status and may suffer serious consequences.
During the duration of the student’s studies and their CPT authorization, the student is required to inform both the ISO, who will then inform USDHS, of any changes (e.g., address, employment, academic program, etc.) within 10 days of the change occurring. For an address update, the student will update the ISO by updating WebSIS under the “SEVIS U.S. Address” field. All updates should be reported to iMIT. Failure to any changes to the ISO could result in the loss of the student’s U.S legal immigration status.
F-1 CPT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can I pursue both an on-campus Teaching/Research Assistantship and an off-campus internship under CPT at the same time?
- During an academic term (Fall/Spring) if a student is pursuing a 20 hour per week research or teaching assistantship, or other on-campus position at MIT, and wants to pursue an off-campus experience at the same time, students will be required to obtain approval from their academic department to pursue the off-campus experience. Generally at MIT, an on-campus position (for the maximum 20 hours per week during academic term) plus an off-campus experience is not granted, given concerns of the availability of time to pursue both activities and how that could impact the student on being able to effectively pursue their studies and make proper progress towards degree completion. Please see current MIT policy on the OGE website.
- If the student’s academic department feels that an additional off-campus internship is beneficial for the student’s academic program, supports such activity, and the student meets all other eligibility requirements for CPT authorization, then immigration regulations may allow such authorization. Students should consult with their ISO Advisor for eligibility details.
Do I need CPT authorization if I am pursuing my internship experience outside of the U.S.?
If a student is working for a non-U.S.-based company, paid by the non-U.S.-based company, and doing ALL of the internship/experience activity abroad (outside the U.S.), then the student may not need to obtain CPT authorization for that experience. It would still be helpful, if the student is earning academic credit for the experience, to provide to the ISO, a copy of the CPT recommendation letter from their academic department and their internship offer letter just for their iMIT records (in case there are questions in the future from DHS as to why CPT authorization was not issued).