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International Students studying on an F-1 visa may be authorized for Curricular Practical Training, a temporary authorization for practical training directly related to the student’s major field of study. The training can be paid or unpaid. This can include traditional employment, internship, co-op education, or any other type of required internship or practicum. CPT may be granted on a part-time basis (no more than 20 hrs/week) or a full-time basis (more than 20 hours/week). Part-time CPT has no impact on OPT, discussed below; however, one year of full-time CPT will result in OPT no longer being an option. The student must currently be in F-1 status and have been a full time student for at least one academic year before requesting CPT. Exceptions to the one academic year requirement are provided for students enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in Curricular Practical Training. CPT must be authorized by the school’s designated official through the issuance of Form I-20. 


Optional Practical Training is training that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. It is intended to provide a student with practical experience in his or her field of study during or upon completion of a degree program. A student is eligible for 12 months of OPT at each educational level educational level. The student must file Form I-765 along with a Form I-20 with OPT recommended by the school’s designated official, and the I-765 must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

24-Month STEM OPT Extension 

The 24-month STEM extension allows for an additional 24 months, for a maximum of 36 months of total OPT, if all of the following requirements are met:

  • Student completed a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) degree field (NOTE: degree must be on DHS’ STEM-Designated Degree Program List).
  • Student is currently engaged in post-completion OPT, and applying on the basis of a STEM degree (or making progress toward completing thesis or dissertation). 
  • Employer must be actively participating in the E-verify program.
  • Must be paid employment.
  • I-983 Training Plan is required to be completed by student and employer.

Further, additional reporting requirements are mandatory of approved STEM extensions:

  • Student must report changes of name, address, employer name/address/Employer Identification Number (EIN), and/or loss of employment within 10 days of the change.
  • Student must report to DSO every 6 months to confirm information, even if information hasn’t changed.
  • Student and Employer must complete and submit to DSO an annual self-evaluation describing the progress of the training experience
  • Student must report to their DSO any material changes to the student’s formal training plan
  • Student must report termination within 10 days

It’s crucial to seek the advice of an experienced immigration lawyer if you or someone you know has an F-1 student visa and is looking for employment permission. Our skilled immigration attorneys in Houston, Texas work with those on F-1 student visas and the many possibilities for employment authorization. We are committed to offering solutions, direction, and assistance because we recognize how crucial this issue is to you and your future. Let us guide you through the challenges of acquiring a work permit while on an F-1 student visa.

If you are in need of a US work visa or permanent residency, speak with one of our immigration lawyers. Please contact us online, call our Houston business immigration attorney office directly at 713-953-7787, or schedule a consultation.