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Internships/Externships/Practicum through Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular practical training is available to undergraduate and graduate level students if the employment is an integral part of an established curriculum and if the position directly relates to the major area of study.

Important Information

  • Final internship approval/employment authorization is granted only by your Designated School Official (DSO). Unauthorized work will result in termination of your SEVIS record and F1-status, leaving you illegally present in the United States.
  • You may not begin work until the DSO has authorized your internship employment.
  • You must be enrolled in a Pepperdine course in order to participate in CPT.
  • You will only be authorized for CPT for the catalog-published term dates of the course. You may not work before or after those term dates!
  • CPT may be paid or unpaid.
  • CPT may be full-time (20+ hours per week) or part time (20- hours per week).
  • Twelve or more months of full-time CPT will make you ineligible for OPT (Optional Practical Training).

Undergraduate Students

Graduate Students

Frequently asked questions


 What are the federal F-1 visa regulations for CPT?

Sec. 214.2(f)(10)

(10) Practical training . Practical training may be authorized to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full time basis, in a Service-approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary for one full academic year. This provision also includes students who, during their course of study, were enrolled in a study abroad program, if the student had spent at least one full academic term enrolled in a full course of study in the United States prior to studying abroad. A student may be authorized 12 months of practical training, and becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she changes to a higher educational level. Students in English language training programs are ineligible for practical training. An eligible student may request employment authorization for practical training in a position that is directly related to his or her major area of study. There are two types of practical training available: (Introductory text revised effective 1/1/03; 67 FR 76256 )

(i) Curricular practical training programs . An F-1 student may be authorized by the DSO to participate in a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. Students who have received one year or more of full time curricular practical training are ineligible for post-completion academic training. Exceptions to the one academic year requirement are provided for students enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in curricular practical training. A request for authorization for curricular practical training must be made to the DSO. A student may begin curricular practical training only after receiving his or her Form I-20 with the DSO endorsement. (Revised effective 1/1/03; 67 FR 76256 )

(A) Non-SEVIS process . A student must request authorization for curricular practical training using Form I-538. Upon approving the request for authorization, the DSO shall: certify Form I-538 and send the form to the Service's data processing center; endorse the student's Form I-20 ID with "full-time (or part-time) curricular practical training authorized for (employer) at (location) from (date) to (date)"; and sign and date the Form I-20ID before returning it to the student.

(B) SEVIS process . To grant authorization for a student to engage in curricular practical training, a DSO at a SEVIS school will update the student's record in SEVIS as being authorized for curricular practical training that is directly related to the student's major area of study. The DSO will indicate whether the training is full-time or part-time, the employer and location, and the employment start and end date. The DSO will then print a copy of the employment page of the SEVIS Form I-20 indicating that curricular practical training has been approved. The DSO must sign, date, and return the SEVIS Form I-20 to the student prior to the student's commencement of employment.

 Will I have to pay taxes?

You must let your employer know that income taxes must be withheld from your pay. If you are a "nonresident" for tax purposes (for the first five years of F-1 status you may be considered nonresident for tax purposes) you do not have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes.

For more information, please visit http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Exempt-Individual-Who-is-a-Student

 Can I volunteer?

Do not confuse "volunteer services" with an unpaid internship. A volunteer is an individual who performs hours of service for a public agency for charitable or humanitarian reasons, without promise or expectation of compensation.

Do not offer services for free if those services are normally associated with a paid position. If you accept an unpaid position, it must be unpaid for anyone, regardless of citizenship and visa status.

Pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (a federal law that establishes the minimum wages for work performed), the US Department of Labor (DOL) has developed six criteria for differentiating between an employee entitled to minimum wage or above and a learner/trainee who may be unpaid. The criteria for learner/trainee are:

  1. The training, even though it includes actual operations of the facilities of the employers, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school.
  2. The training is for the benefit of the student.
  3. The student does not displace a regular employee, but works under the close observation of a regular employee or supervisor.
  4. The employer provides the training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the student; and on occasion, the operations may actually be impeded by the training.
  5. The student is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.
  6. The employer and the student understand that the student is not entitled to wages for the time spent training.

 What are the consequences of not obtaining proper work authorization from my DSO?

Your F-1 visa status will be terminated.

There are only two ways to regain F-1 visa status:

  1. Depart the US immediately with a new "initial" I-20 from your DSO. You must pay a new SEVIS fee and contact the US Embassy/Consulate in your home country to ask if there is anything you will need to do regarding renewing your F-1 visa or applying for a new F-1 visa. You may then re-enter the US with your new I-20 and a new status. You must immediately report to your DSO for SEVIS registration when you enter on a new "initial" I-20 or else your F-1 status will be terminated again, and you will have to start the process over again.
  2. You must immediately file a Form I-539 (reinstatement application) with the US Department of Homeland Security. Back-up materials including a personal appeal, letters of recommendation from your DSO and/or faculty, etc., as well as any other persuasive documentation should be included. The fee for filing is $290. If you require assistance, our office can provide you with a list of immigration attorneys who have worked with Pepperdine University students in the past. Once you have filed the Form I-539, it may take several months for adjudication. If you depart the US before your application is adjudicated, your application will be voided. If your application for reinstatement is denied, you must immediately depart the United States. Either of these results would require that you follow the procedure in #1 in order to gain re-entry to continue studies.