Office of the University Registrar

November 3, 2020


Difference Between CPT and OPT

CPT is for students who are actively studying. Optional Practical Training (OPT) is different, and is usually only used after you graduate. To learn more about OPT, please attend an ISS OPT Information Session for more information.

If you accumulate 12 months (365 or more days) of full-time CPT authorization, you lose your eligibility for OPT. Part-time CPT authorization, or fewer than 12 months of full-time CPT authorization, does not affect OPT eligibility.



When does the work/training take place? While enrolled as a student Usually after graduation
Who authorizes the training? Requires ISS approval and academic department support Requires USCIS (U.S. government) approval
Application process? Online application to ISS Paper application to USCIS
Do I need to have a job before I apply? Apply with job offer Do not need job to apply
Processing time? 2-3 weeks processing time On average, 3-5 months processing time
Are there any limitations?
  • Students can continue to request CPT until the last day of their final quarter
  • Part-time CPT: no maximum limit
  • Full-time CPT: maximum limit is 364 days
12 months full-time + 24-month STEM extension (if eligible)


What is the difference between Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

  • CPT is employer specific and must be done before you graduate. CPT is employment that is an integral part of your major curriculum and allows you to participate in an internship, practicum or cooperative education program. CPT must be required or, if not required, you must receive CPT or internship course credit. OPT is optional for any student who meets the eligibility requirements and you do not need to earn credit.
  • OPT is not employer specific and is usually done after you graduate.

Can I apply for CPT and OPT at the same time?

  • Yes, you can have concurrent applications for CPT and OPT. However, we can only authorize CPT until the last day of your final quarter.
  • You can apply for OPT as early as 90 days before and up to 60 days after the last day of your final quarter.
  • Final quarter end dates are the last day of the quarter per UW’s academic calendar and not the date of your graduation or the last day of instruction.

Does CPT usage affect OPT eligibility?

  • Students may use as much CPT as is needed for their degree program. However, when authorized for a total of 12 months of full-time CPT, students are not eligible for OPT. Multiple overlapping, part-time CPTs would count toward this limit; otherwise, part-time CPT does not affect OPT.