F1 Internship Eligibility

Tekcel F1 Program is your opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience as a full-time PAID* intern or trainee placed with a company in the United States. Let’s go over the main F1 internship eligibility rules.

F1 Interns

To be eligible for the F1 internship visa, candidates must be foreign professionals

  • Who are currently enrolled in a foreign degree- or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside the United States; or
  • Who have graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to their F1 internship start date.

F1 Trainees

To be eligible for the F1 training visa, candidates must be foreign professionals who have

  • A degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution AND at least 1 year of work experience in his/her professional field. Note that in this case both education and the experience must come from outside the United States. 

If a candidate has a degree from the United States or a degree from overseas unrelated to his/her desired field of training, candidate needs to show he/she has

  • 5 years of work experience outside the United States in the field in which they are seeking training

If you are a F1 international student in the United States struggling to find a US company for your OPT, CPT or AT training, contact us, and we will help you find practical training placement in the United States. But first, let’s take a look at what OPT, CPT and AT are all about and discuss your options.


Training programs for F1 Students

If you are an international student in the United States on an F1 student visa, you are entitled to receive practical career training with a US company as long as the training is related to your studies’ major. There are several types of practical training options available for F1 students:

  • OPT – Optional Practical Training
  • CPT – Curricular Practical Training
What is OPT?

OPT is an abbreviation for Optional Practical Training and is defined by USCIS as Temporary employment that is directly related to an international F-1 student’s major area of study.


An F-1 student could be authorized to receive up to a total of 12 months of practical training either before (pre-) and/or after (post-) completion of his/her studies at the US-based university or college.


Pre-completion OPT

An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT after he/she has been enrolled in school for one full academic year. The pre-completion OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study.


Students authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT must work part-time (no more than 20 hours per week) while school is in session. They may work full time (40+ hours per week) when school is not in session.


Post-completion OPT

An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in post-completion OPT upon completion of his/her studies. The post-completion OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study.


Post-completion OPT trainees must work at least at least 20 hours/week to count as OPT employment


How long can I be unemployed on OPT status?

According to USCIS rules, the maximum allowed unemployment period on OPT status is 90 days.


What counts as OPT unemployment?

Each day, weekends including, counts towards OPT unemployment if the student does not have a qualifying placement and is not undergoing training with the US company. You can find your OPT beginning and end dates on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).


Change of companies on OPT status:

If you decide to change your training site as an OPT trainee, please contact us for further assistance and always remember to keep USCIS up to date on your OPT training site changes.


OPT STEM Extension

You may be eligible for an additional 17 months of OPT if:

  • The degree related to you post-completion OPT is a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) program listed here.
  • Your employer uses the E-Verify program.
  • You have not previously received a 17-month OPT STEM extension.
  • Your DSO (designated school official) is willing provide you with a new Form I-20 that shows the DSO recommendation for this employment on page three.
  • You must apply for work authorization by electronically filing a Form I-765 with USCIS and paying a filing fee of $380. USCIS will send you an EAD upon approving your petition.
  • You may continue to work on your expired EAD for OPT up to 180 days while your 17-month extension petition is pending if you are currently in a period of post-completion OPT and if you filed your application for the 17-month extension properly and in a timely manner.
  • You must report changes in name, address, employer and loss of employment to your DSO within 10 days of any change

What is CPT?

Similar to pre-completion OPT, Curricular Practical Training (CPT) participants can start their training while enrolled in their degree programs. CPT training is part-time when school is in session and could be full-time during vacations.


CPT or OPT – What’s the difference?

There are two main differences between CPT and pre-completion OPT

  • CPT is Curricular. OPT is Optional. Pre-completion OPT needs to be related to the field of study, but is not required by the field of study. CPT, however, is supposed to be required as part of the degree program. Degree-based CPT is tied to the degree but not to a specific course. Course-based CPT is tied to a specific course, and can be taken only by students enrolled in that course.
  • CPT trainees need to specify their employer. OPTs do not. For pre-completion OPT, it is not necessary to specify the employer during the application stage. However, for CPT, the employer needs to be specified at the time of application and the employment offer letter is part of the application.
  • CPT has no time limit. OPT does. Pre-completion OPT counts toward the 12 month OPT limit (thus cutting into the length of possible time that can be spent on post-completion OPT). CPT does not count toward the 12 month OPT limit. However, if a student does 12 or more months of CPT, he or she becomes ineligible for OPT.

Training programs for F1 Students

If you are an undergraduate or graduate exchange student in the United States on a F1 visa, you too are entitled to receive practical training in the United States. In your visa status, such training is called Academic Training (AT).


AT training eligibility

F1 student may take part in AT training if he/she:

  • Is in the U.S. primarily to study rather than to engage in Academic Training;
  • Is or will be participating in training that is directly related to his/her field of study listed on the DS-2019
  • Is in good academic standing and in a legal program status;
  • Participates in training that is an integral or critical part of his/her academic program;
  • Receives, before beginning the training, written authorization from the Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer (RO/ARO)
  • AT may be granted for a maximum of 18 months or the period of the full course of study in the U.S., whichever is shorter. For example, if you have studied in the United States for 12 months, your AT is limited to 12 months.
  • AT authorization begins when you complete your studies, even if the actual training does not begin until a later date.

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