F-1: Employment Information

Types of Employment Available to F-1 Students

On-Campus Employment

Off-Campus Employment

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Co-Op for Undergraduate Engineering Students
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Severe Economic Hardship

Special Student Relief (SSR)

On-Campus Employment

On-campus employment is defined as employment which provides a paycheck from Purdue University. Positions include teaching assistantships, research assistantships, some fellowships, and hourly employment (Food Services, Library, etc).

F-1 students are restricted to the amount of hours per week they may work:

  • Fall/Spring academic semesters: maximum of 20 hours per week.
  • Semester breaks, official school/summer vacation: full-time on campus. (Exception: if a student is required to register for summer (such as with a Graduate Assistantship), only 20 hours per week maximum permitted).

Upon completion of degree, on-campus employment permission ends.

Employment between programs (BS to MS, or MS to PhD): On-campus employment is not permitted after program completion, unless the student has a new I-20 and plans to enroll the following semester. See an ISS counselor for details.

Paperwork for on-campus employment is processed by the business office of the employing department/office.

Off-Campus Employment

F-1 students must be in full-time student status for one full academic year to be eligible for off-campus employment.  Below are listed the various types of off-campus employment: Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Off-campus Employment Based on Severe Economic Hardship.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)


CPT is employment authorization for an integral part of an established curriculum and must be directly related to a student's major area of study.  It may be defined as: alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education (Co-Op) or other type of internship practicum (required or optional).  Student’s must also register for a specific course in their department (contact your advisor for course details).

CPT can be full-time (>20 hours per week) or part-time (20 hours or less per week). Students registered for part-time CPT during a fall/spring semester must also be registered for a full course of study.  Students engaged in part-time CPT during summer vacation do not need to be registered full-time for classes.

Students must be in legal status which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Possess a valid passport
  • Be registered as a full-time student each fall/spring semester 
  • Have been in F-1 student status for at least one full academic year.

How to Apply for CPT

To apply for CPT you must be able to respond, "Yes," to the following:

  1. Is your I-20 valid and unexpired?
  2. Does it list your current field of study and educational level?
  3. Do you have a valid, unexpired passport?
  4. Have you been a full-time student for one full academic year?
  5. Have you been registered full-time every semester you attended Purdue:
    • Undergraduate students: 12 credit hours
    • Graduate students: 8 credit hours 
    • Graduate students with an assistantship: 6 credit hours

If you answered "NO" to any of the above questions: Speak with ISS.

If you answered "yes" to all the questions: Complete the CPT online workshop. All CPT forms are available and may be downloaded from the web. The workshop is at: https://www.iss.purdue.edu/cpt/

After completing the on-line workshop: Register for an CPT follow-up session. 

Bring the following documents to the follow-up session:

  1. Print of checklist at end of online workshop, signed by you
  2. Valid, unexpired passport
  3. Course description for CPT course in which you will be enrolled as listed on the MyPurdue site
  4. Curricular Practical Training Certification Form : Completed by Academic Advisor/Counselor, Department Head, Dean, or Co-Op Coordinator
  5. Employer job offer including the required information:
  1. Position is full or part-time (specify the number of hours per week)
  2. Mailing (street) address with zipcode of employment.  Worksite address needed: no P O Box addresses will be accepted: address must be the location where you are working.
  3. Specific beginning and ending dates of employment

Hand in your completed paperwork and ask individual questions.

Allow 5 working days for ISS to process your CPT paperwork.

You may not begin any employment related activities, including orientation, until the start date of the new CPT I-20.

Co-Op for Undergraduate Students


The Co-Op experience can be a strong and meaningful complement to the formal education of an engineering student. This option is sometimes open to international students. The opportunities are very limited and the expectations for a Co-Op student are high. Described below is the process for an international student desiring to be considered for a Co-Op assignment.

The Schools of Engineering have a call-out every spring semester for Co-Op students. At a later date, interested students and companies interview for Co-Op placement. International students in F-1 visa status are eligible for Co-Op if they meet the academic requirements. Students should discuss the number of Co-Op sessions (see below) with an ISS Counselor during a walkin session.

Standard Co-Op commitments are for three regular semesters and two summer assignments. To meet that requirement, international students are recommended to use CPT for the three regular semesters (approximately 48 weeks) and optional practical training (OPT) for the two summer sessions. Otherwise, the student would need to negotiate with the Co-Op office to reduce the number of sessions they would have to three (two regular semesters and one summer) or four (three regular semesters and one summer, using OPT for the summer session and watching the number of days on the regular semesters to make sure they don't accumulate 365 days or more of fulltime CPT).

In this manner, students will still have some OPT time reserved for post-graduation employment. Using only CPT for a Co-Op experience would disqualify students for OPT since 12 months or more of full-time CPT employment bars students from applying for OPT.

How to Apply for Engineering Co-Op

  • Attend the spring Co-Op callout organized by the Schools of Engineering.
  • Gain acceptance to the Co-Op program
  • Apply for CPT by going through the online workshop at: https://www.iss.purdue.edu/cpt/ and signing up for a follow-up session at the end of the workshop
    • Please only schedule the follow-up session after preparing the following documents:
      • Valid passport
      • Course description for Co-Op course in which you will be enrolled
      • Current Form I-20
      • Curricular Practical Training Certification Form completed by the Faculty Co-Op Coordinator (for undergraduate students in the Co-Op program). This form is also available on the CPT online workshop.
      • A job offer letter from your prospective employer. The following is required in the offer letter:
        • if the position is full (> 20 hours)- or part-time (<= 20 hours) (specify the number of hours per week)
        • the location (street address) of employment
        • the specific beginning and ending dates of employment 


You  may not begin any employment related activities, including orientation, until the start date of the new CPT I-20.

Optional Practical Training

For information on Optional Practical Training (OPT), please see our new site: https://www.iss.purdue.edu/PracticalTraining/OPT.cfm


Off-Campus Employment Based on Severe Economic Hardship:

Employment authorization due to severe economic hardship is difficult to obtain. It is a very limited option for students who can prove extreme unforeseen economic conditions. The application must be submitted to and approved by USCIS. Students interested in this option should see an ISS immigration counselor.

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