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As an F1 PhD student in the United States, I have read this email today, sent to all students of my university:

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) has recently been informed by several individual graduate students that the rules regarding work authorization for summer internships for graduate students have changed this year. We have been told that as a result of this change, F-1 international students can no longer use Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to secure work authorization for summer internships as they have in past years. F-1 international students are being advised to use Optional Practical Training (OPT) to secure summer work authorization instead. We understand that the problem here is that CPT authorization could be secured in approximately 3 weeks in past years, while OPT authorizations takes 2 to 3 months. OPT authorization is therefore not a feasible pathway to get work authorization for internships beginning in June 2016 (about 5 weeks from now).

Why can't F-1 PhD international students no longer use Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to secure work authorization for summer internships, as that used to be able to do so?

  • Is the change local to your college, or more general? For example, a change from training being A change in college policies could affect whether training is "integral to your major and the experience must be part of your program of study." – Patricia Shanahan Apr 25 '16 at 8:47
  • @PatriciaShanahan unsure, but the program of study hasn't changed in my school. I have edited the question to make it PhD specific as the PhD are quite similar between universities. – Franck Dernoncourt Apr 25 '16 at 14:53
  • I think you need to find out from your GSC whether the problem is refusal by the college to authorize CPT, and if so whether it is due to a US rule change or their own decision. – Patricia Shanahan Apr 25 '16 at 15:00
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    @PatriciaShanahan I have asked the school officials, they replied "we find that CPT is no longer appropriate to maintain compliance with tightening federal regulations.". So the claim is that it is a US rule change, or at least its application. But I am curious to have more details about it. – Franck Dernoncourt Apr 25 '16 at 15:04
  • There's a description here. I suspect that they were audited/reviewed and it was noticed that CPT was authorized even when a program didn't have an internship as an integral part of a degree. Employers are supposed to have agreements with the school too. – mkennedy Apr 26 '16 at 18:15
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As per the USCIS rules and regulations I do not see that. I know that different universities kind of differ in their CPT rules though. You can always quote this page to the International students office and your department head and ask for more clarifications. Quoting from the page

An F-1 nonimmigrant student may begin CPT after the Designated School Official (DSO) has completed the Form I-20 endorsement page. CPT is any alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. CPT must be an integral part of an established curriculum.

F-1 nonimmigrant students participating in CPT must present the following three documents to establish identity and employment authorization:

  • Unexpired foreign passport

  • Form I-20 with the DSO’s endorsement for employment

Form I-94 or Form I-94A indicating F-1 nonimmigrant status

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