Education and H1bs - Part II
By Jim Gotcher

In our last article, we discussed how the USCIS views certain US degrees when adjudicating H1bs.   In this article, we are going to discuss how the USCIS views Curricular Practical Training (CPT) when adjudicating H1bs.  

Curricular Practical Training, often referred to as CPT, is provided to students who are enrolled in classes and would like to gain experience through internships, off-campus employment or co-operative programs that are directly linked to the student’s field of study.    Unlike OPT, the student will receive course credit for their work.  

In order to be eligible for CPT,

  • The student must be in valid F-1 status,
  • If the student is enrolled in an undergraduate program, they must wait 9 months   (2 full semesters) before enrolling.  If the student is enrolled in a graduate program, the school official can authorize CPT in the first semester if it is part of the course curriculum or if that type of experience is required by the program.
  • The student’s CPT employer must enter into a cooperative agreement with the school
  • The student must be enrolled in at least 3 units per semester and attending classes at the university during the CPT period

It is also important to understand that if a student uses one full year of CPT, that student is not eligible for OPT upon graduation.   In order to be able to use both, the student must use less than one year of CPT and they should discuss this with the designated school official to ensure eligibility for OPT.  

So how does this come into play with H1bs?   The USCIS has been very skeptical of schools that provide CPT to students in their first semester.   After Tri-Valley University was thrust into the spot light, the USCIS has started to issue Requests for Evidence (RFE) for those students who have attended certain schools and have utilized CPT during their studies.   These RFEs show up on OPT filings and extensions as well as H1b filings and they all tend to request the same evidence so it is important that students keep the following documents in the event they receive an RFE. 

In the aforementioned RFEs, the USCIS will request some or all of the following:

  • Evidence of payment of tuition
  • Receipts for books, parking, school supplies, etc.
  • Student ID
  • Copies of all executed I-20s
  • Rental agreement to show that you were living near the school during the CPT period
  • Class schedules
  • Course syllabi that include course numbers/sections, instructor’s name, delivery method (in person/lecture, lab, online, tele-learning, etc.)
  • Classroom location, meeting dates/times
  • A statement from the Designated School Official that attests to the fact that the student was attending classes at the school and that the instructor was present as well
  • A statement from the professor attesting to the fact that the student attended classes in-person.
  • Copy of the cooperative agreement with the school and the CPT employer
  • Letter from the CPT employer describing the position, duties, hours per week, jobsite location and employment dates
  • Paystubs from the CPT employer covering the CPT employment period

As you can see, the USCIS is attempting to determine whether the CPT was related to the field of study, whether it was relevant to student’s program and whether the student actually attended classes at the school while working on CPT.   If the student is unable to provide this evidence to the USCIS, their OPT request may be denied and if they are changing status to H1b, their request for the change of status may be denied as the USCIS would say that they are not maintaining their F1 status. 

Students should always talk with the designated school official when applying for CPT, but it is also important that the student retain evidence regarding their CPT in the event of a Request for Evidence.   CPT is legal and can provide valuable work experience for students, but it is critical for students to have a solid understanding of CPT and what the possible ramifications of CPT employment are in regards to their status and any future status they may apply for.   Students should also be aware that unlike the situation with an H1B, CPT experience may not be used to qualify an applicant for an I-140 if the work was done for course credit or to fulfil a graduation requirement. Next article, we will focus on Optional Practical Training.  

 

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