Information about Dependents (F-2), Optional Practical Training (OPT), and Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

F-2 Regulations

Study: The need to monitor foreign students being educated and trained in the U.S. is of vital importance to the national security of the U.S. The government believes that the value of SEVIS would be undermined if there is no distinction between an F-1 student and F-2 dependent when it comes to receiving an education. Therefore, an F-2 dependent (which is a spouse or child of an F-1 student) may not engage in full time study according to government regulations. The only exception to this is in the case of an F-2 child in full time study at an elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through 12th grade).

Vocational or Recreational Part-time Study: An F-2 spouse or child may be involved in part-time study, provided that this study is vocational or recreational in nature. Vocational or recreational means study that is incident to your status and is occasional or casual for the purpose of pursuing a hobby or interest, such as an English language course or a tennis class. Any full time study, even if recreational in nature, is prohibited and is a violation of your status. Even part time study that counts towards a degree requirement, leads to a specific educational or professional objective, or satisfies a prerequisite would not be incident to your status and is considered a status violation.

Work: F-2 dependents may not work on or off-campus under any circumstances. If a change of status to F-1 is applied for, you must wait for the change of status to be approved before beginning employment.

Changing Your Status from F-2 to F-1 (by mail)

If you wish to pursue a full course of study or be employed, you must first apply for a change of status to F-1 with USCIS and wait until your status change is approved, which takes 2-4 months to process. The International Cross-Cultural Center will work with you to issue you a new I-20 for the application. It is highly recommended that F-2 dependents not begin a course of study, even part time, until their change of status is approved. If the program start date is approaching, you should defer attendance until the change of status is approved.

Changing Your Status from F-2 to F-1 (by travel)

If you have a valid F-2 visa, another option may be to travel to your home country and apply for an F-1 visa. You will need to obtain a new I-20 from the International & Cross-Cultural Center (ICC) Office in order to apply for the F-1 visa. In the case you are denied the F-1 visa, you may re-enter the U.S. on your valid F-2 visa.

You should schedule an appointment with the ICC Advisor to discuss these travel options and the risks involved. You can schedule an appointment by calling (540) 665-1293.

F-1 Optional Practical Training

General Information: Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment authorization that allows F-1 students to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience. You may be entitled to up to 12 months of optional practical training per educational level.

Please note that Optional Practical Training requires authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which typically takes 3 months to obtain. We recommend that you apply 3-4 months before you wish to begin employment.

Eligibility Requirements: To be eligible for optional practical training, you must:

  1. have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year,
  2. currently be maintaining a full-time program of study and valid F-1 status, and
  3. plan to work in a job directly related to your major field of study.

A job offer is not required to be eligible for OPT, but the student is expected to work or to be actively seeking employment after the OPT approval card (EAD) is issued. USCIS now requires schools to verify current employer information for students in OPT.

Please note that students in English language training programs are not eligible for practical training. If you are uncertain whether you meet the eligibility requirements, please contact International Cross-Cultural Center Office at (540) 665-1293.

Two Types of Optional Practical Training:

Pre-Completion OPT (Before completion of studies)

  • During the school year: Students may apply for part-time optional practical training that permits them to work up to 20 hours per week. Part-time OPT is deducted from the 12 month limit at 50 percent. Thus, two months of part-time OPT would count as one month deduction from the available 12 months.
  • After completion of all course requirements for a degree (except thesis, dissertation, or equivalent): OPT may be either part-time or full-time. Students must be registered each semester on thesis or dissertation status.

Post-Completion OPT (After completion of studies)

  • After completion of the degree: OPT must be full-time (but you may work part-time or full-time).
  • Post-Completion OPT Deadlines: Students must apply for post-completion Optional Practical Training before the completion date of their course of study. You must request an OPT I-20 no later than 3-4 weeks before your completion date. USCIS must receive your complete OPT application before your program completion date.

Overview of the Application Process:

Step One: Student requests an I-20 recommending OPT from ICC. Please allow at least two business days for processing I-20.

Step Two: A completed application is sent to USCIS. (USCIS processing time is typically 2-3 months.)

To request an OPT I-20, you must do the following:

  • Contact ICC to pick up required forms and receive general instructions
  • Complete the student section of ICC OPT I-20 Request Form
  • Have an academic advisor complete the academic advisor section of the OPT I-20 Request Form
  • Schedule appointment with ICC to review OPT paperwork and pick up new OPT Form I-20

Step Three: Student schedules appointment with ICC for review of OPT paperwork

  • Once you have scheduled your appointment, picked up your new Form I-20 recommending OPT from ICC, your paperwork must be mailed to USCIS.
  • Make a complete copy of your application for your records.
  • USCIS will send you a receipt notice, typically within one month.
  • Once your application is approved, you will receive an approval card (EAD) in the mail from USCIS.

Employment Based on Severe Economic Necessity: Employment authorization may be obtained based on severe economic need for a very limited number of students. In order to be eligible for this employment, you must have been in F-1 status for at least one school year and you must be able to document that you are in an unexpected extreme economic hardship that was not present when you began your studies. You must receive approval from USCIS before you can accept employment.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Regulations – 8CFR 214.2(f)(10)

Curricular Practical Training Programs: An F-1 student may be authorized by review of ICC advisor to participate in a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other types of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.


  • Available to F-1 students who have been lawfully in student status for at least two semesters
  • Can be used for Part-time and Full-time employment during the summer
  • Students in full-time study during the academic year are not eligible for full-time CPT
  • Full-time CPT will be counted against Optional Practical Training if used for more than one year
  • Internship or practicum (required) is covered under CPT for F-1 student employment

Necessary Forms: F-1 students should contact the International Cross-Cultural Center Office for an appointment to meet with an advisor to determine eligibility for CPT. Specific paperwork must be completed at least two weeks before you plan to begin working. Information will be requested such as the name of the employer, address, detailed job description and number of hours to be worked. (Your academic advisor will also be asked to complete a portion of the form so allow extra time for the process.)

Students may not begin work until they have received their new SEVIS Form I-20 with CPT authorization.