International Students seeking industry work experience must follow all of the steps to obtain both academic credit and CPT (Curricular Practical Training) work authorization, whether the internship is paid or unpaid. See Internships for Academic Credit. Below is additional information on work authorizations, college and employer sponsorship, steps to obtain CPT work authorization, and additional resources.

What Is Work Authorization in the US?

Work authorization is official documentation that permits someone who is not a U.S. citizen or
permanent resident to engage in work, including internships, in the United States. International
students seeking internships, paid or unpaid, are required to obtain work authorization when
they receive an internship offer. These two types of work authorization are commonly sought by
international students at Emerson College:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Authorization (administered by Emerson)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) Authorization (administered by U.S. immigration)

Curricular Practical Training

For internships before graduation, eligible international students are required to submit an internship-for-credit proposal and obtain approval for a qualifying internship through the Career Development Center. When approved, CPT work authorization is provided by the Office of International Student Affairs (OISA). Follow these steps to obtain CPT work authorization:

  1. Secure an internship and an offer letter. Use Handshake to search or find one on your own. (View Offer Letter Requirements).
  2. Submit an application for academic credit in Handshake. Attach your official offer letter to your application using the New Attachment button. Your start date must be at least 7 days after submission to allow for processing time.
  3. Register for the 499 or 690 internship course within your major (View Class Terms & Requirements). Please note that this is a required course paired with your internship, which requires tuition payment for its credits and course completion. Students pursuing a PDE or CDE will be contacted with the code to register after their proposal is approved.
  4. Wait for application approval by (1) the internship course instructor, (2) your internship site supervisor, and (3) the Office of International Student Affairs (OISA). OISA approval includes CPT authorization on a new I-20 that will be sent to you.

Learn more about CPT authorization

Occupational Practical Training

Graduating students work with the OISA in the final year of their program to complete and submit the application to U.S. immigration for OPT work authorization, but it’s never too early to be informed about the OPT process. Please oisa [at] (contact OISA) for info on OPT workshops and appointments, and schedule an OPT appointment at the Career Development Center for strategies on how to prepare for your post-graduate job search.

Do Employers Accept Job Applications from OPT/CPT Authorized Candidates? 

Yes! CPT and OPT are administered at Emerson and U.S. immigration respectively, so employers are not sponsors for either type. Job descriptions often include the tag “Accepts OPT/CPT,” but it doesn’t mean that those without it do not accept OPT/CPT candidates. If you are unsure, you can reach out to the Career Development Center for clarification. Employer sponsorship typically becomes a concern for those wanting to continue working in the U.S. after OPT expires. Please seek guidance from the Office of International Student Affairs for more information on post-OPT visa options.

Additional Resources

  • GoinGlobal: GoinGlobal offers a job and internship board for international students. Use GoinGlobal to research companies and discover internships beyond Handshake.
  • also offers a job and internship board for international students. Discover even more internships by using this site.

Remember that the Career Development Center also provides our international alumni with career support for life, and we want to stay in touch with you beyond graduation. You can reach out to us years into the future when you have career-related questions or want to collaborate with us as professionals in your industries!

CPT Offer Letter Checklist

Consider these important steps to have everything in order for CPT.