CPT and volunteering

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is work authorization which allows a student to work in a job directly related to the student‘s major area of study before degree completion. CPT authorization is granted by the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), office.

Volunteering can be a great way for international students to connect to the broader community and build their own skills. As an international student, we want to emphasize the importance of you communicating with International Student and Scholars Services (ISSS) about your community work.

Even if you don’t need to apply for CPT, it is a good idea to keep any documentation you receive from the non-profit organization that has a description of your position, clarifying that it is unpaid. If your community work is paid, you are working with a for-profit organization, or your work is a requirement for a course in your major, contact ISSS right away to discuss applying for CPT.

Work that is paid, means:

  • You receive an hourly wage for your work
  • You receive a stipend for your work
  • You receive any other compensation through parking vouchers, transportation refunds, room/board, meal vouchers, etc.

Expand all

I am volunteering at a community organization as part of a service-learning/community-engaged learning class supported by Center for Community-Engaged Learning. Do I need to submit CPT?

POSSIBLY: CPT is not required to volunteer in the community as part of an academic course outside of your major. If you are taking a class in your major that has an optional or required community-engaged learning track, please talk to ISSS if you are planning on doing the track with unpaid community work.

I am volunteering at a non-profit organization to build my resume and skills. Do I need CPT?

NO: CPT is not required is you are volunteering with a non-profit organization. If you are offered a volunteer position with a for-profit company, you will need to apply for CPT authorization. 

I am participating in the Community Engagement Scholars Program (CESP)- do I need CPT for my activities?

MAYBE: CESP requires students to complete 400 hours of community work. Some of that work can be paid. Contact ISSS immediately if you are receiving pay for your work, and you do not have CPT authorization.

I am doing an internship through HECUA. Do I need CPT?

POSSIBLY: CPT is not required if you are doing an unpaid internship as part of an academic course, unless that course is required for your major(s).

My volunteer site offers bus passes, lunch vouchers, or other financial benefits for volunteers. Can I accept those?

If you accept any type of compensation for a volunteer experience, ISSS strongly recommends you apply for CPT authorization because it is a form of pay. It is probably easier to decline a small amount of compensation rather than applying for CPT.