9 Things to Know Before Choosing Day 1 CPT

1. What is Day 1 CPT? Is Day 1 CPT Legal?

Yes, Day 1 CPT is absolutely legal!

Day 1 CPT is legal and permitted. "Day 1 CPT" is not an official term, though widely circulated among international students. Day 1 CPT refers to university programs that enable students to start utilizing Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and work concurrently with their studies right from the first day of their program. Such programs are subject to specific criteria that must be met. Schools that offer this type of program are referred to as "Day 1 CPT Universities".

This is a commonly asked question. As stated at the beginning of this page, students with an F1 visa can legally work in the United States under two systems: one is CPT, and the other is OPT.

Typically, an international student must be enrolled in a program for more than one year before they are eligible to use CPT. However, students who have already completed a degree in the U.S. may automatically meet this requirement. Therefore, "Day 1 CPT" is completely legal.

Meanwhile, USCIS official guidelines also state that Day 1 CPT is LEGAL as long as it is a requirement for the academic programs and that universities' Designated School Officials (DSOs) have the right to determine the CPT eligibility of their students.

In other words, it is up to the university to determine which programs qualify for Day 1 CPT option. It is also the university’s responsibility to make sure their Day 1 CPT programs comply with all the USCIS regulations.

Therefore, it is crucial to choose an accredited and trustworthy Day 1 CPT university when considering using Day 1 CPT as a means to gain work experience.

>>>Find Accredited Day 1 CPT Universities Near You

2. Why is CPT important to international students?

According to IDP’s 2022 research, one of the major concerns among international students in the U.S. is the “after-graduation employment rate”.

Many international students feel that they are disadvantaged by their immigrant status (F1). While it is a common misconception that international students can't be employed while pursuing their degree, Day 1 CPT provides international students with a unique opportunity for both academic studies and practical application of their knowledge.

USCIS clearly stated that under certain circumstances, F1 students can use CPT or OPT as legal forms of work authorization. 

CPT, aka Curricular Practical Training (CPT), allows F-1 students to gain work experience through employment training and paid internships directly related to their major area of study.

By participating in CPT, international students can get a head start in the job market while lightening the burden of tuition and living cost in the U.S.

Contrary to the well-known post-completed OPT (Optional Practical Training), CPT does not require approval from USCIS. In other words, as long as you are enrolled in an accredited university, you may apply for CPT through the DSO of your school.

Some graduate-level programs that are designed to offer the option of starting CPT from the first day of enrollment are unofficially referred to as "Day 1 CPT programs." The universities that offer these programs are Day 1 CPT universities.

3. Who Will Benefit From Day 1 CPT?

Day 1 CPT is a good choice for you if you are:

  • International students who seek to work while studying in America;

  • An F2 visa holder who seeks to acquire legal rights to work in the US;

  • Currently working in your home country and trying to get a boost for your career but don’t want to just study in a classroom. Day 1 CPT programs allow you to enjoy American education as well as get real-life work experience in the U.S., which makes you more employable in both the U.S. and your home country after graduation.

  • H1B holders who got laid off. Read more to see How Could Day 1 CPT Help You if Laid Off During OPT, H1B, and PERM Processes?

  • H4 holders without an EAD card but wish to start a career in the U.S. as soon as possible

  • F1 students who have been expelled from their previous school and are seeking a second chance in the U.S. often consider Day 1 CPT universities. These universities offer more enrollment windows, making them favorable options for I-20 reinstatement.

  • For COS candidates seeking a status change from B1/B2 to F1 or from J1 to F1, Day 1 CPT universities should be given serious consideration. These universities not only offer a more flexible enrollment policy but also provide courses that are practical-oriented, allowing new immigrants to gain real-life working experiences in the U.S. while advancing their academic studies.

4. Day 1 CPT Eligibility

  • You need to have a valid F1 (full-time student) status.
    • F1 status ≠ F1 visa; a valid I-20 is a must
  • Students must have a job offer to request authorization on CPT.
  • The job description of your CPT internship should be closely related to what you are studying at your Day 1 CPT universities.
  • Your CPT application should be approved by your DSO and you can start working only after receiving the CPT I-20.
  • Throughout your internship, you should maintain your GPA at or above 3.0
  • Part-time CPT is 20hr/week; Full-time CPT is 40hr/week; if you used full-time CPT for 12 months, you would not be able to use your OPT after graduation.
  • You will need to renew your CPT authorization according to your Day 1 CPT universities’ rules.

5. The Risk of Using Day 1 CPT

  • Raise questions regarding your status and your right to work

    It is rare for students to be rejected for H1B merely because they used Day 1 CPT in the past. Nonetheless, such cases did happen before, mostly because students violated their school’s CPT regulations. Other cases involve questions on the credibility of the Day 1 CPT universities.

    It is essential to choose a reliable Day 1 CPT university. They usually offer special help to guide their international students through the application process and can provide legal evidence to prove your eligibility to work while studying in the U.S. in case you get an RFE in your future visa application.

  • F-1 Visa Renewal Risk: it’s not a big issue if you plan ahead

    Although the Day 1 CPT programs are established under the framework of US immigration laws and regulations, which are legal and compliant, they do not permit excessive work in terms of hours.

    If you work excessively, the visa officer may believe that your intention to enter the US is to maintain a job or to find a new job while renewing your F-1 visa. In this case, you could apply for the H1b visa and then leave the US. If the F-1 visa has already expired and you are required to obtain a visa outside the US, it is important to contact your school advisor or immigration lawyers in advance to prepare all the necessary visa materials and respond to questions from the visa officer.

    There's no need to be overly worried about your immigrant status. Having an accredited school and a knowledgeable lawyer by your side will provide strong support

For a more elaborate discussion on this issue, read Day 1 CPT - Exploring the Potential Risks

6. Which Day 1 CPT University Should I Choose?

While the decision is highly personal, there are several crucial factors that all prospective students should thoroughly evaluate:

Day 1 CPT Universities and Their Legitimacy and Accreditations

We highly recommend you to choose well-known day 1 CPT universities with a long standing history and national/regional accreditations. P.S. In the US, it is more difficult for schools to be accredited regionally than nationally.

Let's take WASC as an example! WASC accreditation is the highest level of accreditation for West Coast schools. Stanford University and UCLA have received this accreditation.

CPT schools in Los Angeles, for example, Westcliff University, a CPT school established in Los Angeles in 1993, received national accreditation in 2014 and regional accreditation from WASC in 2018.

If you are interested in learning more about school accreditation, please check the official website of the U.S. Department of Education. The schools' websites also generally display the accreditations they have received.

Day 1 CPT Universities and their On-Site Requirements

USCIS does not allow international students with F-1 visas to attend schools with 100% online courses. So you need to know the frequency of onsite classes and whether it is possible to receive CPT without attending classes onsite.

Although schools can design curriculums freely, established programs typically require students to attend class onsite either weekly or monthly, sometimes once per semester.

Keep your transportation records (such as flight tickets, hotel invoices, or Airbnb booking receipts), parking receipts, textbook receipts, tuition receipts, etc in case the USCIS requests extra evidence after you are selected for the H1b visa.

The onsite attendance policy may vary from school to school. Some CPT schools may only require you to be onsite once a month (e.g. Sofia University), some may require you twice a month (e.g. Ottawa University) and others may require you once per semester (e.g. Professional format programs at Westcliff University).

Some schools require you to be onsite weekly (e.g. UONA). All these programs are approved by the state government without exceptions.

Therefore, keep your records of the onsite attendance in case the USCIS requests evidence to prove that you have attended classes as required to maintain your legal status.

When schools apply for accreditation, they are required to submit an application that includes all programs, class format, 100% online programs, on-site programs, the number of weekly onsite sessions, and the length of classes. The schools are required to follow what they have submitted; otherwise, the accrediting agency may cancel the accreditation or accuse the schools of fraud if they find the onsite attendance is different from what is stated on file.

Day 1 CPT Universities and their Locations

When you choose CPT schools, please also consider the location. Is the location easily accessible?

As all established CPT schools require you to attend onsite classes and there is no guarantee whether you can be selected for the H1b visa, the CPT program may last longer than expected. It is important to consider the convenience of transportation. If you can easily travel to the school by flight, car, bus or train, that will be great!

If you are living close to the San Francisco Bay Area, Sofia University is a good choice for you! It is a Day-1 CPT school in Palo Alto.

Sofia University offers MBA and MSCS programs and only requires you to attend onsite classes for a half-day on Saturdays every month. All other courses can be completed online.

Attachment: USCIS 2019 Top 200 Employers for CPT Students

Top 5 Day 1 CPT Universities:

If you have no idea where to start, use our screening tool to weigh your options. Still confused? contact us for a free consultation.

Book a free consultation and look for the best solution for you ➱


7. Which Day 1 CPT Program Should I Choose?

Bottom Line: Make a Reasonable Study Plan

If a student chooses to pursue multiple master's degrees covering similar subjects, USCIS officers may pay extra attention to this student while reviewing his/her visa application.

  • First, a trend of progression among your degrees is recommended. It is ideal to go from bachelor to master, then to doctoral/Ph.D.

  • Second, your study plan should go parallel to your career development. Your work experience and your study plan should be relevant and complementary to each other.

  • Third, the management program is always an ideal choice when you run out of other options, especially the DBA program. DBA is a doctoral-level program, some of them are even recognized as STEM programs (i.e. Westcliff University’s DBA)which will grant you 3 years of OPT after graduation. All in all, it allows you to legally work with an F1 visa for nearly 6 years.

If you have no idea where to start, use our screening tool to weigh your options. Still confused? Contact us for a free consultation.

Book a free consultation and look for the best solution for you ➱

8. Day 1 CPT Application Step by Step

Depending on the Day 1 CPT universities you are enrolled in, the CPT application process usually takes up to 1-2 weeks. We wrote an article on this topic, using Monroe College and New England College as examples to paint a basic picture for you. Click here to read about it.

Usually, after you received an offer letter from your Day 1 CPT universities, you can start to apply for internship authorizations. CPT application usually involves the following steps:

Step 1: Get a Job Offer

Step 2: Register for a CPT course

At most Day 1 CPT universities, in order to enjoy your CPT, you will have to register for a CPT course first. Then, hand in your offer letter, and a CPT agreement signed by your employer along with other supporting materials required by your university to apply for a new CPT I-20.

Step 3: CPT I-20

Wait for your CPT application to be approved by your CPT school and receive your new I-20. Note that you must wait until the CPT takes effect to work. If your employer requires you to start working right away, apply for an unpaid leave while waiting for your new CPT I-20 to avoid breaking the immigration law.

Step 4: Renew your CPT

Pay attention! Before the end of each semester, check your email, even spam! Your school will send the CPT renewal email/reminder to you. If you don’t receive the renewal email, remember to contact your advisor. Not renewing your CPT on time may result in losing your working status.

9. Other Day 1 CPT FAQ

SEVIS Related

What is the 150-day rule?

If you are a student who transfer the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) from the previous school to the new school, the first day of the new school needs to be within 150 days of the end date of the previous program (specified on the first page of I-20) or the OPT expiration date; otherwise, the school can only issue a new I-20. You are required to activate the I20 by traveling outside the US and entering again.

What is the 60-day rule?

If you are a student transferring SEVIS from the previous school to the new school, you are required to obtain the school's acceptance letter and apply for school transfer within 60 days (grace period) after graduating from the previous school or the OPT expiration date. SEVIS will be inactive after 60 days of graduation and will not be able to be transferred to the new school.

Can I enroll after the program has started?

Yes! day1cpt.org partnered schools allow you to enroll even after the semester has started. There are up to 6 enrollment periods during the year.

How to change my B1/B2/J1/H1/H4 visa to F1?

If you have a valid student visa, such as an F-1 visa from the original school, you can activate I-20 by traveling to Mexico and Canada, and then re-enter the US.

If your student visa has expired and you want to start school as soon as possible, it is recommended to apply for the student visa online from countries that you do not need visa to visit. You can enter the US again after obtaining the student visa from these countries, which usually takes 2-3 days.

If your visa has expired and you still have time before school starts, you can apply for a status change within the US. Please contact us to learn about the status change.

Can I transfer school to another school after enrollment?

Yes, you can. You can just contact your current school advisor to ask for the transfer.

Work Related

What are the well-known companies that sponsor H1B visas for Day 1 CPT employees?

Affirm, Adobe, Bloomberg, Barclays, BOA, Box, Citi, Doordash, Google, IBM, JP Morgan, Matterport, Microsoft, Okta, Oracle, Walmartlabs, WeWork, and more.

Please see a list of 200 employers who hired part-time CPT or full-time CPT employees in 2019. All of these employees support full-time CPT authorization. Typically, summer interns and Day-1 CPT employees are considered full-time CPT. The only difference between part-time CPT or full-time CPT employees them is that summer internship usually lasts for 2-3 months while Day 1 CPT lasts longer.

Can I switch to a different company during CPT?

Yes! But remember to contact your school in advance and update your employer info in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) within 10 days of the switch.

When can I apply for CPT?

You can apply for CPT 2-3 weeks before school starts after receiving the school's acceptance letter or successfully transferring SEVIS. If you miss the deadline, you may have another chance to apply for CPT during the semester.

Is there a gap while transferring OPT to CPT? Can I continue working?

Yes, there will be a short gap and you can’t continue working during the gap.

OPT expires on the second day after SEVIS is transferred out of the original school. You can start working after obtaining the new CPT from the new school, as early as on the first day of school. To start working on the first day, we recommend that you start your application as soon as possible after receiving the school's acceptance letter and apply for CPT two weeks before the school starts.

Because the school has a limited number of staff overseeing CPT applications, applying near the deadline could result in delays as the school needs to process a large volume of applications. It's possible that this delay could lead to the student not receiving an I-20 containing employer information during the first-week class; therefore, the student temporarily will not have work authorization.

After receiving the CPT applications, it normally takes the school 3-5 days to process the SEVIS transfer and approve the CPT application. Please start working only after the CPT application has been approved. If there is a gap, it is better to take a few days off and keep a record with your employer about these days off (we recommend not including these days on pay stub) in case the USCIS requests for extra evidence (RFE) to prove that you did not work during the gap.

If I am not selected for H1B? Can I continue my program?

Yes! If you participate in a master's program, you have 2 H1b draws while studying. If you continue with a DBA program, you will have another 4 H1b draws for a 3-year program. You can take a one-semester break after completing every 3 semesters consecutively. In the meantime, you can still apply for CPT and work. Additionally, you can apply to delay your graduation in the 3rd year of your doctoral program. In total, these count as 6 H1b draws.

If I am selected for H1B, can I drop out of school? If so, how?

Yes! You can drop out of school after being selected for the H1b visa. It is recommended to finish the semester with grades reported on the transcript until the H1b takes effect. Should you need to drop out immediately, you can contact your school's academic advisor.

School Related

Can I waive the application fee?

Yes! Day1cpt.org can help you waive the application fee. Please contact us before submitting your application.

Can I travel while on Day 1 CPT?

Yes, you can! We encourage visiting your home country during the breaks after each semester. You can choose to continue working or enjoy the time off during these breaks.

Can I have OPT opportunity for CPT program?

Yes, you can!

Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees each provide 1 opportunity for OPT or OPT Extension (STEM majors only). Every international student has up to 2 OPT opportunities (bachelor's degree OPT + master's degree OPT, or master's degree OPT + doctoral degree OPT).

But if you use full time CPT to work more than 365 days, you can not apply OPT after completion of the program.

How are the universities offering Day 1 CPT?

The schools with the highest level of regional and national accreditations are typically high-quality schools. If you are more interested in business, CS, or IT programs, we recommend Westcliff University on the west coast. Westcliff University has a faculty-to-student ratio of 1:8. A smaller class size gives the students more attention from the professors. Not to mention that many faculty members at Westcliff University are well-known in academia.

On the east coast, we recommend choosing Monroe College, which was established over 100 years ago. It has a great location and a relatively low cost of tuition. Another recommended school is Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, which has strong faculty members in Engineering and technical programs.

If I am not selected for H1B? Can I continue my program?

Yes! If you participate in a master's program, you have 2 H1b draws while studying. If you continue with a DBA program, you will have another 4 H1b draws for a 3-year program. You can take a one-semester break after completing every 3 semesters consecutively. In the meantime, you can still apply for CPT and work. Additionally, you can apply to delay your graduation in the 3rd year of your doctoral program. In total, these count as 6 H1b draws.

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