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Are Day 1 CPT Universities Fraudulent? How Do You Secure Immigration Future?

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Are Day 1 CPT Universities Fraudulent? How Do You Secure Your Immigration Future?

For countless international students in the U.S., master's programs have been a gateway to invaluable work experience and a potential path to permanent residence. One of the golden opportunities these programs offer is Curricular Practical Training (CPT), especially Day 1 CPT. This advanced training option allows students to dive into real-world work scenarios right from the start of their academic journey.

However, with the rising popularity of Day 1 CPT in master's programs, there have been whispers and concerns about its legitimacy. Some question the credibility of universities that offer full-time CPT from day one. If these programs are indeed as beneficial as they seem, why haven't prestigious Ivy League institutions adopted this approach?


Table of Content

The Controversy & The Rumor Mill

The Broader Context: Understanding CPT

  • Diverse Types of CPT
  • Know These Before Considering CPT - Eligibility Criteria
  • Video: How I Survived in USA - Reality of Day 1 CPT

Why Don’t High-Ranked Universities Provide a Day 1 CPT Option?

Accredited Universities Offering Day 1 CPT

How to Choose Day 1 CPT Universities / Programs


The Controversy & The Rumor Mill

While many universities promote the values and benefits of such programs, recent news regarding “the blacklist of Day 1 CPT universities” has cast shadows of doubt. The primary concern revolves around whether these universities offering Day 1 CPT are operating within the bounds of what the USCIS deems legally permissible.

In 2019, a significant event brought the topic of Day 1 CPT into the limelight—a high-profile arrest case related to a fictitious institution named the University of Farmington in Michigan. This institution claimed to offer Day 1 CPT enrollment without the need for students to attend classes or fulfill academic requirements. An investigation revealed that the university was a sham, with no faculty, curriculum, or academic commitments. Its sole purpose was to grant fraudulent F1 visas.

This operation was part of a broader immigration fraud probe by federal agents, targeting students misusing the CPT system. The Department of Homeland Security and ICE HSI later detained eight recruiters from India, accusing them of visa fraud and profiting from harboring aliens.

Following the University of Farmington incident, rumors began circulating about a purported blacklist of Day 1 CPT universities. This rumor periodically resurfaces online, and it has gained traction again this year. Roughly two months ago, a post on Facebook claimed that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was singling out graduates from certain institutions, requesting additional evidence (RFEs) during their OPT applications or H1B visa approvals.

One of the universities mentioned in these rumors, Campbellsville University, swiftly debunked this claim, emphasizing that such a blacklist does not exist. They opened their record for FY 2023 to students in an open letter, claiming Campbellsville University reported approvals for over 500 OPT applications in a single year, with a significant number of students transitioning to H1B visas. We have written a post regarding this incident and posted Campbellsville University’s official response. If you are interested, here is the link.

The Broader Context: Understanding CPT

CPT (Curricular Practical Training) is legitimate and has been a valuable tool for international students. However, like all good opportunities, it is susceptible to misuse. The original intention of incorporating CPT in a program, especially graduate-level programs, is to allow adult students to work in their field of study and gain practical experience, which can be invaluable in a competitive job market.

For many international students, particularly those without a local network or prior work experience in the U.S., building a career in this economy can be challenging. Programs that allow students to gain work experience before graduating can serve as a lifeline.

However, some institutions might exploit immigrants' unfamiliarity with the U.S. educational and immigration systems, as well as their eagerness to land a job after graduation, enticing them with false promises.

While Day 1 CPT in itself isn't unlawful, its abuse certainly is. How can you spot these deceptive practices and avoid falling victim to them?

Firstly, remember that if something appears too good to be true, it probably is. CPT is available to international students, but it comes with restrictions and is not accessible to everyone. Be wary of schools that don’t require any prerequisites yet promise to grant you work authorizations with ease; these institutions are likely engaging in fraudulent practices.

Conduct a self-diagnosis to determine your eligibility for CPT or Day 1 CPT:

What Makes You Qualified for Using CPT?

First and foremost, as an international student who relies on F-1 status (also referred to as the F1 visa), it is crucial for you to understand that this type of non-immigrant status is granted only to FULL-TIME students. CPT is also only a benefit for FULL-TIME students.

USCIS has a somewhat clear definition for what they consider as legitimate FULL-TIME students. Each higher education institute also has its own guidelines. Overall they fall into these basic requirements:

Credit Requirements:

  • Undergraduate Students: Must enroll in at least 12 credits per semester.
  • Graduate Students: Due to more concentrated courses and possible research or internships, the credit requirement is lower. Full-time graduate students typically need to enroll in 9 credits per semester to be considered full-time. However, the final interpretation lies with the school. Some schools define full-time students as those enrolled in at least 6 credits.

On-Site Requirements:

  • The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) stipulates that F1 visa undergraduate and graduate students can take only one fully online course per semester. All other courses must be in a hybrid format or fully on-site.
  • Attendance frequency for on-site courses depends on the school's regulations. Some schools require physical attendance for every class, while others might require attendance once a month or once a semester.

Academic Performance:

  • Students must maintain good academic performance. Their student status might be revoked if:
    • GPA falls below the minimum requirement. Typically, undergraduates need a GPA of 2.0 or above, and graduates should maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above.
    • Unable to complete the course as expected. Most schools have a maximum duration to complete a program. Failure to complete within this timeframe can result in loss of student status.
    • Accusations of plagiarism, cheating, or other academic misconduct. Multiple instances can lead to expulsion.

Other Points to Note:

  • Leaving school for 5 months or more: This is considered an automatic forfeiture of F1 status.
  • Illegal work: F1 students can legally work in the U.S. by applying for CPT or OPT. Both have specific requirements. Failure to meet them can result in suspension of work permits and potential revocation of F1 status.
  • Not adhering to the end date: The I-20 form has an end date. In most cases, students must leave the U.S. before this date unless they've applied and been approved for an extension or change of visa status.
  • Not maintaining a valid passport during the study
  • Transferring without transferring SEVIS: Before the student status expires, contact the International Office to transfer SEVIS from the current school to the new one. The transfer process varies by school, typically taking 1-2 weeks. After the transfer, you'll usually receive a SEVIS transfer notification from the original school.
  • Not registering before the start of school: After confirming enrollment, students must submit a registration form and fee before the first semester. Each school has a registration deadline. Missing this deadline might prevent enrollment.
  • Not updating the school with important information: Notify the school's International Office and update them promptly if there are changes in address, phone number, or other basic information.
  • Serious misconduct: Involving violence, illegal possession and use of firearms, and other criminal activities.

If you violate or are unable to fulfill any of the above points, you will lose your F1 status, which means you can’t use CPT. In other words, if any of the universities you consulted with told you that you don’t have to fulfill all of these requirements, it should immediately raise a red flag. CPT, day 1 or not, should be used and should proceed under strict supervision to ensure its legitimacy.

The fake university we mentioned earlier, the University of Farmington, allegedly told prospective students that they didn't need to attend any classes on-site. As a matter of fact, the university doesn’t even have a physical campus.

If you had equipped yourself with these knowledge points, you would not have fallen for their empty promises and would have recognized them as either fraudulence or entrapment.

Alright, now that you understand that being a FULL-TIME student is a prerequisite for using CPT, and you're familiar with the requirements of being a full-time student, let's delve into the specific requirements related to CPT itself.

Diverse Types of CPT

CPT is categorized into three main types:

  • Degree-based CPT: This type necessitates that all students enrolled in a specific degree program undergo an internship. This is a prerequisite to finalize their coursework and subsequently earn their degree.
  • Course-based CPT: This offers dual pathways. Students registered in a particular course can either achieve a grade via employment or devise their unique research project centered on employment.
  • Cooperative CPT: This is granted when employment forms a segment of a formal cooperative educational pact between the academic department and a designated employer.

CPT and Day 1 CPT Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for any form of CPT, the following criteria must be met:

  • Possession of a valid and active F1 status
  • Selection of a major. Enrollment for course credit.
  • Enrollment for 1 to 2 units of a major-related internship, which should be an essential component of the student's course prerequisites.
  • Having a CPT job offer before submitting a CPT authorization request.
  • If you are an initial student, under most circumstances you cannot use “Day 1 CPT.” You have to study at your program for at least 9-11 months before applying for CPT. Few programs allow initial students to use CPT at the beginning of the program due to its design. They are not

When used correctly within the frame of immigration law, CPT can be beneficial to international students. One of the popular Desi YouTubers once invited a guest to talk about how Day 1 CPT helped him to survive, listen up:

Why Don’t High-Ranked Universities Provide a Day 1 CPT Option?

If CPT or Day 1 CPT is helpful, why do many U.S. universities limit F1 students from engaging in internships during their early semesters? The USCIS manual grants autonomy to universities for making decisions about whether their students can or should participate in CPT.  While well-known universities do offer CPT options, they typically don't commence on Day 1 for several reasons:

Student Enrollment Patterns

Most top-tier U.S. universities admit a higher number of new students compared to transfer students. The USCIS guidelines state that practical training may be authorized for F1 students who have been lawfully enrolled full-time in a SEVIS-approved institution for one full academic year (usually 9-11 months). Given that these prestigious universities admit more new students from overseas and fewer transfer students who already have been in the United States for a different program study, they have little incentive to design a curriculum that initiates CPT on Day 1.

Traditional Universities vs. Day 1 CPT Universities

Day 1 CPT universities tend to prioritize practical application over academic theory, whereas traditional universities lean towards the latter. In fact, many conventional universities offer limited support for students seeking internships. A single CPT course at a traditional university can equate to the tuition of four credit hours. Some students find that the internships they're permitted to undertake don't even allow them to recoup their tuition costs for the CPT course. Individuals who enroll in traditional universities typically have dual aspirations for their future: while some aim to join the workforce post-graduation, others aspire to continue their academic pursuits and delve into research. A traditional university must cater to the demands of both demographics. However, at Day 1 CPT universities, the institute's focus and its students' objectives are clearly aligned: to acquire a legal status and practical skills while earning a degree.

While many Day 1 CPT universities don't participate in the US News ranking system, a significant number of their enrollees possess degrees from prestigious institutions like Columbia University and UC Berkeley. These students choose Day 1 CPT universities with distinct objectives: maintaining legal status, acquiring internship experiences, and networking with industry professionals.
Day 1 CPT universities offer a sanctuary for individuals unable to secure an H1B visa but still desire to gain legitimate work experience in the U.S. Many have navigated this route and prevailed. Through Day 1 CPT programs, they've connected with potential employers eager to sponsor their H1B or even Green Card applications. These programs allow them to remain in the U.S., advancing their academic pursuits while earning through full-time internships. Thanks to Day 1 CPT programs, they've thrived in the U.S. Here's a real-life account from a YouTuber:

Which Accredited Universities in the U.S. Provide Day 1 CPT Option?

When it comes to education and visas, there are specific guidelines, practices, and procedures regarding how CPT can be offered. A selection of universities in the USA allows F1 students to commence their CPT either on or closely following their first day. These institutions are:

  • University of the Cumberlands, multiple locations
  • Campbellsville University, Campbellsville, Kentucky
  • Knowledge Systems Institute, Saint Skokie, Illinois
  • University/Minnesota School of Business, Blaine, Minnesota
  • New England College, Henniker, New Hampshire
  • Monroe College, New York, New York
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • CIAM- California Institute of Advanced Management, Alhambra, California
  • Westcliff University, Irvine, California
  • Sofia University, Costa Mesa, California
  • Trine University, Phoenix, AZ

It's imperative to note that this compilation is based on reader inputs. Therefore, we recommend always reconfirming with the respective university or getting a free consultation with our experts before making any conclusive decisions.

How to Choose Day 1 CPT Universities?

1. Accreditations:

Not all accreditations are created equal. Once in a while, you will hear news about certain “accredited” universities getting disqualified by the Educational Bureau or red-flagged by USCIS, for example, the ACICS scandal. So, the million-dollar question is which accreditations are reliable. 

Here is the list:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education(MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education(NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities(NWCCU)
  • Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (NCACS)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges(WASC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools(SACS)

If the university you chose has one of these accreditations, it usually means that they have a long-standing record of being legit and have a great reputation with USCIS. Students who graduated from these universities face a low RFE rate when applying for H1B.

*The most popular accredited day 1 CPT universities:

  1. Westcliff University (California & Florida)
  2. Monroe College (New York)
  3. Trine University (Michigan & Arizona)
  4. Harrisburg University(Pennsylvania)

2.    Choose your Day 1 CPT major wisely:

Do not choose a program that is too similar to your last one. Though this may sound obvious, many students overlook it. 

For example, we’ve encountered a case in which the student already had an MS in Data Science before enrolling in another master's program–an MS in Data Analytics. The reason behind this is not too hard to guess. He only enrolled in the second master's program to use its CPT without the intention of making an effort to study. His attempt was discovered by the USCIS, and as expected, he received an RFE during his H1B application.

Tips:

*The safest program for all degree holders to choose is MBA unless you already have an MBA in hand.

*Choosing a doctoral-level program is also a safe option when you already have a master’s degree in hand.

Popular MBA Programs (support day 1 CPT):


Popular doctoral-level Programs (support day 1 CPT):

  • DBA @ Westcliff University
  • DBA @ National Louis University
  • PhD @ Sullivan University
  • EdD @ Westcliff University

It goes without saying that the major you choose must have some relevance to your current job. Otherwise, you’ll have a difficult time when applying to a CPT at any of the day 1 CPT universities.

3.    CPT Policy

Some Day 1 CPT universities have more flexible CPT policies than others. For example, you can use an offer letter instead of a CPT agreement to apply for Day 1 CPT. If you’ve ever used CPT before, you know some companies are not very CPT-friendly. HR may accept a CPT but refuse to help you throughout your CPT application process. For example, they are willing to give you a job and an offer letter but refuse to put in extra effort in doing paperwork such as issuing and signing a CPT agreement. In these cases, you’d need a Day 1 CPT university that understands your pain point and can work around the bureaucratic hassles. If you have such a need, contact our consultant team for tips.

Another thing that is worth considering is the CPT renewal frequency. Each Day 1 CPT university has its own CPT renewal policies. Some of them require you to renew your CPT I-20 before each semester starts, whereas others only require you to renew it annually. Renewing your CPT I-20 is essential for keeping your right to work in the U.S.

*List of Day 1 CPT universities that offer annual CPT renewal:

4. Location

Location is such an important component when choosing Day 1 CPT universities. With the pandemic coming to an end, many universities are resuming on-site teaching. As an F1 student, you are obligated to participate in class and keep a 3.0 GPA at a minimum. If you take an internship at the same time, the last thing you need is to waste time and energy on communicating. Choosing a Day 1 CPT university closer to where you’d like to intern is more important than you think.

*Find Day 1 CPT universities by location

5. Non-Profit vs For-Profit

If this is your first master’s degree, we highly recommend you choose a program from a non-profit university to be qualified for the “20,000 master-cap H1B” application. However, if this is your second master, it doesn’t make much of a difference.

Still not sure which Day 1 CPT program/university is the best for you? We provide a free program matching service. Fill out the form, and our expert will contact you within 2 business days.

 

Free Consultation About Day 1 CPT

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