Immigrate

5 min read

April 08, 2021

What is Day 1 CPT?

While Day 1 CPT programs may seem attractive, it's important to fully understand the implications enrolling in one may have on your legal and immigration status.

For many international students, the opportunity to work within the United States is part of what attracted them to international study. For F-1 visa holders, it’s possible to become eligible to work on a limited basis within the United States. These are through Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs. 

What is CPT?

Curricular Practical Training is work that an international student can embark on that complements the major they are studying. Students must be enrolled in, and pursuing, a full-time course of study and can work no more than 20 hours a week. 

If a student chooses to pursue CPT to complement their studies, a Designated School Official (DSO) must review and approve their work request. 

What differentiates CPT from OPT is that OPT can be completed after a student graduates. The OPT program also allows students who are in STEM-related areas of study to apply for an extension. 

There is now a third option that students have begun hearing about. However, we’d like to dispel some of the myths around this option so that you don’t hurt your chances of getting a H1-B visa in the future. This option is the Day 1 CPT.  

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What is Day 1 CPT?

The Day 1 CPT essentially enables students to start their CPT-based work from the start of their studies. 

Unfortunately, Day 1 CPT programs are problematic for a number of reasons. The first problem is that they operate in a very grey area of immigration law, as the primary purpose of students in the United States on a F-1 visa is to study, and CPT-related work is permitted up to 90 days prior to the end of a student’s first year of studies. 

The issue with Day 1 CPT is how the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) interprets the student’s original intent. In fact, USCIS seems to be strongly signalling that it does not approve of students enrolling in Day 1 CPT programs, as noted by the immigration law firm Reddy and Neumann, P.C. 

The most obvious sign is that the USCIS website provides no guidance or details on Day 1 CPT programs. This lack of guidance should be a clear indication that students should proceed with caution if their intention is to enroll in a program that describes itself as providing students with access to Day 1 CPT eligibility.

There have also been reports of these students having difficulty at the United States border upon reentry from international travel. 

Here’s what you need to know about CPT:

  • You have to be enrolled full-time in a course of study
  • You must be attending your courses 
  • Your CPT request is unique to the job that you have been hired for
  • CPT eligibility occurs 90 days before the end of your first year of study. 

Given these very clear guidelines around what CPT actually is, Day 1 CPT programs seem to be operating outside of what USCIS deems legally permissible.

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10 Schools that Offer Day 1 CPT

Below are 10 institutions that currently offer Day 1 CPT programs:

  • Stratford University
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Wichita State University
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • United States University 
  • Coleman University 
  • Everest University 
  • Virginia International University 
  • University of North America
  • Harrisburg University 

Prospective students of these universities — or any others offering this scheme — should be asking themselves the following question: How does a student become eligible for CPT on Day 1 of enrolment when USCIS explicitly states that students become eligible to apply after completing a year of study

How Day 1 CPT May Hurt Your Future H1-B Request

For students looking to work in the United States after completing their studies, CPT and OPT programs seem an attractive way to begin your US-based work history. There is the chance to network with future colleagues, make connections with future job leads, and make money. 

What many students may be unaware of is that enrolling in a Day 1 CPT program may inadvertently harm a future employee’s approval for an H1-B visa or other visa requests. This is because immigration officials are looking to see if applicants have maintained their legal status in previous visa statuses. 

If you’re still intrigued by the idea of attending a Day 1 CPT program, we would strongly suggest that you speak with an immigration lawyer and add lawyer services to your budget for overseas studies. Finally, do your due diligence before applying to a school that offers a Day 1 CPT program. 

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Michelle Jackson
With 10+ years of experience working in the immigration and personal finance space, Michelle has written for leading publications like Business Insider and Vice.

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