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Day 1 CPT Essential Guide:

Top 7 Things You Must Know

Understanding Day 1 CPT

What is Day 1 CPT?

Day 1 CPT (Curricular Practical Training) refers to a provision in certain university programs in the United States that allows international students on an F1 visa to start working in roles related to their major field of study from the very first day of their academic program. This arrangement is particularly appealing to international students who are eager to gain practical work experience alongside their academic studies.

The legality of Day 1 CPT is a common concern among international students. It is indeed legal, as long as it adheres to the guidelines set by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Typically, international students are required to have been enrolled in their academic program for more than a year before they are eligible for CPT. However, exceptions exist, such as for students who have already completed a program in the U.S., thus making Day 1 CPT a viable and legal option under certain conditions.

USCIS guidelines also state that Day 1 CPT is legal as long as it is a necessary component of the academic program. The responsibility for determining the eligibility for CPT, including Day 1 CPT, lies with the Designated School Officials (DSOs) at the respective universities. These officials must ensure that the programs offering Day 1 CPT comply with all USCIS regulations. Learn more about the legitimacy of Day 1 CPT if you still worry >>>

Given these conditions, students must select accredited and reputable universities that offer Day 1 CPT programs. These programs should be chosen carefully to ensure they meet USCIS standards and provide valuable work experience that complements the student's academic learning. 

To better understand 'What is Day 1 CPT?', let's compare it with other concepts you might be familiar with:

Work on F1 Visa: OPT, CPT & Day 1 CPT: What's the Difference?

Stands For Optional Practical Training Curricular Practical Training Curricular Practical Training From Day 1 
Who can apply? International students on a F-1 visa who have enrolled for at least one full academic year International students on a F-1 visa who have enrolled for at least one full academic year International students on an F-1 visa enrolled in accredited Day 1 CPT universities to their specially designed courses that integrate work experience.
When can you participate? OPT occurs before or after your program end date CPT occurs during your study program Throughout your program
How long can you use it? 12 to 36 months Throughout your CPT course Throughout your entire program
How many hours can you work by using it 20-40 hours 20-40 hours 20-40 hours
Who authorizes your practical training? After your DSO’s recommendation, will authorize your OPT Your DSO  Your DSO 
Do you need to have a job lined up before your DSO authorizes or recommends practical training? No Yes Yes
Which document do you need for eligibility? Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (sent by USCIS) CPT I-20 form (provided by your DSO) CPT I-20 form (provided by your DSO)
Employer Specified? No  No No
H1B Eligibility? Yes Yes Yes


Day 1 CPT at Various Stages of Your U.S. Path

Who is Day 1 CPT For?

Day 1 CPT offers versatile solutions for international students at various stages and dealing with different status maintenance issues. Choose the tab below that describes you best to discover how Day 1 CPT can be beneficial for you.


  • F1-OPT Students
  • Laid-Off H1B Workers
  • Dependents
  • COS Candidates
  • Future Students
  • F1 Emergency Transfer

F1 Students on OPT: Challenges in Securing H1B

Facing the end of your OPT? What happens if you don't get H1B after OPT?

In recent years, it has become increasingly challenging for international students to secure an H1B visa before their OPT (Optional Practical Training) expires. With the odds of being selected in the H1B lottery hovering around a mere 20%, many are left wondering what options they have if they wish to continue working in the U.S. after their OPT ends. This is where Day 1 CPT emerges as an ideal solution. It is the ultimate answer to the question: What happens if you don't get H-1B after OPT?

Day 1 CPT offers a strategic pathway for students facing the end of their OPT period. By enrolling in a master's level program that aligns with their professional field, students can not only advance their academic knowledge but also maintain their work authorization in the U.S. through CPT (Curricular Practical Training). This approach allows them to continue gaining valuable work experience while awaiting the next H1B lottery.

The benefits of this route are twofold. Firstly, Day 1 CPT participants can achieve a higher degree, enhancing their academic credentials. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they can accumulate additional work experience. This combination of advanced education and practical work experience significantly boosts their competitiveness in the U.S. job market over the long term. For many international students, Day 1 CPT has been a lifesaver, providing them with the necessary tools and opportunities to build a successful career in the United States.

H1B Workers Approaching 60-Day Grace Period End

Nearing the end of your H1B grace period?

If you're an H1B visa holder who has been laid off, exploring the option of Day 1 CPT could provide a crucial lifeline.

Under the H1B visa regulations, there is a 60-day grace period following a layoff. This means you have 60 days to find a new job that offers H1B transfer support, or you'll be required to leave the U.S., potentially ending your American journey. Finding a new employer within this timeframe, especially one willing to provide immigration support, is challenging. In such situations, maintaining a positive and proactive approach is essential. It's also wise to have a backup plan to preserve your legal status in the U.S.

One viable strategy is to return to school. Consider applying to universities that offer Day 1 CPT programs, as they often have more openings compared to traditional universities. By changing your status from H1B to F1, you can secure your legal presence in the U.S. This shift allows you to continue searching for a new employer without immediate pressure.

Once you secure an employer, you have the option to change your status back to H1B. If your new employer does not support H1B, you can still work under CPT and continue accumulating work experience while seeking a more permanent solution. Meanwhile, you also have the opportunity to earn another U.S. degree from an accredited university, adding to your qualifications and experience.

F2/H4 Visa Holders Seeking Employment Opportunities

Feeling restricted by your dependent visa and seeking a way to work in the U.S.?

Dependent visas like H4 or F2 come with certain limitations. For instance, F2 visa holders are not permitted to work in the U.S., and while H4 visa holders may apply for an EAD (Employment Authorization Document), there are prerequisites. The H1B holder must be in the I-140 process before an H4 visa holder can apply for work authorization, a process that can take years.

If you're a dependent who came to the U.S. with your loved ones and find yourself struggling to live a fulfilling life due to these immigration restrictions, it can be incredibly frustrating. We have assisted many individuals in similar situations by helping them change their status to F1 and enroll in Day 1 CPT universities. These programs not only allow them to earn a U.S. degree but also to engage in paid internships.

If this resonates with you, don't hesitate to reach out for assistance. Book a free consultation with us. At CPTDog, we are committed to providing a pathway to career development and helping you navigate through these challenges.

COS To F1 Inside the U.S.

Considering an Extended Stay in the U.S.?

If you're thinking about switching from a B1/B2 to an F1 or J1 to F1 visa, Day 1 CPT universities are an excellent option. These institutions offer flexible enrollment and courses that are practically oriented, perfect for those looking to blend academic growth with real-life work experience in the U.S.

We've encountered students who initially came to the U.S. on a B1/B2 visa for leisure but then decided they wanted to study or even intern here, given that the U.S. is a top destination for international education. However, transitioning from a B1/B2 visa to starting your educational journey in the U.S. can present timing challenges. Most traditional schools have only two enrollment periods per academic year and processing applications, particularly for international students, can take months. This is where Day 1 CPT universities stand out. Thanks to their program structure, these universities often have up to 6 intakes per year.

As the official admission representative, CPTDog can expedite your application process. You could receive an offer and your I-20 in as little as three days, allowing you to start your American journey without delay.

Prospective Students Focused on Long-Term Goals

Planning for a Comprehensive U.S. Experience?

If your goal extends beyond just obtaining a degree in the U.S. to also include gaining valuable work experience, it's important to think strategically about your long-term plans.

IDP's 2022 research highlights a key concern among international students in the U.S.: the rate of employment post-graduation. Take, for instance, Chinese students, who represent the second-largest group of international students. A significant 80% return to their home country after graduation, often due to a lack of competitiveness in the job market. International students in the U.S. often face hurdles in accumulating similar internship experiences due to stringent immigration requirements and the challenges in obtaining CPT authorization from traditional schools. This puts them at a disadvantage in terms of competitiveness, further compounded by language barriers and limited networking opportunities.

The takeaway is clear: As an international student, to enhance your employability, gaining internship experience is crucial. This is where considering a Day 1 CPT program becomes a strategic choice for those focused on long-term success and a comprehensive U.S. educational and professional experience.

F1 Students Need a Second Chance in the U.S.

Seeking a Fresh Start as an F1 Student?

For F1 students who have faced expulsion from a previous institution, Day 1 CPT universities offer a beacon of hope. These institutions provide increased enrollment opportunities and the possibility of I-20 reinstatement, paving the way for a new beginning in the U.S.

Such situations are more common than many realize. F1 students in the U.S. often encounter challenges that their local counterparts do not, such as illness, family issues, or unfamiliarity with U.S. academic standards. Sometimes, these students inadvertently make mistakes without even realizing it.

A key difference between international and local students is the need for the former to maintain a legal immigration status. When international students make a mistake, they risk not just their academic standing but also their ability to stay in the U.S., potentially leading to deportation.

If you find yourself in such a predicament, CPTDog is here to assist. We have aided students dealing with issues ranging from depression to accusations of academic dishonesty, helping them secure a second chance in the U.S. 

Legitimacy and Long Term Immigration Implication

Is Day 1 CPT Legal?

Day 1 CPT is 100% Legal Under USCIS Practical Training Guidelines

The legality of Day 1 CPT is a frequent topic of inquiry among students with an F1 visa. It is, in fact, a legal option under certain conditions.

International students typically need to complete over a year of their academic program to be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). However, there are notable exceptions, especially for those who have previously completed a program in the U.S., making Day 1 CPT an accessible option. According to USCIS practical training guidelines for F1 students, even those with an initial I-20 can legally apply for CPT at the beginning of their program, provided it is a crucial part of their academic curriculum.

The responsibility to ensure that Day 1 CPT programs comply with USCIS regulations falls on the educational institutions. Designated School Officials (DSOs) at each university play a key role in issuing this authorization. USCIS grants significant autonomy to higher education institutions in designing their programs and managing the recruitment and work authorization processes.

Therefore, when considering Day 1 CPT to gain practical work experience in the U.S., selecting an accredited and reputable Day 1 CPT university is crucial. Before applying:

  • Confirm SEVP Registration: Ensure that the Day 1 CPT universities on your list are officially registered with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Remember to check not only the university's status but also the specific campus you're interested in.

  • Check Accreditations: Investigate the accreditations of your chosen Day 1 CPT universities. Ideally, they should have regional accreditation, which is the highest level of accreditation in the U.S.

  • Connect with Alumni and Current Students: Engage in conversations with alumni or current students of the program. Their insights and experiences can provide valuable perspectives. Pay attention not only to their testimonials but also to the general reputation of the institution.

  • Book a Consultation: Consider scheduling a free consultation with our experts for an unbiased third-party opinion on whether the Day 1 CPT program and the school you are considering are the right fit for you.

Long-term Effects on Residency or Citizenship

The F1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, but it allows for the application of other visa types while you are on it. For instance, as an F1 student utilizing Day 1 CPT, you can apply for an H1B visa. Additionally, if your employer is willing to sponsor a green card, you can even initiate your permanent residency petition while studying at Day 1 CPT universities.

There's a common concern among many that working while on an F1 visa might complicate future immigration procedures. However, this fear often lacks a clear understanding of the underlying issues. If you're worried about this, ask yourself why. Why would USCIS have an issue with international students using CPT from the first day of their program when their guidelines explicitly state its legality?

The answer is relatively straightforward. The concern arises not because the use of CPT is inherently problematic, but because not all students adhere to the rules and restrictions that come with this opportunity. A few cases of abuse have caused USCIS officers to be more cautious when reviewing CPT I-20 records. 

The solution is straightforward: Ensure you maintain your F1 status effectively while exercising your right to use CPT for employment. This involves keeping your GPA above 3.0, meeting all on-site study requirements, promptly updating your records, and adhering to other relevant guidelines. Neglecting their responsibilities as F1 students while attempting to reap the benefits of the visa is what led some students into trouble, tarnishing the reputation of Day 1 CPT.

Choose the One Fits Your Need

How to Choose Day 1 CPT Universities

"Best" is indeed a subjective term, varying from person to person. A Day 1 CPT university that suits one student may not align with the needs of another.  Selecting the right Day 1 CPT university involves a two-pronged approach: understanding what makes a Day 1 CPT university both good and safe; and recognizing your own priorities.

Let's take a look at the first aspect.  There are several common factors you should consider during your screening process for Day 1 CPT universities:


When evaluating a Day 1 CPT university, a crucial step is to thoroughly examine the school's accreditation. This involves a dual approach: firstly, identifying which accreditations the Day 1 CPT universities you are considering hold, and secondly, assessing the credibility and recognition of these accrediting bodies themselves.

It's crucial to understand that if these accrediting agencies don't follow rules or are lax, they might face penalties. This could affect the accreditation status of the schools they approve. In other words, not all accreditations are born equal. 

In the U.S. education ecosystem, regional accreditation holds significant importance. For instance, WASC accreditation is considered the pinnacle for universities in the Western U.S., counting prestigious institutions like Stanford and UCLA among its ranks. Therefore, if you see a Day 1 CPT university holds the same accreditation, you'll know it is a safe and good choice. (such as one of CPTDog's partnered Day 1 CPT universities: Westcliff University)

Other "gold" accreditations are MSCHE, NECHE, WSCUC, NWCCU, and SACS. These bodies are recognized for maintaining educational standards and are annually reviewed by the U.S. Department of Education.

On-Site Requirement

For international students on an F-1 visa, it's important to understand that USCIS does not allow exclusively online course attendance. Physical presence in classes is necessary to legally maintain your F1 status. The rationale is straightforward: if your studies don't require campus attendance, then there's no justification for your presence in America, and consequently, no need for an F1 visa.

While universities have the autonomy to create their curricula, most Day 1 CPT Universities with established programs require some form of onsite class attendance. This requirement could be as frequent as weekly or as infrequent as once per semester, depending on the university's policies.

Be wary of any school claiming that campus attendance isn't necessary and that an internship alone suffices. Such institutions might be engaging in practices that USCIS could deem as I-20 fraud.

School with Warnings

Exercise caution with schools that have received warnings, even if they still offer Day 1 CPT programs. The reasons behind these warnings are critical, as USCIS does not issue penalties without substantial grounds. Be particularly careful with institutions like the University of North America and the University of Fairfax.

Stay informed about Day 1 CPT developments and immigration regulation changes by subscribing to our blog. If you're considering specific Day 1 CPT universities and want to investigate their history and reputation, schedule a free consultation with our expert. You'll receive an unbiased third-party review and insights from CPTDog students about these institutions. 

Assuming that all the universities on your Day 1 CPT shortlist are safe options, the next step is to determine the best fit for you. What are your priorities?

Choose Your Priority

Increase Your Chance to Get CPT Authorization Approval

How to Choose Day 1 CPT Programs?

Striking the Perfect Balance Between Relevance and Distinction

When selecting the ideal Day 1 CPT program, there are two essential principles to consider.

  • Firstly, your chosen program must align with your employment field. For instance, if you aspire to work as a software developer (or have already secured such a position), you need to enroll in a Day 1 CPT program offering relevant courses. Failing to do so could lead to your Designated School Official (DSO) denying your CPT application.
  • Secondly, ensure that the program you're currently applying for differs significantly from your previous one, either in terms of major or degree level. Pursuing degrees that are too similar can lead to skepticism from USCIS regarding your true motives. They may question whether your aim is genuinely to further your education or if it's an attempt to leverage the work benefits of an F1 visa. To mitigate this concern, consider two strategies: change to a different major within the same academic tier, or elevate your studies to a more advanced degree level.

Strategic Degree Choices: The Importance of "Level Up"

For Day 1 CPT students who are considering pursuing multiple master's degrees in closely related fields, it's important to be aware of the potential scrutiny this could invite during immigration reviews. Specifically, obtaining two MS degrees in similar majors might trigger Requests for Evidence (RFEs) when applying for H1B visas. A strategic approach to avoid such challenges involves considering "level up" to a doctoral-level Day 1 CPT program. 

List of Doctoral Day 1 CPT Programs:

Get Ready to Work

How to Apply Day 1 CPT Work Authorization

Depending on the Day 1 CPT universities you are enrolled in, the CPT application process usually takes up to 1-2 weeks

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

Stay Authorized and Stay Out of Trouble

Day 1 CPT Status Maintain

While Enjoying your Day 1 CPT Authorization, You'll have to maintain your status at all times, which means: 

  • Maintain valid F-1 immigration status by having a current I-20 throughout the program.
  • Ensure the internship/job is directly related to your field of study and matches your level of study 
  • Maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • Begin work only after your CPT I-20 is approved or renewed; working before approval is not allowed.
  • Avoid having a work supervisor who is an F-1 or J-1 visa holder, as this can lead to the denial of CPT authorization by your DSO.
  • Regularly renew your CPT authorization according to university regulations.


Handy Tools for Those Who Needs Day 1 CPT


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