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SEVIS transfer
Ryan ZhangMay 10, 2024 10:53:11 AM5 min read

OPT to Day 1 CPT: SEVIS Transfer Guide

As their OPT/STEM-OPT is coming to an end, most international students who intend to continue working in the United States would bid their last chance on the H1B lottery. Recently, the fiscal year 2025 H1B lottery has been completed with a 25.6% selection rate. For 3 out of 4 people whose Optional Practical Training (OPT) is expiring, they would either have to depart the U.S. and return to their home country, or apply for another work permit.

One way for OPT students to maintain their current employment is Day 1 CPT. To use Day 1 CPT, the first step is to apply to Day 1 CPT universities and get admitted. The next crucial step would be transferring your SEVIS from your previous school to the new school. Below is a detailed guide to complete SEVIS transfer. 


Table of Contents

What is the "SEVIS Transfer?"

Pre-SEVIS Transfer School Application

Step 1: Contact Your Previous School

Step 2: Transfer-In your SEVIS

Handling the Gap Between OPT and CPT



What is the "SEVIS Transfer"?

Before applying for CPT authorization at the new school, it is necessary to transfer your F-1 SEVIS record from your previous school to the new school. This process is officially known as a "SEVIS transfer."

A SEVIS transfer is usually quick:

  • Since you already have an active student SEVIS record, there's no need to pay the $350 SEVIS fee again.

  • You can stay in the U.S. with legal status during the transition from OPT to CPT, so you will be able to maintain your current employment without leaving and re-entering the U.S.

Here's the DHS (Department of Homeland Security)'s explanation of SEVIS transfer:

"The DSO at the transfer-out school sets the Transfer Release Date for an F-1 SEVIS record. That record will then appear on the Students Transferring In and the Draft Students lists at the transfer-in school. Once the Transfer Release Date has passed: 1)SEVIS deactivates the student record at the transfer-out school. 2)Create I-20 option appears under the Action section on the Student Information page at the transfer-in school. 3)Transfer-in school must create the COE (Form I-20) for transfer within 60 days." 

Source: Department of Homeland Security


Pre-SEVIS Transfer School Application

SEVIS transfer cannot be done without the support of both your previous and new schools. SEVIS transfer will be processed by the transfer-in school (your new school), only after you accepted the offer letter, and in most cases, confirmed enrollment and paid enrollment fee. 

Therefore, do not wait until the last couple days to start application, as the processing of your application takes time. Plus, on a realistic side, your transfer-out school DSO department is probably swarmed with different inquiries as well, so they may not be able to release the SEVIS in time. If you need your SEVIS transfer completed by the next day, over the weekend, or on a holiday, it likely won't be processed that quickly.

*Note that an active SEVIS record is required for SEVIS transfer, and that your SEVIS will still be active during your 60-day grace period after OPT ends


Step 1: Contact Your Previous School

You will have to request your SEVIS I-20 Transfer/Release From from the international office of your previous school.

This process requires the following information:

  • Offer of admission (scan or photo of admission letter or email with offer of admission)
  • New school’s SEVIS code (provided by the new school's admission office)
  • Decide your requested SEVIS transfer/release date.

Once you submitted the "Transfer-out" form, allow time for processing. You will receive a confirmation, usually an email, of your SEVIS transfer/release from the previous school. The process of transfer-out usually takes several business days.

If the school declined the date of SEVIS release, communicate directly with them and arrange another date.


Step 2: Transfer-In your SEVIS

When your previous school release your SEVIS record, the new school's DSO will process the transfer-in and generate your new I-20. You might not get the I-20 right away since it takes time to process, but your SEVIS record will be held by the new institution right away when the DSO complete the SEVIS transfer-in, which only takes a couple of minutes.


Handling the Gap Between OPT and CPT

In fact, it is nearly impossible to take 0 gap between OPT and CPT. Once you transfer out your SEVIS, you OPT will end immediately. However, your new school will start processing your CPT application only after receiving your SEVIS. Typically, the processing time for CPT I-20 is around 1 week. Thus, there must be a gap between OPT and CPT. 

Below are 2 reasons for why it takes time to process your CPT application: 

  • The DSO of the new school need to carefully review your documents to ensure your qualifications for using CPT. For example, they will check whether your job duty aligns with your course of study. A careful review will ensure your case won't raise issues from the USCIS during your future H1B and green card applications.

  • Having no gap between OPT and CPT raises red flags with USCIS officers. It seems implausible to find a program beginning the very next day after OPT ends. This can appear like the program was pursued just to obtain work authorization, not for legitimate study. The intention must be clearly for education, not simply continuing employment after OPT.

During the transitional period between OPT and CPT, you do not have legal authorization to work, or to get paid. So it is common for students to take a few days, maybe a week of unpaid leave, instead of paid time-off.



Navigating the transition from OPT to Day 1 CPT can be a complex process, fraught with intricacies that require careful planning and prompt action. If you're feeling overwhelmed or unsure about your next steps, don't hesitate to reach out for assistance. By filling out our consultation form, you will receive a free consultation to help guide you through choosing the right school and applying for your program with confidence.