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A Comprehensive Guide to Day 1 CPT

  • 01 What is Day 1 CPT?
  • 02 Is Day 1 CPT Legal?
  • 03 Who Can Benefit from Day 1 CPT?
  • 04 How to Choose a Right School?
  • 05 How to Choose a Right Program?
  • 06 Potential Risks of Day 1 CPT
  • 07 Day 1 CPT Work Authorization Application Process
  • 08 After Day 1 CPT?

What is Day 1 CPT?

Day 1 CPT falls under the category of CPT (Curricular Practical Training). Before diving into Day 1 CPT, it is important to understand what CPT is. 


OPT vs. CPT vs. Day 1 CPT




Regular CPT

Day 1 CPT


Post-Graduation (most cases)

Before graduation

Before graduation


1 year (extendable to 3 years for STEM)

From the second academic year to graduation

From the first day of program to graduation

Authorization Agency




Employment Offer Required for Application




Important Note

While pre-completion OPT is available, it will reduce the duration of post-completion OPT

Working full-time under CPT for 12 months will make one lose eligibility for OPT

Working full-time under CPT for 12 months will make one lose eligibility for OPT


F-1 students are eligible for two types of work authorization: (1) CPT (Curricular Practical Training) and (2) OPT (Optional Practical Training).

Most students use OPT to work in the U.S. after graduating, while using CPT to do internships before graduation. One advantage of CPT is that it enables students to acquire work experience during their academic studies. 

The authorization of CPT is granted by the school's Office of International Students, not by the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Generally, schools require students to complete at least one academic year of study before qualifying for CPT.

However, some schools that prioritize practical experience can issue CPT from the first day of enrollment. These schools are commonly known as "Day 1 CPT schools."

For example, Westcliff University officially states that gaining work experience is an integral part of its course requirements.

Westcliff University CPT Policy

How Does Day 1 CPT Work?

Since Day 1 CPT is a work authorization for students, it requires the maintenance of F1 student status. To use Day 1 CPT, students must be enrolled in a school. 

Upon securing employment, students can then apply for CPT through the Designated School Official (DSO) at their institution. If approved, they will receive an updated I-20 form indicating their CPT work authorization. This authorization allows students to legally work in the U.S. within the start and end dates specified on their CPT-endorsed I-20. 

The immigration regulations offer students the flexibility to undertake full-time, part-time, or internship positions based on their individual requirements and circumstances.

Simply put, Day 1 CPT enables students to remain in the U.S. on an F-1 status and work under CPT.


Day 1 CPT Student Life: Online Classes with Regular In-Person Sessions

Day 1 CPT schools adopt a hybrid teaching model. Each semester, students are required to enroll in at least 6 credits (usually two courses) plus a 0.5-1 credit for CPT course (depending on the program’s policy). Zoom classes are often scheduled for weekday evenings or weekends. Additionally, students must attend in-person classes once per month or once per semester, usually on weekends. This format is manageable for students who are also working. 

Failure to meet the onsite requirements can lead to violations of USCIS regulations, which may result in the student’s dismissal from the school. 

According to our survey, the average time spent on studying and homework is about 4-6 hours per week. Most students complete the entire program within 1.5 to 2.5 years. Students also have the choice to accelerate their program's completion by taking more courses each semester, though this can significantly increase their workload.



Is Day 1 CPT Legal?

Yes, Day 1 CPT is legal. As mentioned, Day 1 CPT is a subcategory within the framework of CPT. Students must meet specific criteria to qualify for Day 1 CPT.


USCIS Regulations

The USCIS grants individual universities the authority to establish their own CPT policies. According to its regulations, for graduate-level degrees, the school’s DSOs have the authority to issue CPT authorization for programs that incorporate practical work experience as an integral part of the curriculum from the first semester of enrollment.

USCIS Regulation about CPT

While schools generally require students to complete at least one academic year of study prior to applying for CPT, students who already have a U.S. degree can meet this requirement automatically.

Therefore, Day 1 CPT is neither illegal nor does it fall into a gray area. Instead, it completely complies with USCIS regulations.


Difference between Day 1 CPT and Visa Fraud

It is important to acknowledge that Day 1 CPT is completely different from what is known as “visa fraud.”

F1 visa fraud typically involves being nominally enrolled in a school but not actually attending classes or adhering to academic standards. In contrast, Day 1 CPT requires strict adherence to the school’s policies because in the eyes of the USCIS, your status is F1 student. As a student, you must meet academic requirements such as participating in online classes, completing assignments, attending onsite sessions, writing papers, and doing presentations.

According to the regulations, students must maintain a GPA above 3.0 to qualify for Day 1 CPT. Although the academic pressure at Day 1 CPT schools may be less intense than that at traditional research universities, students are still required to take their responsibilities seriously.


Importance of Enrolling in an Accredited School

Enrolling in an accredited and reputable Day 1 CPT school plays a significant role in successfully handling future immigration applications. There's a common concern among students that using Day 1 CPT might negatively affect their future H1B and green card applications. However, as long as you comply with relevant regulations when using Day 1 CPT, there should be no problem for your immigration applications.

If you receive an Request for Evidence (RFE) during your H1B application process, a legitimate Day 1 CPT school can provide extensive evidence confirming that you have met academic requirements, participated in onsite classes, and used CPT properly. Legitimate and accredited Day 1 CPT schools are able to offer a comprehensive package of evidence to support students in responding to a RFE, showcasing their compliance with all necessary requirements. The package usually include:

  • Transcripts
  • Academic records
  • Proof of tuition payment
  • Registration certification
  • A copy of the CPT agreement
  • Attendance records for offline courses

Students attending reputable Day 1 CPT schools tend to have a lower chance to receive a RFE and can expect support from their school.

Therefore, as long as you choose a legitimate school and adhere to CPT-related policies, you can significantly minimize potential risks. 

Who Can Benefit from Day 1 CPT?

Day 1 CPT is an ideal option for you if you are in any of the following situations:

  • international students facing OPT expiration

OPT students without securing an H1B visa can continue their work and studies in the U.S. via Day 1 CPT. This option allows them to maintain their employment from the first day of enrollment, giving them the chance to seek H1B or green card opportunities while working.

Students whose OPT application has been denied can also maintain their stay in the U.S. by enrolling in a Day 1 CPT school, as Day 1 CPT schools offer flexible enrollment windows. 

Relevant Reading:

Day 1 CPT: Backup Plan for 2024 H1B Visa Lottery

Selection Rate of 26%: Analysis of 2024 H1B Visa Lottery

  • H1B holders who are laid off or approaching the 6-year limit

For individuals laid off during their H1B period or those whose H1B visas are nearing expiration, Day 1 CPT presents a viable alternative. Amid the challenging job market, shifting to an F1 status through a Day 1 CPT program ensures a safer option. It is s also beneficial for those approaching the 6-year H1B limit, allowing them to continue working in the U.S.

  • Holders of other visas (F2/H4/B/L) who aim to work while studying

If you hold other types of visa and wish to work while studying, Day 1 CPT allows you to start working as part of your curriculum from day one, integrating work experience with academic learning.

  • F1 students who are dismissed or in urgent needs for transfer

For F1 students who need to urgently transfer or have been dismissed, a viable solution is transferring their SEVIS record to another institution. Day 1 CPT schools, with multiple enrollment periods and flexible starting dates yearly, provide a swift solution for those facing the pressure of grace period.

  • Professionals who wish to further their education

Day 1 CPT is an excellent path for full-time professionals aiming to advance their education. For those aspiring to managerial positions that require an MBA or similar degrees, this approach allows them to pursue further studies while maintaining employment.

7 Factors for Choosing a Day 1 CPT School

Selecting the appropriate Day 1 CPT university requires consideration of multiple factors, including accreditation, geographical location, program, frequency of on-site classes, tuition cost, and the availability of enrollment periods. The significance of these factors can differ based on various visa types and individual requirements.

Use the outlined principles below to select a suitable option from our Day 1 CPT school list.

(1) Accreditation

When choosing a Day 1 CPT university, prioritize those with a longstanding history and accreditation. Choosing unaccredited schools just to sidestep academic pressure and attendance requirements may jeopardize the legality of your F1 status and complicate future immigration proceedings.

When assessing schools, consider those recognized by the following accreditations:

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

For example, Westcliff University in California is accredited by WASC; Monroe College in New York and Trine University in the Midwest are both accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


(2) Locational Proximity

Following the principle of locational proximity is important when choosing a Day 1 CPT University. Since not every state has Day 1 CPT schools, many students may need to travel to a neighboring state for offline courses. For example, with no Day 1 CPT schools in Washington state, students residing there often look towards California for their education. Going to a school on the opposite coast, however, might raise USCIS suspicions, potentially increasing the likelihood of receiving a RFE.

There are, however, exceptions where the principle of locational proximity can be relaxed. These exceptions include:

  • Family factors: If you're located in California but your family is on the east coast, choosing a school on the east coast for regular family reunions can be seen as a legitimate reason by immigration authorities. 
  • Program-specific factors: Certain Day 1 CPT programs are only available at a few schools, such as design and healthcare-related programs at Harrisburg University. If you are particularly committed to a specific major that aligns with your work experience, choosing a Day 1 CPT school further away is also acceptable.

Choosing a School by Location


(3) Onsite Frequency

Along with location, the mandatory frequency of campus visits is an important aspect for students to consider when picking a Day 1 CPT university. The attendance requirement varies, with some institutions asking for presence once every semester and others expecting monthly visits. Even if a school is closer geographically, frequent required attendance could be less convenient. Hence, it is advisable for students to take a holistic view, factoring in the school's proximity, the frequency of onsite attendance, and the ease of transportation, to make an informed school choice.

Choosing a School by Onsite Frequency


(4) Enrollment Windows

Day 1 CPT schools typically offer 4-6 enrollment windows throughout the year, providing great flexibility for students. For those whose OPT or H1B is about to expire, selecting a suitable enrollment window that falls within their grace period is essential for maintaining their status in the U.S.

Choosing a School by Enrollment Window


(5) Program

Day 1 CPT programs differ widely among schools. For instance, Saint Peter’s University offers only two business-related Day 1 CPT programs, Harrisburg University is known for its STEM programs, while Westcliff University and Trine University offer a broad range of majors. Students can narrow down their choices based on majors suitable to them.

What does “suitable major'' mean? In fact, choosing a Day 1 CPT program requires careful consideration of how well it aligns with your educational and professional background. If there's a mismatch, you could be at risk of receiving a RFE during future immigration procedures.

Choosing a School by Program


(6) CPT Policy of Individual Schools

Some institutions limit Day 1 CPT eligibility to students who have previously earned a degree from another U.S. postsecondary institution or have completed one academic year in the U.S. If you are an "initial F1 student" without prior study experience in the U.S., it is important to steer clear of these schools. Examples of such institutions include Sofia University and the California Institute of Advanced Management (CIAM).


(7) For-Profit vs. Non-Profit

For those who have already obtained a graduate degree in the U.S., the distinction between for-profit and non-profit institutions does not matter. However, if you are pursuing your first graduate degree in the U.S. and aim to get an H1B, it's crucial to enroll in a non-profit Day 1 CPT school. This is because only degrees from non-profit institutions qualify you for the H1B Master's Cap, which provides an additional 20,000 visa slots for applicants with advanced degrees. Without a degree from a non-profit institution, you wouldn't be eligible to enter this specific lottery pool.


For-Profit Day 1 CPT Schools: Westcliff University; Monroe College; Sofia University
Non-Profit Day 1 CPT Schools:
Trine University; New England College; CIAM

2 Principles for Choosing a Day 1 CPT Program


  • Principle 1: Relevance to Your Job

To demonstrate that your work is an integral part of your coursework, you must choose a Day 1 CPT program related to your current job. If you work in finance, you might consider Business Analytics; if you work in technology, you could choose majors like Information Technology, Computer Science, or Data Science. MBA (Master of Business Administration) is a very popular Day 1 CPT program because it provides training in management, organization, leadership, administration, and communication, which can be related to a wide range of job positions. 


  • Principle 2: Distinct from Your Previous Field of Study

To clearly differentiate your new program from your past educational background, consider the following options: 
(1) Pursue a higher degree level: For example, if you already hold a master's degree in CS, you could choose a doctoral degree in IT; if you have a MBA degree, then getting a DBA (Doctorate of Business Administration) degree is a wise option. By adopting this approach, you can make the progression of your educational trajectory more reasonable. 

(3) Switch to a different field at the same degree level: For instance, if you have a master's in CS, you could pursue a Day 1 CPT MBA program. An MBA is a good choice for tech professionals interested in managerial positions. In such cases, your MBA degree can be seamlessly incorporated into your educational and professional trajectory. 

Potential Risks of Day 1 CPT

Concerns regarding the effect of Day 1 CPT on future H1B or green card applications are understandable. However, as previously mentioned, Day 1 CPT requires the fulfillment of academic requirements and the compliance to immigration regulations. As long as students enroll in an accredited school and meet course and CPT requirements, they can have a lower chance for getting a RFE and receive support for passing it.

In fact, the risk associated with Day 1 CPT does not lie in Day 1 CPT itself, but in the possibility of its misuse or abuse. Some typical examples of policy violations include:


Case 1: Attending Non-Accredited Schools

It is crucial for Day 1 CPT students to attend an accredited school. For a comprehensive list of accredited schools, check our Day 1 CPT school list.

How to define a non-accredited school? Non-accredited schools refer to those that are not accredited, have had their accreditation revoked, or universities fictitiously created by the USCIS for entrapment, posing risks to students’ legal status and future opportunities.

Universities that have had their accreditation revoked include:

  • Silicon Valley University
  • International American University
  • International Technology University
  • ACISI group schools (including UoNA, Stratford University, American University of Fairfax, etc.)

Universities made up for entrapment include:

  • University of Farmington
  • University of Northern New Jersey

Reasons for accreditation revocation often involve lax attendance and course management, and issues related to visa fraud. Universities fabricated by the USCIS for entrapment purposes often attract students by advertising zero coursework and zero attendance requirement. 

This explains why legitimate Day 1 CPT schools enforce strict onsite attendance policies, as non-adherence to these policies can result in severe repercussions for the institutions, including the potential loss of accreditation.


Case 2: Failure to Meet Academic Requirements

Day 1 CPT users are on an F1 student visa, which means they are expected to devote time and effort to their academic programs.

If a student uses Day 1 CPT merely as a means to work but neglect to attend classes, submit assignments, or meet onsite requirements, they are betraying the basic principle of the F1 visa, which is to engage in study. Furthermore, academic misconduct such as cheating, fraud, and plagiarism can lead to disciplinary actions against the student, potentially resulting in expulsion.

To maintain their CPT, students must keep a GPA above 3.0. Failing to meet this requirement can lead to the cessation of CPT. Therefore, adhering to academic requirements and school policies is essential.


Case 3: Working without CPT Approval or Renewal

Working without an approved CPT authorization can lead to serious consequences. If students engage in employment without obtaining CPT approval from their school, this is considered unauthorized employment and can result in the immediate revocation of their F1 status, followed by deportation. Furthermore, it's important for students to renew their CPT authorization at the beginning of each semester or academic year based on the specific CPT policies of their institution.


Case 4: Not Following Basic Principles for School and Program Selection

Situations in this category include choosing a school significantly distant from your residence without special reasons. For example, a student living in California but choosing a school on the East Coast might raise concerns with the USCIS.

Another situation is obtaining two similar degrees, such as earning a master’s in CS and then enrolling in another Day 1 CPT program for a master's in the same field. This choice might make it challenging to justify the need for attending a Day 1 CPT school. Furthermore, if the chosen major does not align with the student's current job, proving that their employment is an integral part of their curriculum-based training becomes difficult.


Day 1 CPT Work Authorization Application Process

After enrolling in a Day 1 CPT program and receiving a job offer, you can begin preparing your application for CPT work authorization.


Application Materials
  • CPT application form
  • Job offer letter (including job description)
  • CPT agreement (requires employer's signature; some schools may allow an offer letter or employment letter as a substitute)
  • Proof of tuition payment


Application Proces


Step 1: Determine Application Timing

For OPT students, it's recommended to begin applying to schools at least 1 month prior to the expiration of their OPT. Other visa holders should initiate the application process around 4 months before their desired program start date. H1B holders who have been laid off should apply and secure an admission letter as quickly as possible to ensure they can file for a change of status before the end of the grace period.


Step 2: Prepare Application Materials

After choosing the term you wish to apply for, you can begin gathering application materials, including your personal statement, transcript, recommendation letters, bank statement, and proof of English proficiency.

Day 1 CPT Colleges offer assistance by waiving application fees and providing free application consulting services. With partnerships across more than 25 Day 1 CPT schools, we can help students follow up on their application progress and expedite the admission process.

Book a free consultation with us


Step 3: SEVIS Transfer or Change of Status

After receiving admission, OPT students should transfer their SEVIS record from their previous institution to the new Day 1 CPT school. If you hold a visa type other than F1, you will need to apply for a change of status through the USCIS. SEVIS transfers can be completed within a few business days, while changing status typically takes about 3 months.


Step 4: Enrollment & CPT Application

After successfully transferring your SEVIS record or obtaining a change of status and receiving your new I-20 form, the next steps are paying your tuition fees and enrolling in the required CPT courses. Following this, you will need to start gathering the necessary documents for your CPT work authorization application, such as CPT agreement.


Step 5: Processing CPT I-20

Submit your CPT application to the DSO (Designated School Official). If approved, you will receive a new I-20 with CPT authorization, usually within 1-2 weeks. With the CPT authorization, you can begin working from the CPT start date noted on the I-20. Remember, it is crucial to renew your CPT authorization based on your school's policies.

After Day 1 CPT?

With Day 1 CPT, students can continue working and studying in the U.S. Since Day 1 CPT does not bind you to a single employer and does not have a transfer process like the H1B visa, it offers greater flexibility in changing employers. Students can also continue to seek opportunities for H1B and green card applications. When job searching, it is useful to inform potential employers that Day 1 CPT allows you to work legally in the U.S. while emphasizing the flexibility of Day 1 CPT.



If your Day 1 CPT degree is at a higher level than your previous degree, you may be eligible for OPT associated with the new degree. If the new degree is STEM, you may qualify for 3 years of OPT. It is important to note that if you engage in full-time work (more than 20 hours per week) under CPT for 12 months, you will lose eligibility for OPT, even with a higher degree level. To remain eligible for the new OPT, you can consider working full-time under CPT for up to 11 months and switching to part-time.



If you have transitioned from an H1B to an F1 visa due to job loss, you can switch back to H1B upon finding employment without going through the lottery again. Note that once you apply for a change of status with USCIS, you will enter a pending period during which you can stay in the U.S. but are not permitted to work.

For those who haven't previously been on an H1B, you can work with your employer to keep participating in the H1B lottery during your Day 1 CPT period. If successful, you can transition again from F1 to H1B.


Green Card

The USCIS does not require a particular visa type for green card eligibility. Thus, if you're participating in a Day 1 CPT program and your employer decides to sponsor your green card application, or if your spouse is eligible to apply on your behalf, then transitioning to permanent residency can be a feasible option.


If you have more questions, please feel free to Book a free consultation with us. We are happy to help you unlock the next chapter of your journey in the U.S.

FAQs About Day 1 CPT

What is the 150-day rule?

When a student initiates a SEVIS record transfer from their current school to a new one, it is essential that the start date at the new school is within a 150-day window from either the program completion date at the original school (noted on the I-20 form), or the conclusion of their OPT.

Adhering to this timeframe is necessary to maintain the continuity of the student's F1 status during the transfer. If the gap exceeds 150 days, the new school can only issue a new I-20 form for the student. In this case, the student must leave the United States and re-enter with the new I-20 to reactivate their F1 status under the new program.

What is the 60-day rule?
Students must submit a SEVIS transfer request within a 60-day grace period that starts after either the program completion date at their original school or the termination of their OPT.
Should this 60-day window lapse without a transfer request, the student's SEVIS record will automatically deactivate, rendering it ineligible for transfer to another institution.
Can I transfer to another school after enrollment?

Yes, you can transfer to another school after enrollment. If you change your work location, you can attend a Day 1 CPT school closer to your new location.

Can the application fee be waived?

Yes. Before submitting the application, please contact our admission consultants to receive an application code for the CPT schools mentioned above, which will waive your application fees.

I am currently on B/H visa and want to switch to F-1. Should I change my status within the US or exit the country to activate the I-20?
Option 1
If you require immediate enrollment, you have the option to schedule an online appointment at an embassy in countries such as Mexico and Canada to obtain a student visa. After obtaining the visa, you can re-enter the U.S. This process typically takes 2-3 days.
Option 2
You can request a change of status within the U.S. using premium processing, which delivers results in about 30 days.
If there's no urgency for enrollment, you can apply for a change of status without premium processing, but it will take 6-8 months.
What English exams do Day 1 CPT schools accept?

Most Day 1 CPT schools accept scores from exams such as TOEFL, IELTS, and Duolingo. GRE is not required. Duolingo is the most convenient and quick. Some schools, like Westcliff, also offer their own English proficiency tests

Can I change employment during CPT?
Yes, you can change employment during Day 1 CPT. Note that you must notify the school DSO about the change.
When should I submit the CPT application?
Student usually file their CPT applications 2 to 3 weeks prior to the semester start date. They must complete the SEVIS transfer before file their CPT applications.
Can I join H1B visa lotteries during Day 1 CPT?
Yes, you can continuously join the H1B visa lottery during Day 1 CPT.
A 2-year master's program can provide 2-3 more chances to join the h1b lottery. A 4-year doctoral program can offer 4-5 more opportunities for the H1B lottery.
Will there be a gap during the OPT to CPT transition?
Yes, after students transfer his/her SEVIS record, They OPT status will become invalid immediately the next day. They are not allowed to work until they receive CPT authorization from their new school.
To narrow this gap, it is essential to apply to the new school and submit the CPT application as soon as possible, as the review of CPT applications can take 3-5 business days.
If I am selected in the H1b lottery, can I choose not to continue studying?
Upon selection in the H1b visa lottery, you have the option to drop out form your current program. Nonetheless, we recommend students to finish the ongoing semester's coursework and receive your transcript before the activation of your H1B visa. Before withdrawing or taking a leave from your program, it's important to have a discussion with your school's academic advisor.
Do I need to submit a bank statement when applying to a Day 1 CPT school?
Yes, you need to submit a financial statement demonstrating your ability to financially support your studies.


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