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Understanding Day 1 CPT for F-1 Visa Holders in the U.S.

Updated on April 11, 2024

If you’re an international student on an F-1 visa in the United States, you may have heard about the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program. CPT allows eligible students to gain practical work experience related to their field of study while maintaining their F-1 status. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the specifics of Day 1 CPT and how it can benefit you as an international student.

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Day 1 CPT allows F-1 students to work off-campus in their field of study from the start of their academic program. To be eligible, students must enroll in a program that includes practical training, secure a job offer, and obtain authorization from their school. Day 1 CPT provides valuable work experience and financial support, but students must comply with work hour limits and maintain their F-1 status.

What is Day 1 CPT?

Day 1 CPT refers to a special type of Curricular Practical Training that allows F-1 students to start working off-campus from the very first day of their academic program. Unlike traditional CPT, which requires students to complete one academic year of full-time study before becoming eligible, Day 1 CPT enables students to gain work experience right from the start of their program.

Info Icon Important: Day 1 CPT enables students to gain work experience related to their field of study from the first day of their program, unlike traditional CPT.

Eligibility Requirements for Day 1 CPT

To be eligible for Day 1 CPT, you must meet the following criteria:

  1. Enrollment in a qualifying academic program: Your school must offer a program that includes practical training as an integral part of the curriculum. This means that the work experience is a required component of your degree program. For a more comprehensive overview of the requirements, see our article on Eligibility Criteria for Day 1 CPT Universities.
  2. Acceptance letter from your employer: You must have a job offer related to your field of study and an acceptance letter from your prospective employer.
  3. CPT authorization from your school’s international student office: Your school’s designated school official (DSO) must authorize your CPT in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) before you can start working.
Info Icon Important: To be eligible for Day 1 CPT, you must enroll in a program that includes practical training as an integral part of the curriculum, have a job offer, and obtain authorization from your school.

How to Apply for Day 1 CPT

Now that you understand the basics of Day 1 CPT, let’s walk through the application process step by step:

Step 1: Enroll in an eligible academic program

The first step is to enroll in an academic program that includes practical training as an integral part of the curriculum. Research schools and programs that offer Day 1 CPT and choose one that aligns with your academic and career goals.

For more information, see our articles on Day 1 CPT Universities in the USA and PhD Programs with Day 1 CPT.

Step 2: Secure a job offer

Once you’ve enrolled in an eligible program, start your job search. Look for opportunities related to your field of study and that meet the requirements for CPT. After you’ve found a suitable position, obtain an official job offer letter from your prospective employer.

Need help with your F-1 visa?

Embarking on your academic journey in the U.S. with an F-1 visa can be exciting yet overwhelming due to the rigorous application requirements. If you’re feeling lost among the myriad of eligibility requirements, necessary documents, and the comprehensive application process, Stilt is here to assist. Our team of F-1 visa specialists is dedicated to simplifying the complexity, helping you understand and navigate each step with confidence.

Step 3: Gather required documents

To apply for Day 1 CPT, you’ll need to provide several documents to your school’s international student office. These typically include:

  • A completed CPT application form (provided by your school)
  • Your job offer letter
  • Proof of enrollment in an eligible academic program
  • A letter from your academic advisor or department chair confirming that the practical training is an integral part of your curriculum

Step 4: Submit your application

Once you have all the required documents, submit your Day 1 CPT application to your school’s international student office. Your DSO will review your application and determine your eligibility.

Step 5: Receive CPT authorization

If your application is approved, your DSO will authorize your CPT in SEVIS and issue you a new I-20 form with the CPT endorsement. This endorsement will include details such as your employer’s name, the start and end dates of your CPT, and whether you are authorized for part-time or full-time work.

Step 6: Begin your practical training

After receiving your CPT authorization, you can start working on the date specified in your I-20 endorsement. Remember to comply with all the terms and conditions of your CPT, such as working only within the authorized dates and maintaining your F-1 status.

Info Icon Important: The application process involves enrolling in an eligible program, securing a job offer, gathering required documents, submitting your application, and receiving CPT authorization from your school.

Tips for a Successful Day 1 CPT Application

  • Start your job search early to ensure you have ample time to secure a position and complete the application process before your intended start date.
  • Carefully review your school’s CPT policies and application procedures, as they may vary from institution to institution.
  • Maintain open communication with your academic advisor and the international student office throughout the application process to ensure you meet all the necessary requirements.
  • Keep copies of all your application documents and your CPT-endorsed I-20 for your records.

By following these steps and tips, you’ll be well on your way to securing Day 1 CPT authorization and gaining valuable practical experience in your field of study.

Day 1 CPT University Spotlights 

If you’re interested in learning about Day 1 CPT experiences at specific universities, check out our university spotlight articles:

Benefits of Day 1 CPT

Day 1 CPT offers several advantages for international students:

  1. Early work experience: You can start gaining valuable work experience in your field of study from the beginning of your academic program, which can enhance your resume and future career prospects.
  2. Financial support: Working through Day 1 CPT can help you cover some of your living expenses and reduce your reliance on other sources of funding, such as scholarships or personal savings.
  3. Improved post-graduation employability: Having relevant work experience on your resume can make you a more competitive candidate when applying for jobs after graduation, both in the U.S. and in your home country.

For a comparison between CPT and OPT, read our article on Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Important Considerations

While Day 1 CPT can be highly beneficial, there are some important factors to keep in mind:

  1. Limitations on work hours: You can only work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) during the academic term. However, you may be eligible for full-time CPT during official school breaks. For more information on work hour limits, see our article on Part-Time CPT vs. Full-Time CPT.
  2. Maintenance of F-1 status: You must continue to meet all the requirements for maintaining your F-1 status, such as enrolling in a full course of study and making satisfactory academic progress.
  3. Choosing the right program: Not all academic programs offer Day 1 CPT. Make sure to research and choose a program that aligns with your career goals and includes practical training as an integral part of the curriculum.
Advice Icon Tip: Be aware of work hour limitations, maintain your F-1 status, and choose the right program that aligns with your career goals and offers Day 1 CPT.

Day 1 CPT for Second Master’s Degree 

If you’re considering pursuing a second master’s degree and are interested in Day 1 CPT, read our article on Day One CPT for Second Masters and No H1B in the US to learn more about this specific scenario.

Need help with your F-1 visa?

Embarking on your academic journey in the U.S. with an F-1 visa can be exciting yet overwhelming due to the rigorous application requirements. If you’re feeling lost among the myriad of eligibility requirements, necessary documents, and the comprehensive application process, Stilt is here to assist. Our team of F-1 visa specialists is dedicated to simplifying the complexity, helping you understand and navigate each step with confidence.

Day 1 CPT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

If you’re exploring Day 1 CPT, you may have some of these questions:

What is the difference between Day 1 CPT and regular CPT?

The main difference between Day 1 CPT and regular CPT is the timing. Day 1 CPT allows F-1 students to start working off-campus from the beginning of their academic program, while regular CPT requires students to complete one academic year of full-time study before becoming eligible.

Can I apply for Day 1 CPT with any academic program?

No, not all academic programs offer Day 1 CPT. To be eligible, you must enroll in a program that includes practical training as an integral part of the curriculum. Be sure to research and choose a program that aligns with your career goals and offers Day 1 CPT.

Is there a limit on how many hours I can work with Day 1 CPT?

Yes, during the academic term, you can only work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) with Day 1 CPT. However, you may be eligible for full-time CPT during official school breaks.

Do I need to have a job offer before applying for Day 1 CPT?

Yes, you must have a job offer related to your field of study and an acceptance letter from your prospective employer before applying for Day 1 CPT.

How long does the Day 1 CPT application process take?

The processing time for Day 1 CPT applications can vary depending on your school’s policies and procedures. It’s best to start the process early and allow ample time for your application to be reviewed and approved before your intended start date.

Can I change employers while on Day 1 CPT?

If you wish to change employers while on Day 1 CPT, you must submit a new CPT application and obtain a new CPT authorization from your school’s international student office before starting work with the new employer.

Will participating in Day 1 CPT affect my eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

No, participating in Day 1 CPT does not impact your eligibility for OPT. You can still apply for OPT after completing your academic program, provided you meet all the necessary requirements.

Can I extend my Day 1 CPT authorization?

The possibility of extending your Day 1 CPT authorization depends on your school’s policies and your academic program’s requirements. Consult with your DSO to determine if an extension is possible in your case.

What happens if I violate the terms of my Day 1 CPT?

Violating the terms of your Day 1 CPT, such as working without authorization or exceeding the allowed work hours, can have serious consequences. These may include losing your F-1 status and facing deportation. Always comply with the terms and conditions of your CPT to maintain your legal status in the U.S.

Where can I find more information about Day 1 CPT?

For more information about Day 1 CPT, consult your school’s international student office or visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. Your DSO can provide you with guidance specific to your situation and help you navigate the application process.

Final Thoughts

Day 1 CPT is an excellent opportunity for international students on F-1 visas to gain practical work experience in their field of study from the start of their academic program. By understanding the eligibility requirements, benefits, and important considerations, you can make an informed decision about whether Day 1 CPT is right for you. If you have any further questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your school’s international student office for guidance.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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