7 Things You Should Know About Day 1 CPT
The Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program allows F-1 visa students to gain practical work experience in their field of study during their degree program. The Day 1 CPT refers to the ability of international students to engage in CPT starting from their first day of enrollment in a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school.
The Day 1 CPT option provides immense benefits for international students, allowing them to gain valuable work experience and supplement their finances right from the start of their studies. However, there are also important considerations students should be aware of before pursuing Day 1 CPT. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the program, its eligibility criteria, the application process, and potential impacts on future immigration benefits will enable students to make informed decisions about whether Day 1 CPT aligns with their academic and professional goals.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the key things international students should know about the Day 1 CPT program. This will help them successfully leverage the program and benefit from it.
1. It can impact eligibility for OPT
While gaining work experience from day one is invaluable, F-1 students should be informed that any period of full-time CPT will count against the overall 12-month maximum permitted by immigration regulations. As they embark on this journey, understanding the nuances of Day 1 CPT can help students plan their academic and work experiences more strategically. Any full-time CPT undertaken, including via Day 1 participation, accumulates toward those 12 months. This deeper insight into Day 1 CPT allows students to strike a balance, ensuring they don’t miss out on future OPT opportunities.
Exceeding an aggregate of 12 months of full-time CPT can negatively impact a student’s eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completing their degree program. OPT provides an additional period of work authorization, so students must strategically balance Day 1 CPT with preserving future OPT options. Consulting with their DSO on CPT limits is highly recommended.
2. It allows work authorization beginning on the first day of a degree program
The defining feature of Day 1 CPT is that it enables F-1 students to participate in CPT starting from the very first day they are enrolled in their degree program. Under regular CPT regulations, students are required to complete at least one full academic year of study before they become eligible for work authorization. However, the Day 1 CPT option lifts this restriction, allowing F-1 students to immediately begin gaining valuable work experience directly related to their field of study right from the get-go.
This ability to engage in practical training from day one provides immense benefits to international students. It enables them to start developing relevant skills, applying classroom knowledge, and building up their resumes as soon as they embark on their degree program. The work experience and income gained can also help offset tuition costs. Ultimately, being able to leverage CPT right away gives students a head start on achieving their academic and career goals.
3. Eligible degree programs must be SEVP-certified for CPT
For international students to qualify for the Day 1 CPT program, their specific degree program must already be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to offer CPT opportunities to enrolled F-1 students. Before an academic program can provide Day 1 CPT, the school’s Designated School Official (DSO) must confirm that the program meets eligibility standards and is certified for early CPT participation.
Once the DSO verifies program eligibility, they can issue new students Day 1 CPT I-20 forms reflecting CPT work authorization beginning from their official program start date. So, the school must be on board with Day 1 CPT, take proactive steps to certify eligible programs, and provide students with the proper I-20 paperwork to obtain work permissions from the outset. The process requires close coordination between students, DSOs, and academic departments.
4. Part-time CPT is permitted; full-time has added requirements
International students pursuing Day 1 CPT can engage in part-time practical training without any issues. Part-time CPT involves working 20 hours per week or less. Students can readily secure part-time Day 1 CPT employment opportunities that align with program objectives.
However, for full-time CPT employment exceeding 20 hours per week, there are some added requirements and oversight involved. The Designated School Official must document and confirm compelling academic reasons why engaging in full-time CPT starting on day one is integral to helping the student meet their degree program’s curricular goals and course objectives. The DSO provides this documentation during the student’s CPT I-20 application process.
5. Work authorization is tied to continuous enrollment
F-1 students must uphold their end of the bargain by remaining continuously enrolled full-time in order to maintain valid Day 1 CPT work authorization. They must actively attend all classes and make satisfactory progress in completing their degree program curriculum. Students must be enrolled in and attending classes during every academic term they are engaged in CPT employment.
If a student drops below full-time enrollment status or takes a break from their program at any point, they will no longer meet the enrollment requirements for Day 1 CPT, and their work permission will be terminated. Maintaining lawful F-1 status and immigration benefits is contingent on meeting the continuous enrollment criteria.
6. Applications require school endorsement each term
F-1 students who wish to continue their Day 1 CPT employment into subsequent academic terms must diligently re-apply and obtain updated CPT authorization every term. This involves working with the DSO to get new CPT I-20 forms issued with a valid endorsement for the new term.
The DSO must re-verify the student’s enrollment status and academic good standing each term before extending the CPT authorization. Students are responsible for initiating the renewal process for each term. Maintaining lawful status depends on securing the DSO’s continuing approval via updated term-by-term I-20 paperwork.
7. Employment must relate to field of study
A fundamental requirement of the Day 1 CPT program is that any job or internship must provide practical training and work experience directly related to the F-1 student’s major field of study. The intention is to ensure the CPT employment aligns closely with the student’s academic and curricular goals.
When applying for Day 1 CPT, students must provide details on their prospective job offer or internship opportunity and how it connects with their degree program’s curriculum. The specific work authorization granted is tied to a single employer and job position. If the student wishes to change employers, they must disclose this and apply for new CPT approval from their school’s DSO.
Ultimately, the purpose of CPT is to serve as a hands-on learning and training extension of the student’s academic program. Day 1 CPT jobs allow international students to take classroom knowledge and apply it in real-world occupational settings under the guidance of employers in their degree fields. The practical experience furthers their educational goals.
By understanding the things covered in this article, students, schools, and employers can make informed decisions about Day 1 CPT participation. Equipped with the facts, international students can determine if leveraging Day 1 CPT aligns with their objectives for a US education and professional development in their field.