Day 1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) has emerged as an extremely popular option for international students looking to study and work in the United States concurrently. It allows students to gain hands-on, real-world experience directly related to their major field of study while earning an income in the United States.
While extremely beneficial for one’s academics and career prospects, Day 1 CPT also has some important limitations and considerations that students should thoroughly research beforehand. Being well-informed on the ins and outs of the program, its advantages, as well as its pitfalls can help students maximize the benefits of Day 1 CPT while staying compliant with immigration regulations.
What is Day 1 CPT?
Day 1 CPT refers to the Curricular Practical Training program that enables international students on F-1 visas to participate in work experiences related to their major area of study, starting from their first day of enrollment at a college or university. This program essentially serves as a mechanism through which students can integrate practical work opportunities directly tied to their academic program while they are still pursuing their degrees. It provides a unique blend of simultaneous professional development and academic learning.
Day 1 CPT allows the student to apply academic concepts learned in class to real-world work settings and build up their resumes before graduation. The work authorization under CPT enables students to obtain jobs, paid or unpaid internships, or cooperative education positions (co-ops) to fulfill curricular objectives. However, when applying for Day 1 CPT, it’s essential for students to familiarize themselves with the entire process. Understanding each step of the Day 1 CPT process ensures a smoother transition into work experience during their studies.
Things You Should Know About Day 1 CPT
1. Eligibility Criteria
Day 1 CPT is not universally available to all international students. There are certain requirements that need to be met to qualify for participating in Curricular Practical Training from the outset of one’s academic program.
First and foremost, the student must be enrolled full-time in a college or university that offers a Day 1 CPT program integrated into its curriculum. Practical training employment should be an integral part of the established curriculum in the student’s major area of study. Additionally, the student must have a job or internship offer directly related to their field to be eligible.
Mere enrollment in an academic program with a CPT component does not automatically qualify a student. Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis by one’s Designated School Official (DSO) based on academic department requirements and the nature of the job offer.
2. Restrictions and Limitations
While Day 1 CPT offers international students a great opportunity to gain work experience during academics, there are certain restrictions and limitations to be aware of.
The most serious restriction is that if a student engages in 12 months or more of full-time CPT, they will lose their eligibility for OPT. This can severely limit their post-graduation work opportunities in the US. Hence, students must be strategic about balancing CPT and preserving OPT eligibility.
Additionally, students must ensure that the CPT employment is directly related to their major area of study and integral to their curriculum. Engaging in work unrelated to one’s program can be considered a status violation.
It is also important to comply with the duration of CPT authorized by one’s DSO and not overstay beyond specified periods. Extensions need to be applied for in advance if required by academic needs.
3. Application Process
Securing authorization for Day 1 CPT is not an automatic process. There are certain steps students must take:
- First, the student must receive a job offer or internship opportunity in their field of study. This forms the basis for CPT eligibility.
- Next, the student should consult their Designated School Official (DSO) and academic advisor to review if the practical training aligns with degree program requirements.
- The DSO will then provide a new Form I-20 indicating the CPT recommendation and authorization details.
- With the endorsed I-20, the student can proceed to update their SEVIS records and apply for a work permit from USCIS.
- Once the work permit is secured, the student may begin employment on Day 1 of their academic program.
- It is crucial to maintain one’s F-1 status and enroll full-time during CPT employment.
4. Duration and Extensions
In most cases, Day 1 CPT employment authorization is granted on a semester or quarterly basis aligned with academic terms. However, some programs do allow CPT to extend across multiple terms if required to complete curriculum-related training requirements.
Students who need to extend their CPT work authorization beyond initially specified periods can apply for an extension. This may be granted by one’s DSO if the academic department certifies that continued curricular training is essential.
There is no fixed maximum duration for CPT, but excessive periods of full-time work can jeopardize OPT eligibility. Therefore, planning CPT duration carefully is key.
5. Risks and Considerations
While CPT offers invaluable opportunities, there are certain risks and considerations to be mindful of when undertaking Day 1 practical training.
Engaging in full-time CPT for 12 months makes students ineligible for OPT, which can severely limit post-graduation work prospects. Additionally, participating in employment unrelated to one’s major and unauthorized overstays can be treated as status violations.
It is also essential to maintain valid F-1 status by continuing full-time enrollment during CPT employment. Failure to do so can again jeopardize one’s immigration status.
Moreover, excessive CPT without enough focus on academics can lead to problems during student visa renewals or transition to other visa categories like H-1B.
6. Impact on H1-B Visa
Many students consider transitioning from their F-1 student visa to an H-1B specialized occupation work visa after completing their education. Excessive use of CPT during academic studies can potentially raise questions during the H-1B application process.
USCIS officials may want to verify if the practical training was directly related to the student’s studies, especially if the student later applies for an H-1B in a different occupational field. Too much time spent on CPT unrelated to one’s major could signal a potential misuse of the student visa.
Hence, it is advisable for students considering an H-1B pathway to strategically balance CPT and academics to avoid any red flags. Additionally, extending unauthorized stay in the US through CPT may jeopardize future visa applications.
Pursuing Day 1 CPT can be an invaluable experience for F-1 students seeking to gain work experience in the U.S. relevant to their studies. However, it is essential to learn the program’s key requirements and limitations before applying.
Following proper procedures and maintaining legal status throughout CPT will help ensure you avoid pitfalls and make the most of this special work authorization opportunity. Thoroughly researching these things to know about Day 1 CPT can set you up for a rewarding experience that advances both your academic and professional goals.