Understanding Day 1 CPT - Things You Should Know
Career Opportunities

Understanding Day 1 CPT – Things You Should Know

Day 1 CPT (Curricular Practical Training) is an important option for international students studying in the United States on an F-1 visa. It allows students to engage in practical training in their field of study soon after beginning their program. Understanding the requirements, benefits, and limitations of Day 1 CPT is crucial for utilizing this opportunity properly and maintaining legal immigration status. 

This article will provide an in-depth look at nine key things international students should know about Day 1 CPT.

What is Day 1 CPT?

Day 1 CPT refers to Curricular Practical Training that is authorized to begin on the first day of an F-1 student’s academic program. Normally, students must wait nine months into their degree program before becoming eligible for CPT. However, in certain cases, CPT authorization can be granted immediately if the practical training is considered an integral part of the established curriculum and degree requirements.

The training can be in the form of an internship, job, or practicum course that provides hands-on experience related to the student’s major area of study. It must fulfill a specific academic requirement laid out in the curriculum and be tied directly to the F-1 student’s field of study.

Where can the training be done?

The practical training under Day 1 CPT can be completed at any appropriate site or location directly related to the F-1 student’s major and field of study. Many students opt for opportunities provided or recommended by Day 1 CPT universities, as these institutions are adept at ensuring the practical experiences align with the curriculum and visa requirements.

Common work sites include hospitals, clinics, healthcare centers, schools, non-profit organizations, government agencies, private companies, tech firms, laboratories, and other places relevant to the specific program.

It is important that the CPT aligns with and meets the academic curriculum requirements outlined by the university program. The training must provide hands-on experience connected to the student’s major.

What are the eligibility criteria?

For an F-1 student to qualify for Day 1 CPT, the practical training component must be considered a mandatory and integral part of the academic curriculum. This means it is required to complete the degree program and not just an optional add-on.

The course catalog and official program handbook from the university should demonstrate that the hands-on training or work experience is built directly into the established degree requirements that every student must fulfill. This proves it is not elective but is mandatory for program completion.

What documents do you need?

An F-1 student will need a new Form I-20 issued by their Designated School Official (DSO) that lists the CPT work authorization details on page 2. This is the official government document that endorses their practical training.

Ensure the I-20 is valid, not expired, and has all the correct program details. Double-check that your name, school, degree program, and other information is accurate.

You will also need an official letter from your academic DSO confirming that the CPT is an integral part of the curriculum and a required component of your degree program to graduate. 

Are there program restrictions?

Yes, there are certain program restrictions when qualifying for Day 1 CPT. This type of immediate practical training authorization is generally only allowed for specialized graduate programs where hands-on experience is a central part of the curriculum.

Common examples are healthcare fields like medical school residencies, nursing programs, social work internships, teacher credential programs, and some technical science degrees.

Undergraduate programs are typically not eligible for Day 1 CPT except for a few specialized technical or STEM bachelor’s degrees, where training is mandatory early on.

How many hours can you work?

For Day 1 CPT, there is no weekly hour limit on the practical training, unlike regular CPT, which has a 20-hour per week restriction during the academic year.

Students authorized for Day 1 CPT can work part-time or full-time as the degree requirements mandate. However, they must maintain their full course load and make normal progress toward completing their academic program.

The training hours should comply with what is laid out in the curriculum and course catalog to meet the mandatory requirements. Students cannot work excess hours beyond what is required.

How long does the CPT authorization last?

The CPT authorization duration is set and determined by the student’s DSO based on the length of the mandatory academic requirement. For example, if the degree program requires a semester-long practicum or internship course, the DSO will approve the CPT only for that specific semester.

In multi-year programs like medical residencies, the CPT can be granted yearly and renewed each year by the DSO upon proof of enrollment. The duration is tied to fulfilling the curriculum requirements.

Does Day 1 CPT affect OPT?

No, engaging in Day 1 CPT does not use up or reduce the amount of optional practical training (OPT) that an F-1 student is eligible for after completing their academic program.

Students who do Day 1 CPT can still get the full 12 months of standard OPT after graduation since this CPT was classified as required curriculum training.

It is recommended that students maintain documentation proving their CPT’s mandatory nature if needed.

Can you travel abroad and re-enter the US?

Yes, F-1 students on Day 1 CPT can travel outside the United States and re-enter during their authorized practical training period. However, before traveling internationally, they must get their I-20 endorsed for travel by their DSO. This provides proof of their status.

Upon re-entering the US, students should carry their endorsed I-20, job offer letter, employment verification letter, pay stubs, and other documentation related to their CPT to show to the immigration officer if requested.


Day 1 CPT provides a great opportunity for F-1 students whose programs integrate relevant practical experience right from the start. By understanding the requirements, limitations, and proper protocols for using Day 1 CPT, international students can take full advantage of this option to gain valuable skills and training in their chosen career fields.