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Can you Work on CPT from Day 1 in Second Masters in US ? USCIS regulations?

If you have applied for H1B visa and did not get selected in H1B  Visa Lottery, you might be wondering about the options.  Also, if you have been working on OPT might be considering Options to work in USA, if not selected in H1B  lottery, of going for second masters. Some of the common questions that can arise are like below.

  • Will I get CPT for second Masters after I have used CPT and OPT in first masters ?
  • Can I start working right away on CPT for second masters ?
  • What are USCIS rules for working on CPT in general ?
  • What do most of the schools comply to for giving CPT authorization ?
  • Do I have to be enrolled full time when I am on CPT for second masters ?
  • What happens to my OPT after Second masters, if I use CPT?

Many such questions…Let me take some time shed some light on the above.

Curricular Practical Training ( CPT ) General Rules by USCIS and DHS

It is very important to understand the basics of CPT before we dive in to intricacies of using the CPT.

What is CPT ?  In general, CPT is a type of employment that is given to F1 students, where it is part of academic curriculum or degree program, and required to be done for completion of degree.  Typically it could include supervised field work, any work that is mandated by curriculum for hands on exposure.  CPT is of three to four types, depending on school.

  • CPT Required to obtain degree, which is for specific field training and experience.
  • CPT available as an elective and available as credit towards degree completion
  • CPT given as part of Thesis/ Dissertation for field experience towards research.
  • CPT for co-op programs, generally combining education with practical work experience.

You will have to be enrolled full time in the degree program at school to avail CPT. Also, it is given only after approval from academic department and your DSO will give you a new I20 indicating the same. It will have to be taken every semester as required.  If you do CPT full time for 12 months will lose the option to utilize 12 month OPT, so you have to watch how you use it. Of course, doing part time CPT work will be fine.   Also read : Working options CPT vs OPT on F1 Visa

What are the general requirements for CPT ?

The basic requirement for availing CPT is that you have to be an F1 student enrolled full time in a program for one academic year ( Fall and Spring ).  The only exception to the rule is that, if you are in a Graduate/Masters degree program requires internship/field work from first year/semester, then you can take CPT ahead of time. It has to be clearly defined in the program curriculum that internship/ field work is required from first semester.  Also, this has to be approved by academic advisor and DSO/ international student advisor.

Can I work on CPT from day one in my Second Masters ( MS/MBA) from US ?

The basic rules of CPT applies all the time, unless there is an exception as mentioned above that is stipulated by the academic program, especially as part of the graduate or masters program.  Below  is an example requirement on one of the schools : CPT Rules for Second Masters – Lamar University Second Masters CPT Eligibility Reference - Can you do it from Day 1

Can I get CPT for 12 months in my second Masters ?

This is a grey area and subject to interpretation. In the past many were using 12 months of CPT in second masters, without properly interpreting the rule of Practical Training and sometime getting away with it. But, in recent years, USCIS is looking at it closely and they are interpreting differently, applying OPT rule on degree levels, stating that you get 12 months of practical training for one degree level, including CPT. They have raised flags as RFEs and in some cases COS was denied, for H1B petitions stating that F1 students did not maintain their F1 status properly. Their whole argument is Practical Training means in general it includes CPT and OPT. See below screenshot from ICE Reference. So, be very careful on how you use CPT in second masters at the same degree level. Many of the Day 1 CPT universities do not provide this clear guidance and as it is grey, they say possible, but it is you as student who need to aware of the risk as you will be the one having the issues in future. If you are not clear, discuss with a qualified attorney.  

Also, some established public universities like North Dakota State University have started to clearly tell that you get 12 months of CPT for each degree level. See below and check their NDSU CPT Deck on Eligibility

CPT Eligibility for Second Masters in USA - NDSU University Info


What about OPT after Second Masters ? Will I get 12 months of OPT ?

Typically 12 month OPT is given for every academic level i.e., one for Bachelors, one for Masters and one for PhD. Same rule as in above screenshot applies here.  If you have used 12 month OPT after MS, then you will not be eligible for OPT for another MS degree. You will  have to progress to higher level. Read full details on OPT rules for Second Masters ( MS/MBA) in USA . Also, if you have not use OPT in first masters, basic rule of full time CPT for 12 month still applies here, which is you will not get OPT, if you use full time CPT for 12 months.  If your degree is from STEM Category, you may be eligible for OPT extension, if you degree falls under STEM Category, check with the school. 

What NOT to do with CPT rules by USCIS or ICE ?

As you can see from above the clear goal of CPT is academic and should NOT be abused to continue your existing work. It should NEVER be used as an option to continue employment.  There have been few schools that have abused the CPT and been barred by ICE and USCIS as fraud. Be cautious when someone says that they offer CPT from first semester for all the programs. There are some programs in some schools that mandate CPT from day one as part of the curriculum, but you would have to execute with caution.  There are many schools that are considered degree mills which offer CPT from day one, you need to be very careful with these as you may end up in trouble later during H1B process, if you violate something. Recently, in 2019, many F1 Students were arrested for doing Day 1 CPT for Second Masters at University of Farmington, so be careful and do not break any law or knowingly engage in something fraud.

Note : You need to talk to Academic Advisor and DSO ( international student advisor) for any of the CPT related questions because, it directly relates to your F1 student status and ICE and USCIS will have a close watch.  Do NOT assume anything by reading the above article as rules always keep changing and there can be subtle variations.

What are your thoughts ?  Any other CPT rules that everyone should be aware of  ?

References :


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  1. Looking to carpool from Boston to Harrisburg! It’s a 7 hour drive and I need someone to drive in between. Please email me at danboston95@gmail.com

  2. Hi, I have enrolled in spring 2018 semester, but still my STEM-OPT application is pending, so I just wanted wait till the decision decided. For transferring my SEVIS the deadline is on DEC 8th for Day 1 CPT and for the regular semester on FEB 8th , So wanted to know does the day 1 CPT and taking the CPT wil be the same??
    What are the problems faced for 2nd semester CPT instead of Day 1 CPT??
    Does any Problems faced while filing H1b??

  3. Hi Team,

    Currently I am working in Cap Gemini India as SAP Consultant, Now I am looking for best option to travel to US. Can any one help me what are all the possibilities that we have. Thanks in Advance.

  4. Hi,

    I did ms in uk.i am coming to USA on h4 visa.if i opt day 1 cpt do I need to write gre and tofel .as he never didMS in USA.will he eligible for opt after cpt?

  5. I am completing 12months OPT after certificate course. I wish to do a masters now. Will I be eligible for the STEM extension after the completion of my masters?

    • Hi Stem Extension depends on the course you choose, not all degrees offer stem ext program. Also Stem ext is granted only once in your entire Academic Progress- which means you don’t get that for every new level of degree.

  6. I have done MBA and am on OPT now. Iam thinking to take admission to study MS. I would like to know that if i take second masters, am i eligible for OPT or not(Or atleast STEM extension).

    • No, I have read the rules for OPT. It was clearly mentioned there you wouldn’t get OPT again after second masters. You can go for Ph.D. without any problem and will get OPT option.

    • I just started 2nd MS with day one CPT. I had looked at HU but they were too expensive for what they really offer. I end up at University of Farmington.

      • Hi Akash,

        Do they offer CPT from day 1? I had heard that the University was barred by USCIS. 2017 would be my last chance to file for H1B. I was thinking to plan for some backup if that doesn’t work out.

        Thanks in advance for your response.

      • Hi Akash,
        The University of Farmington you are referencing; is it The University of Maine Farmington? I googled it and on their website I couldn’t find any information about CPT or maybe I didn’t look hard enough.

        Can you please provide the url or some more details about the program you’re doing there.

        • Hi, you can email them at admissions@universityoffarmington.edu and they send info. I am doing my 2nd MA and they gave me Day 1 CPT.

          • I was looking at the wrong website. I got the correct one now. Which program are doing at this university and how many classes do you have per week or per semester?


          • Hey Akash,

            Are you currently enrolled in the school. There seems to be no reference to the school other that the email link you posted.

      • Hi Akash,

        Did you experience any issue with university of Farmington? i am planning to register in the university please give your feedback.

  7. I’M an international student graduated already from a masters degree and would like to continue my education as well as gain work experience by enrolling i a course that offers COT from day one.
    Can someone please guide me as to what universities offer this legally?

    Thanks in advance

  8. On Accreditation of Harrisburg University: What update do you have about it??? Today is March 23, Wednesday, 2016, it seems that there were many planning or interested in doing a master at Harrisburg University and start CPT from day 1 in 2016. So, my question is, who is already registered, and update you have about the probation and accreditation thing?
    I read (but just in Wikipedia) that HU has its Accreditation reaffirmed by something called the “MSCHE”. And also that HU was “removed from probation on March 3, 2016” by I don’t know who, the text is ambiguous. Please check in the Wikipedia page of HU. So please confirm if there is not any issue with the accreditation and if the probation has been effectively lifted. ASAP, thanks!

  9. Hi,
    I have finished my MBA is the U.S & returned to India, its been almost a year now. I wish to get back enroll in a cool where I can do a second masters and at the same time avail cpt from day 1 and the following opt after that. Can my view and idea have a clear path ? Is it possible ? How do I carry this forward? Please it would be great if I could give information.

    • Naveen, While it sounds like a plan and there are some schools that do offer CPT from day 1…key thing to be aware is that there is some level of fraud associate with such schools where the rules are bent…you need to be very careful, if you choose this path. What is your end goal ? Just come back to America and work here or just study more ? If it is just job, I suggest you re-think your entire plan as there are many uncertainties with H1B lottery and the fee, time you spent on everything, etc. If you are doing this for learning more and other career like teaching, maybe then you can consider it…just be clear on your end goal and be cognizant of the fact that Immigration rules keep changing ….

  10. My name Pruthvi , an F1 student, working full time on an OPT extension. Because of the recent federal court judgment, my opt might become invalid after Feb 16th. So, to preserve my status, I might have to join a college for my second masters degree. So , I am looking for a college( and a masters degree) that can offer CPT from the first day. This will help me to continue my current employment and in the mean time I can also complete my masters.

    Can anybody help me?

  11. Hi all,

    I am on h4 visa right now.. I would like to go for m.s .. Heard about Harrisburg university which is near to our place.
    Is it safe to join that university for spring 2016 ?
    I wonder some students who are doing their first masters working on CPT from day1 in that university… Is it possible? If so, is it safe to work on CPT for students doing 1st masters ?

    Please give your comments.. It really helps me.


  12. Anyone there information about CPT from 1st sem in USA for MBA in healthcare..? Is these really legal there or can you sugess me some colleges

  13. I was wondering if anyone here has joined Harrisburg or Sullivan MS programs, got CPT from day1 and later went on to get H1. Did you have any issues? Could you please share your experiences. Thank you.

    • Hi Gokul,
      My friend is attending Harrisburg Collage and he got his H1B successfully this year – but seems like Harrisburg Collage accreditation is on probation I think not to attend that collage

        • Did you got any info regarding Sullivan collage? Which collage did you decide to attend? I am still looking for one
          which university is accredited or not you can check from following URL.. http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/

          • I got in touch with people at Sullivan University. According to them CPT is an integral part of their MSMIT program. I know a friend of mine enrolled there two years ago. But, he never applied for H1B. He says that some others who enrolled along with him did fine. They got through the H1B without any issues. I do not know if they had any issues with RFEs or stamping etc., But, I do not have confidence to go this CPT route.

      • AJ,

        I think your friend is still a student @ harrisburg and he filed H1 based on his previous degrees and experience. Harrisburg Masters has not played any role in his H1B….

        Can you clarify this ????

        • Hi,
          Yes – he was doing his 2nd master at Harrisburg collage -He got an RFE which asks questions regarding how he kept his F1 status valid ? Proof of he attended classes regularly and how his program is related with his current job and why the program requires CPT from semester 1- but his RFE has been cleared. As I told he was doing 2nd master at Harrisburg collage

          • Thanks AJ,

            That clarifies all…Harrisburg has started F1 recently, thats what I came to know. So no H1B’s as of now. They are on probation and result was expected in JUne. But, till now no updates.

            Harrisburg is good for 2nd masters. If you are aiming for H1B Masters Cap with Harrisburg, please forget it….As AJ mentioned RFE will be there for attendance, CPT job location, local harrisburg address, etc….Difficult to explain…

            All the best….

  14. Hi
    Is anyone Joining Harrisburg University ? Read that it is under probation. Does it really provide CPT from first semester . Has anyone started working on CPT ?


    • Its risky. They do provide CPT from day 1. But since its on probation and result was awaited in JUne and delayed till date. Its become risky to get admitted to this univ.

      Is there any other Univ who gives the same benefit and recognized ??

        • Hi Guys,

          I want to pursue Masters from any university which does not need GRE in Austin, TX. Can someone recommend me the names. My intention is to complete 1 yr and take CPT and start working. please help !!!


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