F-1 students completing their Optional Practical Training (OPT) without securing an H-1B Cap lottery spot often face challenges. To remain in the U.S. or continue employment with their OPT employer, some opt for a second Master’s program offering day one Curricular Practical Training (CPT). However, this approach has raised concerns due to evolving interpretations of regulations by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Traditionally, schools interpreted the prohibition in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i) against post-completion training for students who completed one year of full-time CPT to mean that there was no prohibition against CPT for those who had already completed one year of full-time practical training. However, recent USCIS interpretations suggest that completing one year of any full-time practical training makes students ineligible for any further practical training, including CPT, unless they enroll in a higher education level.
If students have completed a Master’s program with one year of practical training, they may be ineligible for any more practical training unless they join a program at a higher level than a Master’s. USCIS may consider those who have worked on CPT in a second Master’s to have violated their status, making them ineligible for a change of status. Additionally, since August 9, 2018, USCIS has treated F-1 students who violate their status as accruing unlawful presence, leading to potential bars from reentry.
While a federal court injunction on the unlawful presence memorandum provides temporary relief, USCIS’s evolving interpretation creates uncertainties and procedural challenges. This stricter stance raises issues of procedural due process for students who have relied on years of a different interpretation of the regulation. It’s essential for students to navigate these complexities cautiously, consider alternative options, and stay informed about regulatory changes.