Graduation and How It Affects Your F-1 Status
Your current F-1 status is valid for the duration of your current degree program. When your studies are completed, your I-20 ends and it is no longer valid.
NOTE: F-1 students who are in status have a 60-day grace period following the completion of a degree program. Your advisor can help you calculate or confirm your graduation date. If your studies end earlier than the program end date on line 5 of your I-20, the date on the I-20 will be shortened to reflect your graduation date.
All F-1 students who are in status have a 60-day grace period following the completion of a degree program (graduation). You may use this 60-day period to choose any of the options listed below:
For each choice, you MUST inform your DSO, of your plans so they can provide you further details on how to proceed.
Apply for or begin Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment. OPT provides one year of employment authorization in your field of study. Due to slow processing times, we recommend applying approximately three months in advance. You can review information on OPT in the Employment section of the International Programs website. Go to "Current Students" and choose the OPT link.
FORMS: OPT Application Packet in UWA Registrar’s Office, Webb 321
- Can I leave the U.S. and return if my OPT is pending?
- IP very strongly recommends that you DO NOT travel outside of the U.S. while your OPT application is pending. If your post-completion OPT has not been approved yet (Employment Authorization Document [EAD] card still not issued by USCIS and you are still waiting for it to come to you), and you do not have a job or a job officer, there is a great possibility that you will be refused entry into the U.S.
- Can I leave the U.S. and return if my OPT has been approved?
- A-NOTE: If your post-completion OPT has been approved, your EAD card has been issued, and you leave the U.S. BEFORE securing a job or a job offer, your OPT ends. You may not be able to re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student. DO NOT leave the country. B-NOTE: If your post-completion OPT has been approved (EAD card has been issued by USCIS) and you have a job OR a job offer, you may leave and re-enter the U.S. in order to begin or resume employment. Carry with you both the EAD card and the official letter offering you employment.
Be readmitted to UWA for a new degree program
You must complete the appropriate application, be accepted into the new degree program and receive a new I-20 BEFORE the end of your grace period.
- Does my acceptance into a new degree program at UWA affect my travel plans?
- You must enter the U.S. on a new I-20 that shows the change in degree program.
Transfer to another U.S. school
Some of you will attend graduate schools in the U.S. You MUST arrange for the release of your SEVIS record to your new school BEFORE the end of your grace period.
- Can I stay in the U.S. between programs?
- F-1 students may stay in the U.S. in between transfer if the SEVIS record transfer procedures are correctly followed.
- Does my SEVIS transfer affect my travel plans?
- You must enter the U.S. on the I-20 from the NEW school. It is important to discuss your travel plans with your international student advisor at the NEW school so that an appropriate “transfer out” date and NEW I-20 issuance can be coordinated to facilitate your travel.
- Can I use my current visa even though I am changing schools?
- As long as you have followed the proper transfer procedures, you will be able to use your current, unexpired visa to re-enter the U.S. even though it has your previous school name printed on it.
Apply for a Change of Status to another immigration status. Complete instructions for making an application to change nonimmigrant status are located online at http://www.uscis.gov/i-539. Note: Applications for change of status during the grace period carry a high risk of denial. It is recommended that you apply before your program completion or I-20 expiration.
Exit the United States. If you do not apply for OPT, request an extension, transfer to another school, or continue with another degree program at UWA, your F-1 record will automatically complete 60 days after your Programs Completion Date OR on the date you exit the U.S. (whichever comes first).