Program Completion vs Graduation

Program (Degree) Completion

Graduation, Commencement, Program Completion

Graduation- the university defines "Graduation" as the completion of all degree requirements and your degree has been awarded and noted on your transcript.

Commencement - refers to the ceremony where you celebrate the importance of your academic accomplishments.

Program Completion - is defined by the program end date on your I-20 OR the completion of your degree program requirements, if it is earlier than the program end date on your I-20. CSUEB provide an estimation of the program completion date. Sometimes, the estimated program completion date will accurately reflect a student’s actual completion. However, for most students the program completion date will eventually be updated (usually shortened) to reflect actual completion of the academic program (this is sometimes done as late as the student’s final semester when he or she is applying for a post-completion benefit such as OPT.)


Program Completion and Your F-1 Status

If you are an undergraduate student, your completion date will be the last day of the term in which you complete your degree requirements, usually the last day of final exams (regardless of the date you actually graduate from the university).

If you are a non-thesis graduate student, your completion date will be the last day of the term in which you complete your degree requirements. 

If you are a thesis (project/capstone or equivalent to thesis) graduate student, your completion date will be the date that you submit the final draft of your thesis or dissertation (provided that you have been making normal progress toward your degree completion).

Important Note: Unnecessary enrollment or on campus employment for an additional semester beyond the program completion requirements is not permitted and could result in the loss of Post-Completion F-1 status benefits such as OPT.

Program Completion vs Graduation

If your graduation filing term is different from your program completion term, your program completion term will be used for immigration purposes. Your program completion date is the date you will have to abide by regarding your OPT and 60 Day Grace Period. The majority of students will have a graduation term the same as their program completion term, however, some students apply for graduation late so in this case, your program completion term determines your grace period.


Your Post-Completion Grace Period

Federal regulations provide you with a 60-day grace period that starts the day you complete your program of study.

For example, if you complete your program of study on May 16, your grace period ends on July 17 regardless of the expiration date on your I-20.

If you have not made other plans, you must depart the country by the end of your grace period.

Your options during your grace period: 

  • Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) so you can work in the United States. Applications for OPT can be submitted before your completion date and must be received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) no later than 60 days after the completion of your academic program requirements.
  • Apply for a change of status if applicable. USCIS must receive the application before the end of your grace period.
  • Transfer to a new school. You must request a “Transfer Out” of your SEVIS record. You will need to have your transfer out approved by the CIE before the end of your grace period.
  • Start a new program of study at CSUEB. You must be fully admitted and have received a new I-20 from the CIE before the end of the grace period. Updated financial documentation will be required. 
  • Leave the United States before the end of your grace period.


Travel After Completing your Program

If you plan to travel outside of the United States during your grace period, CIE will not be able to sign your I-20 for travel. If you travel outside of the country, you will NOT be able to re-enter the United States as an F-1 student as you have completed your program.


Dependent Status after Completing Your Program

If you have F-2 dependents with you in the United States, their status is dependent upon yours. If you choose to leave the country after you complete your program of study, your family members may not legally stay in the United States without you if they hold F-2 status. If you extend your stay with OPT, the status of your dependents is extended as well.