Program Completion vs Graduation

Program (Degree) Completion

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 graduate student, your completion date will be the last day of the term in which you complete your degree requirements or if you are writing a thesis or dissertation, 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).

ON CAMPUS JOB-Your eligibility to work on campus ends upon completion of your program of study.


Program Completion vs Graduation

Immigration is not concerned with the term you file for graduation. 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, because 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.