Maintenance of Status

F-1 and J-1 students will find information pertaining to maintaining their immigration status in this section.  The international student advisers in ISSA assist students in maintaining their status, but ultimately maintenance of status is the individual student's responsibility.  Students should read the information in this section carefully.

End of Program

The end date on your I-20 or DS-2019 is an estimate of the time it will take you to complete your degree.  Because it is an estimate, it may take you longer, or you may finish sooner.

  • If you need more time, refer to the information on Program Extensions for J-1 Students, J-1 Scholars, or F-1 Students.
  • If you finish earlier than your document indicates, you cannot remain in the U.S. until your document expires.  You must take action within the grace period.

Defining Program Completion

For UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS and THOSE WITHOUT A THESIS REQUIREMENT, program completion is based on graduation or end of enrollment

For GRADUATE STUDENTS with a thesis requirement, there is some flexibility in determining your completion of program date.  It can be one of the following:

  • The end of the semester in which you defend your thesis.
  • Students are required to be enrolled in courses during their last semester -- this includes SUMMER semester. If there is no enrollment, students cannot be employed on-campus.
  • Your defense date
  • Four (4) weeks after your defense date - if you defend between semesters or within a semester, but after the thesis deadline for that semester
  • FOR THE PURPOSES OF OPT ONLY –  Students may apply for post-completion OPT after all degree requirements except thesis, (PhD students must continue to enroll while writing thesis per Graduate School requirements), and use any date during this period or the end of the semester in which the defense is successfully completed.  See OPT rules at

Grace Period

  • F-1 students have a 60 day grace period upon completion of studies in which to take action to continue their stay in the U.S.
  • J-1 students have a 30 day period to do the same.

If a student does not take any action, he/she must depart by the end of the grace period.  Complete the Exit eForm in iStart to inform us of your plan to return home. 

Within the grace period a student can decide to do one of the following: