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F-1 Status

Community Voices: A DSO’s Reminders for Graduating F-1 Students

November 30, 2015

Community Voices is a Study in the States guest blog series where we invite members of the international student community to share their insights with our audience. If you have interest in contributing to our blog, send us an email at

In the second installment of our Community Voices series, we invite Bronwen Watts back to the Study in the States blog to offer advice for those F-1 students who may soon graduate from their Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified program. 

Ms. Watts is the principal designated school official (PDSO)at the Virginia Tech National Capital Region Graduate School and offers advice to her graduating F-1 students on a range of relevant topics.

The Grace Period

Once an F-1 student graduates, they have a 60-day grace period during which they can remain in the United States. I make sure my students understand what this means. During the grace period, a student may travel in the United States or prepare for their return home. If an F-1 student leaves the country before the conclusion of the 60 days, their grace period ends and they will not be able to re-enter the United States in F-1 status. I remind my students that they cannot work during the grace period, unless they have applied for, and been granted, work authorization.

I also reiterate to my F-1 students that if they have not applied for work authorization, transferred to another SEVP-certified program or changed their status, they must leave the United States by the end of the 60-day grace period.

Applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT)

I tell my students to make sure to apply for OPT early! F-1 students can apply for OPT up to 90 days before their program end date, and their OPT application must be received by USCIS before the end of their 60-day grace period.

Once an F-1 student is on OPT, they need to remember to update their designated school official (DSO) with any change to employment information within 10 days of the change. F-1 students must also not exceed the 90-day cumulative unemployment limit, or their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System record may be terminated. It is vital that F-1 students closely coordinate with their DSO when initiating OPT.

Program Extensions

If an F-1 student will not graduate by the program end date on their Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” they need to speak with their DSO immediately.

The DSO and student both need to take action in order to extend the program before the program end date that appears on the student’s Form I-20.

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