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Students in caps and gowns prepare to graduate

Questions from DSOs: What Should I do if my F-1 Student is Graduating?

May 9, 2019

As the school year winds down for many institutions across the United States, some of your F-1 international students may be preparing to graduate. As a designated school official (DSO), use this time to familiarize yourself and your international students with important graduation reminders.

Remind your F-1 students that they have a 60-day period once they finish their program of study. During this time, they can:

  • Start a new academic program within five months of the last day they attended classes or the next available session, whichever comes sooner, unless taking an authorized break or vacation. Students should coordinate all plans with you.
  • Apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of status.
  • Travel within the United States as long as they depart the country within the 60-day period.

Below, find tips and resources to help based on your student’s plans after graduation. For case-specific questions about your students’ options after graduation, contact the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Response Center or your designated field representative. 

Your Student is Transferring to a New School

Your F-1 student must initiate the transfer process with you if they wish to transfer to another SEVP-certified school after graduation. As a best practice, F-1 students should provide you with the following information:

  • Written confirmation of acceptance to the new school.
  • Written request/permission to begin the transfer.
  • SEVIS school code for the transfer-in [transfer-to] school.
  • Contact information for the new school’s DSO.

Visit the Initiate Transfer of F-1 SEVIS Record page on the SEVIS Help Hub for step-by-step instructions or download the Transferring Out F-1 Students in SEVIS resource for an overview of the process. If your student is starting a new program of study at the campus at your school, visit the Change Education Level page on the SEVIS Help Hub for instructions to create a new Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student” for your student.

If possible, make sure your student receives their Form I-20 from their new SEVP-certified school before they depart the United States on any summer breaks. Also, remind them to keep track of when their visa expires and renew their visa as needed with the U.S. Department of State.

Your Student is Changing their Status

If USCIS approves your F-1 student for a change of status, you can terminate the student’s SEVIS record selecting, “Change of Status Approved” as the termination reason. For more information about termination reasons in regard to Change of Status and what it means to terminate a student’s SEVIS record, visit the Terminations page on the SEVIS Help Hub.

Your Student Will Return to their Home Country

Remind your student of their 60-day period. In addition, if your student leaves the United States before the end of this period, the rest of the 60-day period is lost.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) auto-completes students’ records after the appropriate period has passed. Visit the Complete Program page on the SEVIS Help Hub for more information.

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