Shorten Program/Finish Early

Finishing Courses Earlier Than I-20 End Date

As your studies progress, you may find that you will complete all courses required for your degree before the end date listed on your I-20. In this case, your F-1 record must be shortened to reflect the final term in which you will complete all degree requirements.

Make sure to contact ISSP well in advance of any changes to shorten your record or you may fall out of status.

How to Shorten Your Record

You have two options to notify ISSP about the change:

  1. Apply for OPT, if eligible. If you apply for post-completion OPT or Academic Training, your F-1 status will automatically be adjusted based on your work authorization application documents. 
  2. Petition for graduation. If you do not apply for post-completion work authorization, then we will automatically shorten your program once we are notified about your petition to graduate based on data feeds we receive from the Registrar’s office.

Note: If you are going to be enrolled part-time during your final quarter, you must also submit a Reduced Course Load request by the start of the quarter.

Impact of Shortening Your Record

When you shorten your F-1 status, your grace period and post-completion work authorization timeline are also shortened. View OPT (F-1) for more information.

Your eligibility for on-campus employment ends on your I-20 end date. Any work done after your I-20 end date will require approved post-completion OPT or Academic Training.

Shortening your record to an earlier end date is final and cannot be reversed without a complete program extension application.

PhD Students: If you have questions about your grace period, what your I-20 end date should be, or when you are eligible to file for OPT, contact your ISSP advisor.

Note: The end date on your I-20 is determined by your final quarter of enrollment, not your graduation quarter. See the ‘extended leave’ section below for more information.

Academic ‘Extended Leave’

Your F-1 status is determined by your full-time enrollment in an academic program, not by your graduation date. As a result, the end date on your I-20 corresponds to the quarter you will finish your degree requirements. Although students sometimes finish their programs early, many prefer to walk in commencement with their class/cohort in the large spring graduation ceremony.

Immigration vs. Academic Record and Procedures

Your academic and immigration records are kept separately. To ensure that your immigration record is updated to reflect your academic plans, you will need to work with an ISSP Advisor. This is a separate process from the one required by your academic department.

The end date of your I-20, not the date of your graduation ceremony, determines your eligibility for on-campus work. Any work performed after your I-20 end date, including on-campus employment, will require OPT or AT approval.

A Note on Program (I-20) Extensions

You cannot extend your I-20 in order to attend your graduation ceremony. Extensions are only based on significant academic grounds (e.g., you won’t be able to graduate until you take more courses). All extensions require full-time course enrollment for the extended time period.

Attending Commencement / Grace Period

Assuming you complete your degree successfully, you will have a grace period (F-1: 60 days) during which you must either leave the U.S. or have a post-completion work authorization (F-1: OPT) application pending or approved. 

If you are eligible and apply for post-completion work authorization, you can continue to stay in the U.S. and attend commencement while the application is pending or after it is approved.

If you don’t plan on working or are not eligible for post-completion work authorization, you can stay in the U.S. until the end of your grace period. You must leave the U.S. by the end of the Grace Period. If you want to attend the graduation commencement ceremony, you would need to re-enter the U.S. in a different status for which you are eligible.

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Last modified: Dec 04, 2023