Staying in the US after finishing your degree: the 60-day grace period

A common question international students have is “How long can I stay in the US after I finish my degree?” The answer is: 60 days after completing the program of study.

This 60 days grace period starts immediately after the last day a student is enrolled at a college or university. Usually this is the last day of final exams. At many universities students participate in a graduation ceremony before they take their final exams. Therefore, students may have “graduated” but are still enrolled until the last day of the final exams.

Traveling and Reentering during the 60 days

This grace period is commonly used by students to travel within the Unites States. However, students are not allowed to exit and re-enter the Unites States as an F-1 student during this time.

Students can technically exit the United States to visit other countries and then reenter with tourist status, or as a visa waiver visitor, before returning to their home country. However, this kind of travel arraignment is not recommended because it creates suspicion and it will be at the discretion of the immigration officer whether to allow the student to reenter as a tourist or deny re-entry; thereby forcing the student to return to the country they were visiting. It is best for the student to return to their home country first and then return as a tourist.

Transferring and Starting new Degree Programs

Students can also use this time period to transfer to another school or begin another study program, such as a graduate degree. Transferring to another school requires the student to disenroll from their current program. The student then has sixty days to enroll at their new school.

If students begin a new degree program they must have a new Form I-20 issued to them from the new program before the end of the 60 day grace period. Failure to receive a new Form I-20 by the end of the grace period will result in the student being out of status requiring them to return to their home country.