It is very important for an F-1 student to know his/her program completion date or OPT completion date for the following reasons:
- If a student is graduating early, the student must report to a DSO to shorten the program end date in SEVIS.
- If a student is applying for Optional Practical Training, a DSO must make the OPT recommendation in SEVIS and USCIS must receive a properly filed Form I-765 no later than 60 days following the program end date.
- USCIS must receive an application for change of status to another non-immigrant category no later than the end of the 60-day grace period following completion of studies or OPT.
- A student who wants to transfer to a different school or change an academic level must initiate an update in SEVIS no later than the end of the 60-day grace period following completion of studies or OPT.
- If a student does not plan to remain in the United States following completion of his or her course of study or OPT, he or she must depart the United States no later than 60 days following the completion of studies or OPT.
If an F-1 student does not choose one of these options after completing a course of study, he or she will be considered to be "out of status."
Unless an F-1 student follows the procedures listed in options 1–4 above, the student's "duration of status" will end 60 days after completing the full course of study or, for students on authorized Optional Practical Training, 60 days after the end of the OPT period.
The 60-day grace period begins when the student completes the full course of study, so it is important to identify the exact day on which the full course of study is considered complete. For a student whose course of study ends with the end of a regular semester or term, the actual date of graduation ceremonies might be used. Since the student must actually graduate, using the graduation date, rather than the last day of classes or of the final exam period, will ensure successful completion of the term.
For thesis option graduate students, a letter from the thesis adviser or relevant graduate department establishing the date of completion could suffice. The 60-day grace period begins on the day the student completes all degree requirements, including acceptance of the final thesis.
Students who complete their studies mid-year, but whose participation in graduation ceremonies are delayed until the spring, must be advised that their completion of studies date is the date of actual completion of all requirements for graduation, unless they are registered and "pursuing a full course of study" during the term or semester immediately preceding the graduation ceremony. Regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(C) do not permit a student who has completed all requirements for the course of study to enroll "for administrative purposes only."
Failure to depart without taking the steps necessary to continue or change status is considered a violation of status, making the student removable (deportable).