Shortening Program/Finishing Early

Finishing Courses Earlier Than I-20/DS-2019 End Date

As you continue in your studies, you may find that you are going to finish your program earlier than expected and/or you will complete your course registration before the end date listed on your I-20/DS-2019.  In this case, your F-1/J-1 record must be shortened to reflect when your course registration will end.

Make sure to contact OIA well in advance of any changes, so that we can help you review your options. If you do not work with OIA ahead of time to update your record, you may fall out of status, which will have a negative immigration impact.

How to Shorten Your Record

You must be enrolled in courses up until your I-20/DS-2019 end date. If your program registration will end earlier than your current I-20/DS-2019 end date, you must work with OIA to shorten your record ahead of time.

You have two options to notify OIA about the change:

  1. Apply for OPT/AT, if eligible. If you apply for post-completion OPT or Academic Training, your F-1/J-1 status will automatically be adjusted based on your work authorization application documents. 
  2. Contact your Adviser by Email. If you do not apply for post-completion work authorization, you must notify OIA at the beginning of your final quarter of enrollment to request that we shorten your record. Email your adviser to request the adjustment.  In some cases, we will ask for a verification from your academic adviser, faculty adviser, or department administrator to confirm your plans.

NOTE: If you are going to be enrolled part-time (under 300 units) during your final quarter, you must also submit a Reduced Course Load request by the start the quarter. 

Impact of Shortening Your Record

When you shorten your F-1/J-1 status your end of studies timeline and post-completion work authorization timeline are also shifted to an earlier date.  See our information on OPT (F-1) and AT (J-1) for more information about application timing.

Your eligibility for on campus employment ends on your I-20/DS-2019 end date.  If you are going to shorten your record, this will also impact your eligibility for on campus employment.  Any work done after your I-20/DS-2019 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 extension application

PhD Students: Contact your OIA adviser if you have questions about your end of studies timeline, what your I-20/DS-2019 end date should be, or when you are eligible to apply for OPT.

Note: Your I-20/DS-2019 end date is based off of your final quarter of enrollment and not necessarily your graduation/conferral quarter.  See the ‘extended leave’ section below for additional information.  


Academic 'Extended Leave'

Your F-1/J-1 is based solely on your full-time enrollment in an academic program and not necessarily your graduation/conferral date or quarter. Because of this, the end date on your I-20 or DS-2019 reflects the quarter you will finish courses.  If you are going to finish courses earlier than the end date listed on your I-20/DS-2019, you must work with OIA to have your F-1/J-1 status adjusted (see above). 

Although students sometimes finish their programs earlier than expected, many prefer to walk in graduation with their class/cohort in the large spring graduation ceremony.  In some programs, delaying graduation in this way is called 'Extended Leave'. You will need to work with your Academic Adviser or program administrator to see if you are eligible for Extended Leave and to answer any questions about application procedures, costs, privileges, or any other leave concerns. 

Immigration vs. Academic Record and Procedures

There is a separation between your academic and immigration records. 'Extended leave' is an academic distinction and does not cause any changes to your immigration record to be made.  You will need to work with your International Student Adviser to make sure your immigration record is updated to reflect your plans, This will be a separate process from what you must do for your academic department.

For immigration purposes, it is fine if you are on 'Extended Leave', as long as you have otherwise updated your F-1/J-1 status, as needed (i.e. worked with OIA to shorten I-20/DS-2019). Your eligibility for on campus employment ends on your I-20/DS-2019 end date, not your graduation date.  Any work done after your I-20/SD-2019 end date--including on campus employment--will require approved OPT or AT. 

A Note on Program & I-20/DS-2019 Extensions

Your I-20/DS-2019 cannot be extended so that you can attend your graduation ceremony.  Extensions must be based on compelling academic reasons only (i.e. you won't be eligible to graduate unless you take additional courses).  All extensions require full-time course enrollment for the length of the extension.

Attending Convocation with Extended Leave

After your I-20/DS-2019 end date, you will have a grace period (F-1: 60-days, J-1: 30-days) during which you must either leave the U.S. or have a post-completion work authorization (F-1: OPT, J-1: AT) 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 graduation 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. up 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 ceremony, you would need to re-enter the U.S. in a different status for which you are eligible.  Some students have entered in tourist status for the conferral.  Because our office is only legally eligible to advise on F-1 and J-1 student issues, we won’t be able to advise on eligibility for tourist status or what you can do while in tourist status.