As you prepare for your final year on campus, ISS is here to help you navigate your options for life beyond Reed.
As an F-1 international student, upon completion of your degree program, you have up to 60 days to remain in the United States. In the first phase of your life after Reed, you can
- return to your home country;
- pursue another degree at a U.S. institution;
- apply for a change in visa status or obtain authorization to work in the United States.
Return to Your Home Country
You have a 60-day grace period following your program end date on your I-20 (usually your graduation date). This is intended to give you time to prepare for departure. You may not work during this time.
Pursue Another Degree
If you intend to pursue further studies at another institution, you can transfer your F-1 visa program to that institution. You must begin studies at your new institution with five months of your program end date. To transfer your record, contact ISS to assist you with the process. The following information is required:
- Confirmation of acceptance by another school with an F-1 visa program (admission or offer letter from your “transfer-in” school)
- Name and SEVIS school code for the transfer-in school
- Desired transfer release date (within 60 days of program end date)
Apply for a Change in Visa Status
This option is the least likely for you to pursue at this point. Most students wait until they have completed their graduate studies, or one to three years of optional practical training (OPT), before applying, for example, for an H1-B visa: temporary worker in a specialty occupation. The H1-B visa application is complex, and it requires that your employer petition on your behalf (or “sponsor” you) for this visa.
Obtain Work Authorization in the United States
Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows students up to 12 months of post-graduation work authorization in the U.S. (deduct time spent in pre-graduation OPT) and an additional 24 months for those with majors in STEM fields. You may submit your OPT application up to 90 days prior to your program end date (graduation), and the application must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after your program end date. It is good to note that the processing of your application may take up to 90 days (sometimes longer). The cost of the application is $410, plus photo and mailing costs.
Detailed information about the OPT application process can be found in this document: What You Should Know About OPT.
The basic requirements for applying for OPT:
- Your job needs to be directly related to your area of study.
- You do not need to have a job prior to applying for OPT.
- The job does not need to involve paid work (it can be an unpaid internship or volunteer work).
- Full-time work means at least 20 hours per week or more.
You are allowed to accrue 90 days of unemployment (including weekends) during your entire OPT period. You can choose the work authorization start date, which can be as early as the day after your I-20 program end date (graduation) and as late as 60 days following the program end date.