As an F-1 or J-1 student, please be aware that your visa status will expire upon graduation unless you make arrangements to transfer into a new degree program. F-1 students may also apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). J-1 students may have opportunity to do academic training, depending on their major. The J-1 visa affords a 30-day grace period, Â the F-1 visa a 60-day grace period starting on the graduation date. The intention is to give time to make travel plans or to transfer to another school. If by the end of the grace period, the student fails to leave the U.S. or to complete the transfer of his/her SEVIS record to the new school, he or she begins to accrue days of illegal presence, which can result in major problems for the student. OISSS invites F-1 or J-1 students to visit sometime at the start of their last semester in order to discuss their plans after graduation.
SO if you're graduating, here's a checklist for you to follow:
- Confirm your course selections with your academic adviser and be sure you will have all the credits you need to get the degree you want.
- Confirm with the Registrar's Office that you will be able to graduate as long as you complete this last semester successfully.
- Tell OISSS that you will be graduating, to be sure your SEVIS record is updated correctly.
- Request graduation letters from OISSS if you want to invite family members to come from overseas to your graduation ceremony. Remember, family members may need 60 to 90 days to get visitors' visas.
- Apply and be accepted to the masters (or doctoral) degree program of your choice if you plan to continue studies at the next level. Arrange for the transfer of your SEVIS record with OISSS.
- Â If you would like to get some work experience in your professional area, make an appointment with OISSS to discuss academic training (J-1) or to begin application for OPT (F-1) about 90 days prior to graduation. (Scroll down for more information about OPT.)
- If you will be changing to another visa status, be sure to consult with an immigration attorney before your current visa status expires.
- The student visa affords a grace period following graduation for students to make travel plans, transfer to another school or start OPT or academic training. If you fail to make such arrangements and don't leave the U.S. by the end of the grace period, you will begin to accrue illegal presence, which can result in major problems.
- Make your post-graduation plans early in the semester so you don't get caught in the end-of-semester crunch.
- Do your best and enjoy your last semester!
Transferring To Another School
If an F-1 or J-1 student transfers to another school, either before or after finishing a degree program at Eastern, OISSS will have to transfer the student's SEVIS record to the new school in order to maintain duration of visa status. The student should request the transfer-in school for a transfer form in order to facilitate the passing of the SEVIS record. The student must visit Eastern's OISSS to make arrangements for the transfer. Before the transfer can be approved, the student must:
- Be accepted to the other school and meet all financial requirements there.
- Schedule an exit interview with the appropriate Eastern office.
- Pay any outstanding debt on his or her student account.
Moving to the Next Educational Level
Many international students, upon finishing an undergraduate degree, make plans to apply to a graduate program. The student must be accepted into the grad program before the end of the grace period, and there can't be more than 5 months before the start of the next program. If the timing of the desired program start doesn't fit within these parameters, OISSS suggests the student apply for academic training (J-1) or OPT (F-1). During the OPT period, students may apply and be accepted to grad programs without having to rush the process.
Moving from an undergraduate degree to a graduate degree at Eastern is considered a change of educational level, and is simple to accomplish in SEVIS. OISSS will print out a new I-20 or DS-2019 for a Masters degree, and the student remains under Eastern's visa jurisdiction. Moving to a grad program at another school implies the transfer of the SEVIS record to the other school. See the section on transfers above for more information.
Changing Immigration Status
There may be reasons why a student would change from one visa status to another. These include when a student is offered a professional job and the employer sponsors a professional worker's visa like an H-1B or a TN visa. Â This may happen, for example, when the F-1 student is in his or her OPT period. The student should contact OISSS for the paperwork he or she needs from Eastern University. The rest of the process is in the hands of the employer who will sponsor the student. Please note that most J-1 students and scholars will be subject to the 212e two-year home residence requirement, and may not be able to change to a professional worker's visa.