F-1 Program Extension

When is A Program Extension Needed?

Refer to item 5 on the I-20 to determine the date by which your studies are to be completed. An F-1 student who does not complete his or her educational program by the completion date noted in item 5 on his or her most current, valid I-20 must apply for a Program Extension.

Completion Date

The International Programs & Services office has tried to make a reasonable estimate of the time needed to complete your academic program. When determining the normal length of study, IPSO includes the estimated amount of time needed to study intensive English and to complete a degree program (taking transfer credit into account). Note, the I-20 is only valid until the completion date on item 5 or until the respective degree is completed, whichever comes first.

Changing Program Levels

Students who move from one program level to another will receive a new program completion date, if they have their I-20 properly validated through IPSO or at the port of entry. A new date of completion will be shown in item 5 on the I-20 issued for the new program. Examples of a change in program level include a move from:

  1. IEP to a bachelor's, master's or Ph.D.;
  2. Bachelor's to a master's or
  3. Master's to an Education degree Specialist

Visa Expiration

People often confuse their length of stay with their visa expiration date. A visa is only an entry permit and it has nothing to do with your length of stay. It only needs to be valid at the time of entry to the U.S. Your visa can expire while you are in the U.S. You may remain in the U.S. with an expired visa as long as you are maintaining your status. Your visa does not determine the date you need to leave the U.S.

Duration of Status

F-1 students are admitted to the United States for Duration of Status (D/S). This refers to the time during which the student is pursing a full course of study and making normal progress toward completing a course of study, (or engaged in post-completion optional practical training), plus 60 days to depart the U.S. "D/S" should be marked on the F-1 student's I-94.

Who is Eligible?

Any F-1 student who has continually maintained status and who has a compelling academic or other reason for not completing the educational program by the completion date (#5) on the I-20 is eligible for a Program Extension. A "compelling reason" may include such things as a change of major or research topic, unexpected research problems, or a documented illness, which has interfered with full-time study. Academic suspension and probation are not considered acceptable reasons for a Program Extension.

When to Apply

You need to apply for an extension within the 30-day period before your current I-20 expiring. For example, if your I-20 expires December 31, 2005, you must apply between December 1 and December 31, 2005, to process the extension. The expiration/completion date can be found in item 5 on your I-20.

How to Apply

Handouts and forms mentioned below can be picked up in the IPSO office, 118 Whitesitt Hall. Make an appointment with an international student advisor to submit your application for a program extension. Plan to meet about 30-60 minutes with an advisor. Take:

  • The completed Student Request for a Replacement I-20,
  • The completed F-1 Program Extension Academic Advisor Recommendation,
  • Your old I-20 and travel documents, and proof of finances.
  • One week processing time is needed to prepare a new I-20. Return to pick up the new I-20 in one week. Meet briefly with an advisor to complete the necessary paperwork. After processing the extension, the international student advisor will send an electronic notification to the USCIS of your extension.

What Happens if a Student is Not Eligible or Does Not Apply For a Program Extension On Time?

An F-1 student who is ineligible for a program extension is considered out of status. A student who is considered out of status is ineligible for any F-1 benefits such as on- and off-campus employment authorization, including practical training. An out of status student should meet with an international student advisor to discuss options such as applying for Reinstatement through the USCIS or traveling outside the U.S and re-entering to regain a new status.