Program Extension for F-1 Students
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires that you finish your program of study by the completion date (item #5) on your I-20. If you will not graduate by that date, you must come meet with the International Student Counselor and apply for a program extension at least 30 days BEFORE the I-20 will expire.
There is no fee to apply for a program extension, and no “waiting period” to hear from USCIS once the paperwork is submitted. The International Student Counselor will approve all program extension requests allowable by the USCIS regulations and notify immigration of your new completion date.
In order to obtain a program extension, you must show that you have continually maintained your F-1 status and that the extension is needed for compelling academic or medical reasons, such as a change of major, unexpected scheduling problems, additional language coursework needed or a documented illness. Delays in completing your program due to poor grades, academic probation or suspension are not compelling reasons for a program extension. You should be making good academic progress in order to maintain your F-1 status (see “Maintaining Legal F-1 Status” handout).
The following are needed to apply for a program extension:
After these items are received, an extended SEVIS I-20 will be prepared by the International Student Counselor that will show your new completion date and signed by you.
If your I-20 has expired or you do not meet the eligibility standards for a program extension, you may need to apply for reinstatement to F-1 status or travel and re-enter to regain status and lose some immigration benefits. This process is very detailed and you will need to talk with the International Student Counselor about these considerations. Remember, maintaining status requires that your I-20 DOES NOT EXPIRE.
Be sure to keep this new I-20 and all previous I-20 forms you have been issued. They must be submitted on request to an immigration officer when you travel outside the U.S., or you will need them when applying for other benefits such as Optional Practical Training (work authorization).