Depending on your current immigration classification, you may be eligible to stay in the U.S. for a designated period of time after your program completion date; this is called a “grace period”. Grace periods can be helpful as they give you some extra time to prepare for the next phase of your life and to take care of certain events (e.g., transferring between schools, changing your status, starting a new appointment, or preparing to depart the US).
It’s important to know whether your immigration classification allows for a grace period, and to be mindful of when your legal status in the U.S. will end.
Classifications with a Grace Period
F-1 Student Classification
F-1 students have a grace period of 60 days. This grace period begins on the day that you complete your program, regardless of the expiration date noted on your I-20. If you will remain in the U.S. to take advantage of your OPT benefit, your 60 day grace period will begin the day after your OPT expiration. Note that once you depart the US during the 60-day grace period, you cannot re-enter the US in F-1 status with the Form I-20 issued for the program you just completed. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of your official program end date.
Grace periods also apply to any dependents in F-2 status.
The 60 day grace period is NOT available to F-1 students who do not complete their program of study. If you obtain prior ISSO authorization for withdrawal or leave of absence, you are given a 15 day grace period that starts on the day you are no longer enrolled. If you withdraw from classes without prior ISSO authorization, you are not eligible for a grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.
J-1 Exchange Visitors, regardless of category have a grace period of 30 days. This 30 days starts on the last day of your studies, employment or other activity at BU, regardless of the end date listed on your form DS-2019. If you will remain in the U.S. to take advantage of your Academic Training (AT) benefit, your 30 day grace period will begin the day after your AT expiration.
Grace periods also apply to any dependents in J-2 status.
The 30-day grace period is not available to students who do not complete their program of study. If you obtain prior ISSO authorization for withdrawal or leave of absence, you are given a 15-day grace period that starts on the day you are no longer enrolled. If you withdraw from classes without prior ISSO authorization, you are not eligible for a grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.
What can you do during your designated grace period
- Travel inside the U.S.
- Make preparations to depart the U.S. (ie. sell your bike, microwave, etc.)
- Transfer your SEVIS record to another school, if eligible.
- Apply for Optional Practical Training or Academic Training (for students – but if you were hoping to start working after graduation, you would really want to do this earlier!)
- Apply for a change to another immigration status, if eligible.
What you cannot do during your grace period
- You cannot continue with your studies, research or employment at BU or elsewhere –
- You cannot continue working on-campus
- You cannot work off-campus without authorization
- You cannot apply for program extension (so be sure to do this before your program end, if your plan to stay at BU)
- You cannot depart the U.S. with the intent to reenter under your completed F or J program
Classifications without a Grace Period
Generally, there is no grace period associated with the H-1B status. This means that you should depart the U.S. by the end date listed on your I-797 approval notice if you will not be extending your status or moving to employment elsewhere in the US. If your employment at BU will end prior to the end date listed on your I-797 approval notice, please report this to the ISSO. You should plan to depart the U.S. by the end of your employment, despite the dates indicated on your approval notice.
Other Immigration Statuses
Many other statuses are date specific. If you have a date-specific U.S. entry stamp or I-94 record and do not have a grace period, you should depart the U.S. by the end date listed on your I-94 or U.S. entry stamp. Once your status expires, you must stop your academic activities.
More information on other statuses can be found in the Immigration Overview.