International Student Services

Extending Your I-20 or DS-2019

COVID-19 Information for F & J Students: Current Updates and FAQs

Program End Dates and Extensions

The completion date on your I-20 or DS-2019 is an estimate. If you will not complete your program objective by that date, you must request an extension. The U.S. Immigration regulations require that I-20s and DS-2019s remain valid during the course of study.

You are eligible for a program extension if:

  • Your I-20 or DS-2019 has not yet expired. The expiration date is indicated in item 5 of the I-20 and item 3 of the DS-2019.
  • You have been continually maintaining lawful F-1 or J-1 status.
  • The delay in completion of your program of study was caused by compelling academic or medical reasons. Federal regulations about extensions are strict; approval of an extension request is not guaranteed.

Students in F-1 or J-1 status are required by law to comply with the regulations pertaining to their immigration status, including the program extension requirements discussed above. Failure to apply in a timely manner for a program extension is considered a violation of status and will disqualify you from benefits such as employment eligibility.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I apply for a program extension?

You must apply for a program extension before it expires. You can apply up to a year early IF you have confirmed your academic plan and graduation date with your academic advisor/unit.

Will I need a program extension if I change from a Bachelor's to a Master's program, or from a Master's to a PhD program?

ISS must issue a new I-20 or DS-2019 and notify Immigration if you change your level of study, change your major field of study, or if there is a change in the source of your financial support. These are separate procedures; you need to request a new I-20 or DS-2019 based on these changes.

What happens if I do not request the program extension before my current I-20 or DS-2019 expires?

Immigration regulations require you to process the program extension prior to the program end date noted on your current I-20 or DS-2019. If you fail to do so, you will be out of status. Contact your ISS adviser to discuss your situation and options.

I am in F-1 visa status. I finished my degree and was authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Do I still need to maintain a valid I-20?

Your I-20 remains valid even after your program completion if your ISS adviser has endorsed page 3 for OPT and you have submitted your OPT application to USCIS. Your SEVIS record remains active and you do not need to extend your I-20 to match the end date on your EAD card.  You will still need a travel signature every six months if you plan to travel outside of the U.S. and will return to resume employment. A letter of employment is needed when you travel.

Is there a limit to how many program extensions I can request?

You may request multiple program extensions as long as they are for compelling academic or medical reasons and recommended by your academic adviser.