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Final Quarter Registration
The U.S. government rules about full-time enrollment have a special exception for students in their final quarter.
In your final quarter, you may take as few credits as required to complete your degree as long as you register for at least one credit at UW. An online class or a CPT-related credit cannot be the only class on your final quarter schedule.
IMPORTANT! Once you are approved for special permission to take fewer than the government’s required full-time credits because it is your final quarter, you will not be allowed to extend your I-20 unless there are serious extenuating academic or medical circumstances that you could not predict or control. Extra time will not be approved to add majors, minors, or because of other optional changes.
- Register for your final quarter class or classes.
- Submit the Final Quarter Reduced Course Load Form in MyISSS (Reminder: register for your final quarter before this form):
J-1 Visiting Exchange Students
Review the “Required Course Load” information on the UW Study Abroad office website (scroll to the middle of the page).
If you meet the requirements to enroll part-time in the final quarter of your exchange, submit the “Part-Time Enrollment Request Form” at the link above.
J-1 Degree Students
Notify us of your graduation quarter and part-time enrollment via the Contact ISS form.
If you are interested in working in your field of study after completing your academic program, you will need to apply for employment authorization. USCIS requires OPT applications be submitted from within the U.S.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides one year of employment authorization in your field of study. Your application must be submitted and arrive at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 60 days of your program completion date (the final day of your final quarter); however, you are encouraged to apply much earlier. Due to slow processing times, we recommend applying approximately three months in advance. For more information about eligibility requirements and how to apply, review Optional Practical Training.
Academic Training provides an opportunity for employment in your field of study. The training must begin within 30 days after completion of studies – the last academic calendar day of your final quarter. If you have a training opportunity, you will need to coordinate authorization with your J program sponsor before the end of your academic program. For more information about eligibility requirements and how to apply, review Employment Options for J-1 Students.
Your on-campus work permission ends the last day of your final quarter.
While the UW allows student hourly workers to continue employment for one quarter following graduation, this option does not apply to international students because of the F-1 rules.
Your last day of work must be no later than the final day of the quarter (per the UW academic calendar). You can still receive your paycheck later. But the work itself must end on your final day of the quarter.
Notify your campus job supervisor of your expiring work authorization.
If your OPT application is pending with USCIS, you are still in F-1 status (and should remain in the U.S.) during USCIS processing, but you do not have work authorization during the gap between the last day of the quarter and the OPT approval start date.
Exceptions: you can continue working on campus if you are in one of the following groups:
- Change of Degree Level at UW:
If you are changing degree levels at UW–meaning you are graduating in an upcoming quarter and already admitted to a new degree at UW that will start within 5 months of graduation, and you are waiting for the updated “Change of Level” UW I-20 .
- Approved OPT:
If you have approved OPT authorization from USCIS, and the EAD start date immediately follows the quarter end date, and the on-campus position is in your field of study (a requirement for OPT employment ).
Grace Period and Travel
If you do not apply for OPT, you have a 60-day grace period after the last day of your final quarter. Within this 60-day period you have the following options:
- Depart the U.S. Once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies you are not eligible to reenter with your I-20. The grace period is meant for travel within the states and preparation to depart the U.S.
If you travel to Canada or Mexico and plan to reenter the U.S. for your final flight home, you must enter the U.S. as a tourist. Review the instructions and visa requirements for entry to the U.S. as a tourist. Occasionally students encounter delays and problems at the U.S. border when trying to reenter the U.S. as a tourist immediately after completing studies in F-1 status.
- Request a new I-20 if you will continue at the UW in a new degree program. If you are an undergraduate and will begin graduate studies, your new I-20 will be issued by Graduate Admissions.
- If you are moving from a Master’s to a PhD program, you must request a Change of Level I-20 from ISS.
- Transfer your SEVIS record to a new school.
- Apply to change status to another visa category.
If you do not apply for Academic Training, you have a 30-day grace period after the last day of your final quarter. Within this 30-day period you have the following options:
- Depart the U.S. Please note that once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies you are not eligible to reenter with your DS-2019. The grace period is meant for travel within the states and preparation to depart the U.S.
If you travel to Canada or Mexico and plan to reenter the U.S. for your final flight home, you must enter the U.S. as a tourist. Review the instructions and visa requirements for entry to the U.S. as a tourist. Occasionally students encounter delays and problems at the U.S. border when trying to reenter the U.S. as a tourist immediately after completing studies in J-1 status.
- Apply to change status to another visa category.
Starting a New Degree Program at UW or Another School?
SEVIS Transfer (if you are changing schools)
If you will begin a new degree program at another school soon (not UW) you must coordinate the transfer of your SEVIS record.
This request must be made before the end of the 60-day grace period.
Please coordinate your transfer with your current program sponsor before the end of your academic program.
Change of Level (if you are starting a new degree at UW)
If you are a completing a UW degree and have accepted an offer to begin a new graduate degree at UW:
- Review the instructions in the Graduate Enrollment Management Services (GEMS) online admissions application’s Next Steps Page.
- Complete the Change of Level/Program request form in MyISSS
It is important that you maintain medical insurance coverage after you graduate, as medical expenses in the U.S. can be very costly. Depending on whether you have purchased the annual or quarterly coverage through the UW’s student plan you may be covered for a limited period beyond your final quarter. For more information click here: UW International Student Health Insurance Plan.
You should research individual plans through companies that insure international students in the U.S.
While working under OPT, you may receive insurance through your employer; however, it is very common to have a gap in insurance coverage between the student plan’s end date and potential coverage through an employer.
It is a regulatory requirement that you maintain insurance coverage for the duration of your stay.
Graduation, Commencement, and Diplomas
Specific steps must be taken to apply for graduation, participate in the Commencement Ceremony, and ensure that your diploma will be mailed to the correct address. Visit the Office of the University Registrar’s Graduation webpage for more details.
Inviting Family Members to Visit the U.S.
As graduation approaches, you may want to invite your parents or other family members to celebrate commencement with you. Here are some suggestions to help them apply for a visitor’s visa (B-2) at a US consulate or embassy in their home country.
To facilitate their visa interview process you should do the following:
- Write a letter of invitation. Include the purpose of the visit, your relationship to the individuals, a statement of your status here, itinerary details and the length of time they will be visiting (usually less than three months). It is best to emphasize the temporary nature of the invitation and to demonstrate their intention to return to their home country following the visit. If you will provide their financial support while they are here, include that information as well.
- Include an Enrollment Verification Letter from the Office of the University Registrar, 2nd Floor Schmitz Hall to confirm your student status. Graduate students who hold an RA/TA appointment may want to also attach a departmental funding letter.
- Provide details of the Commencement Ceremony.
- For additional information about U.S. consulate/embassy locations and application procedures, review the U.S. Department of State visa information.
Providing your family members with this documentation may improve their chances of obtaining a visa; however, there is no guarantee a visa will be issued. The success of their request for a visa lies in their ability to prove that they have no intention of staying permanently in the U.S.
Please note that ISS advisers are unable to write a letter of invitation for your family members.