Congratulations on the upcoming completion of your studies. As an international student there are some procedures and regulations you should keep in mind as you approach your final term.
Completion of Program
Immigration defines completion of program when all course requirements are completed for the degree. This means that once you have completed the required courses, you have completed your program regardless of the semester of your graduation. You may not request to take additional courses in a new semester once your required coursework has been completed.
Your grace period (F-1 60 days, J-1 30 days) will begin the end of the term in which you complete all degree requirements (this includes thesis/dissertation submission). (eg. 5/22/2009, 7/10/2009, 8/21/2009, 12/20/2009). Your I-20/DS-2019 will be shortened to the end date of the term.
Exit Plan Form
The Exit Plan Form records your plans for the period after you complete your degree requirements. OIS is required to report the plans of international students in SEVIS within 30 days after the completion of their program. This form should be submitted no later than the last day of your final term.
According to Immigration, a student has completed the degree when she/he has satisfied all academic program requirements. This means your I-20 must end on the final day of the semester you are enrolled in your last required courses, regardless of the semester of your graduation. You may not request to take additional courses in a new semester once your required coursework has been completed.
If you will be completing in Fall or Spring semester and do not need to be registered full-time to complete degree requirements, you must submit a Part-time Authorization Form to OIS by the end of the add/drop period.
Pursuing Further Studies
Change of Status
An F-1 or J-1 student may be able to remain in the U.S. while a pending change of status application is adjudicated. Keep in mind that a change of status application must be filed within the grace period.
Travel Outside the U.S.
After you complete your degree requirements it is not possible to travel outside the U.S. and return to the U.S. during your grace period in F-1 or J-1 status, unless you have practical training authorization and proof of employment. You may travel within the U.S. during the grace period.