Extending Form I-20 to Complete a Course of Study

Although you are admitted to the United States for "duration of status" to complete an educational program, you must actually complete your program before the program completion date indicated in the SEVIS record and appearing at item 5 on your current I-20. If you will not complete the academic program by that date, you must comply with procedures for program extension.
The program extension process is a notification procedure executed as a SEVIS update that does not require a government adjudication.

Eligibility for extension of F-1 stay

You are eligible for program extension if:
  • You apply to the ISP office for the extension with the required documentation at least 6 weeks prior to the program completion date (I-20 expiration date), then the ISP office actually updates your SEVIS record to reflect the extension before the program completion date.
  • You have "continually maintained status" (See "Maintaining F-1 Status" page)
  • The delay in completion is "caused by compelling academic or medical reasons, such as changes of major or documented illnesses.
  • The regulations go on to state that "delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extension."
If you fail to complete your program within the time prescribed in item 5 of your Form I-20 and cannot meet the eligibility criteria for program extension, you are considered out of status and must apply for reinstatement to student status. 
(See "Reinstatement to F-1 status after a status violation" page)

What the student must do

Provide the ISP office with all the documents necessary to issue a new Form I-20:
  • Educational Plan made by an academic counselor
  • Financial Documents (Ask the ISP official about the balance that should be shown on this document)
  • Affidavit of Support - if financial documents are in your financial sponsor's name
  • Form I-134 Affidavit of Support - use this form if you are also applying for an extension of your F-1 visa and your sponsor is a U.S. resident
If you have changed your major but haven't reported it to the ISP office, make a report as soon as possible. It is mandated by SEVIS that you report your current major field of study at all times.