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Important Milestones for a U.S. Student Visa Application

Learn about your timeline for admission to the United States and when to depart after completing your course!

Jennifer ArandaOriginally posted on February 18, 2017; updated February 18, 2017

Important Milestones for a U.S. Student Visa Application

A regulation being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security requires all beginning students to apply for admission to the United States 30 days or less in advance of the start of your studies as shown on the Form I-20.  If you apply earlier than this day, the U.S. Embassy may hold your application until such time it is able to issue your student or exchange visitor visa. 


In general though, your student visa can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your program start date. You will not, however, be admitted to  the United States in F-1 or M-1 status earlier than 30 days before your start date.


As a continuing student however, you may enter the United States at any time before your classes start.  You may also renew your student visa any time provided:

  • You have maintained your student status in the United States; and
  • Your SEVIS record is current.  

If you complete your course of studies and any authorized practical training (as shown on your form I-20), you may be allowed to remain in the United States for some additional time if you choose NOT to take Optional Practical Training (or OPT). 

If you are an academic student, holding an F-1 U.S. student visa, you can stay an additional 60 days to prepare for your departure or to transfer to another school.

If you are a vocational student with an M-1 U.S. student visa, you will be allowed an additional 30 days as long as you maintained a full course of study and maintained status.

Be careful with all those dates!

  • You may be deemed "out of status" if you do not leave the United States after graduation within the time period allotted to you. 
  • If you had a valid multiple entry visa and it was voided because you are out of status, you may not use it for future admissions into the United States.
  • Being out of status on a student visa may also result in you being ineligible for other visas that you may apply for in the future.

Authors & Contributors

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer S. Aranda is the COO of IVC Immigrant Visa Center, Inc.

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