F-1 Student Program Extension to Complete Current Program

Department of Homeland (DHS) regulations require students in F-1 status to complete their program by the expected completion date noted in item 5 on the initial Form I-20 (“…and complete studies not later than (date)___.”). The stated length of study and expected completion date on the initial I-20 used to begin your current program of study at Bates College determines whether you must apply for a “Program Extension” to remain in the U.S. to complete your program.

If you will not be able to complete your current program by the expected completion date because of valid academic or medical reasons, you must apply for a Program Extension with ISSS, which is then responsible for notifying the DHS of this change.

THE PROGRAM EXTENSION MUST BE REQUESTED BEFORE THE EXPIRATION OF THE EXPECTED COMPLETION DATE. An F-1 student who is ineligible for a Program Extension either because of missing the deadline or not meeting the eligibility requirements listed below is considered out of status. The student may apply to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) for reinstatement, if eligible.


  1. You must be in lawful F-1 status under the visa supervision of Bates College.
  2. You must have maintained unbroken full-time status for every semester of your current program during which you have been in F-1 status.
  3. Delays in completing your studies must not be caused by academic probation or suspension.

Deadline: You must submit your application to International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) BEFORE the completion date on your I-20. There is no prescribed period in which to do so, except that an extension of an I-20 must take place before the current one expires. A good rule of thumb is to begin the process 30 days before the stated program end date on your I-20.

Procedure: The complete application includes the following documents:

  1. Your I-20 and I-94 card or electronic copy.
  2. Your passport
  3. Financial documentation showing that you can meet the costs of the additional time needed to complete your program.
  4. Documentation establishing valid reasons to continue beyond your I-20 time limit. This documentation will be a letter to the ISSS from your academic advisor stating the academic reasons for your need to extend your stay at Bates and the expected date of completion of your program of study, or your department reflecting approval of your request for a reduced course load or medical leave of absence based on a physician’s certification. Examples of compelling academic reasons contributing to a delay in completion include changes of major or research topic or unexpected research problems.

International Students and Scholars Services will:

  1. Review your application for eligibility
  2. Prepare a new I-20 extending your completion date and update your SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) record.

You must sign and date the new extended I-20.