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Guide of SEVIS and F1 Visa: Can I stay in the US if my F1 has expired?

You do not need to renew your entry visa to maintain your status inside the United States. However, if your F-1 visa has expired and you travel outside the U.S. before completing your studies, you must obtain a new visa stamp to reenter the country with F-1 status. As an international student, it's crucial to ensure your legal presence in the U.S. to avoid the anxiety of potential deportation by immigration authorities. There is often misunderstanding about the duration of a student's legal stay, so let's clarify that important detail here.

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Understanding SEVIS and Its Importance for International Students

SEVIS, or the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a web-based system managed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It is used to track and monitor schools and programs, students (both nonimmigrant students on F and M visas), and exchange visitors (J visa holders) who are authorized to enter the U.S. SEVIS ensures that they maintain their status while in the United States.

What is the 60-Day Grace Period?

The 60-day grace period is a critical timeframe for F-1 students after completing their course of study or post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). During this period, students have several options:

  1. Depart the United States: Students should leave the U.S. within this period to avoid violating their F-1 status.
  2. Transfer to Another Institution: Students can transfer their SEVIS record to another SEVP-certified institution within the 60 days.
  3. Change Education Level: Changing to a different educational level requires a new I-20 form issued before the grace period ends.
  4. Change Visa Status: Applications to change visa status (e.g., from F-1 to H-1B) must be filed before the grace period expires.
  5. Start a New Program: Students admitted to a new program starting within five months can remain in the U.S. during the grace period.

SEVIS vs. F1 Visa: Understanding the Difference

F1 Visa: The F1 visa, issued by the U.S. Department of State, allows international students to enter the U.S. for academic studies at certified institutions. It serves primarily as a travel document to request entry at U.S. borders or airports. Notably, an expired F1 visa does not impact your legal status in the U.S. as long as your SEVIS record and I-20 form remain valid and active.

Maintaining Lawful Status with an Active SEVIS Record

It is crucial for F1 visa holders to keep their SEVIS record active and in good standing to maintain lawful status in the U.S. This requires adhering to all program requirements and making normal progress towards your academic degree.

Traveling with an Expired F1 Visa

If your F1 visa expires while you are still studying in the U.S. and you need to travel abroad, you will require a new visa stamp to reenter the U.S. in F1 status. This process involves applying at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country, demonstrating your intent to return home after your studies and proving your financial stability to support your education and living expenses.

Renewing Your F1 Visa in Third Countries

While renewing your F1 visa in a third country like Canada or Mexico is an option, it generally poses risks, such as potential delays. If your application is delayed, you might face difficulties staying in the third country for an extended period without proper authorization.


Navigating the complexities of SEVIS and the F1 visa requires careful planning and compliance with U.S. immigration laws. International students are advised to regularly consult with their schools' DSO for updated information on visa applications and to stay informed about any changes in immigration policies. This proactive approach will help ensure that your studies in the U.S. are both successful and compliant.

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