As a graduating F-1 student, can I work in the U.S. during my grace period?

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Question:

I have an F-1 visa and recently graduated from a U.S. college, and am not planning to leave until the end of my grace period, which I understand is in 60 days. I will mostly be “hanging out,” as you Americans like to say. But a friend of mine says his father needs some extra help with his delivery business, and will pay in cash. Will I get in trouble if I do this?

Answer:

The 60-day grace period at the end of your permitted stay as an F-1 student is meant to be used for getting ready to leave, enjoying a last few days touring the United States, and that’s it. No working and no studying are allowed at this time. To do either would be considered a violation of your visa status.

And by the way, let’s make sure you’re counting those 60 days correctly. The grace period doesn’t start the day of your graduation ceremony, but earlier, on the day you completed your final degree requirement (which is probably shown as the "complete studies no later than" date on your SEVIS Form I-20). For students at some colleges, this is a difference of many days.

If you are caught violating your F-1 status, the short-term consequence might be that you are arrested, placed into removal proceedings and asked to leave the U.S. right away. But even if you aren’t caught now, the violation could come to light later. And either way, it could impact your ability to come to the U.S. in subsequent years, on another sort of visa or perhaps as an immigrant, with a green card.

See “How Long You Can Stay in the U.S. on a Student Visa” for more information on the consequences of violating your F-1 status.

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