Upon the completion of your program of study, you are given a 60-day grace period. Your grace period ends 60 days after the end of your I-20 or your completion of a program of study or OPT program. This grace period allows you to prepare for your departure, transfer schools, change your visa status, or start a new program. F-1 visa holders who withdraw from their class will only have a 15-day grace period to return to their home country.
To transfer schools, you will have to show the designated school official (DSO) an acceptance letter, contact information, and the school's SEVIS code. You will have to work with the DSO of your old and new school to figure out a transfer/release date. Initiating a transfer during your grace period avoids you having to pay the SEVIS fee again and allows you to stay in the U.S.
If the time between the end of your program and the start of your new program is less than 5 months, you are allowed to remain in the U.S., but you have to maintain your status by registering for classes and also contacting the new DSO within 15 days of the start of your new class. If the time between classes is more than 5 months, your new school will have to issue you a new I-20 form with a new SEVIS number. You will have to go back to your home country within the 60-day grace period, and you can return 30 days before the start of your new program.
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