Program Completion Checklist

This checklist is a resource for degree-seeking students who have completed all program requirements and exchange/VISP students at the end of their studies at UW–Madison.

F-1/J-1 international students who have maintained their status have a grace period at the end of their studies. F-1 students earn a 60-day grace period, and J-1 students earn a 30-day grace period. Email ISS of your departure plans if you are leaving before the end of your program.

Please review either the checklist below or the PDF version of the checklist to learn what you are eligible to do as well as tasks you may need to complete to wrap up your stay in the U.S. during your grace period:

Program Completion Workshop

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Apply to graduate

Students must apply to graduate and indicate their degree completion term and which ceremony they intend to participate in (note: due to the current health crisis, in-person ceremonies may be held virtually) in the MyUW Student Center “My Academics” tab.

You need to apply for graduation before the deadline announced by the Chancellor’s Office, if you want your name in the commencement program. It’s usually in early November (for December commencement) and early April (for May commencement). Find the current deadline on the Chancellor’s commencement website.

Preferred name. — You have the option to have your preferred name appear in the commencement program and in related communications. Your diploma will always have your legal name. Please contact us if you need to change your legal name in UW student records.

For Graduation

  • Review and clear any holds listed in your Student Center.
  • Update your Diploma Address through your Student Center and request your Certified Electronic Diploma for free.
  • Request an official transcript from the University.
  • Request a copy of your (and your dependents’) health records through UHS.
  • Check with your supervisor/employer about the office’s departure procedure if you are employed. You many need to return department keys and work files, cancel listserv subscriptions, etc.
  • Set up automatic forwarding for your student email account.
  • Sign up for a free alumni email account if you’d like.
  • Transfer any valuable files from your UW–Madison OneDrive, Box, and G Suite accounts to another location, otherwise all files stored using those services will be lost when you leave.
  • Exchange contact information with your friends, classmates, advisor, and supervisor.
  • Join the Wisconsin Alumni Association and learn about the network in your home country.

For Fall 2023 Graduation, please see this Graduation Checklist.

Does your I-20 or DS-2019 program end date match the semester you will complete your academic program?

The program end date on your I-20 or DS-2019 is an estimated date by which you will complete your degree program. If you finish your academic program earlier than your I-20 or DS-2019 program end date, you will need to submit a Shorten Program request in Terra Dotta.

Return Home

  • Ensure that your passport is valid. If expired, contact your home country consulate immediately to renew before you depart.
  • Inform your family and friends at home of your arrival date.
  • Check the airline’s luggage weight/size regulations and cost for overweight/extra bags. These specifications can vary by airline and country of destination.
  • Arrange transportation to the airport. Make sure to arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before departure.

Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • If you are a degree-seeking F-1 international student, then you may be eligible to apply for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). Attend an OPT workshop online to start the application process.
  • You must be physically present in the U.S. as an F-1 student to submit your OPT application to USCIS. The application still requires your I-94 record.

When you are job searching, you might also want to:

  • Ask for reference letters from your professors, advisor, and supervisor.
  • Join professional organizations (national/international) in your field of study/interest.

Post-completion Academic Training (AT)

  • If you are a J-1 international student, then you may be eligible to apply to work using the Academic Training benefit. You can learn more about Academic Training by speaking with an advisor during our walk-in advising hours or reviewing the J-1 Employment page of our website.

When you are job searching, you might also want to:

  • Ask for reference letters from your professors, advisor, and supervisor.
  • Join professional organizations (national/international) in your field of study/interest.

Begin a New Program at UW–Madison

The following option should generally be done during the 30-day grace period for J-1 students if the new program has the same academic objective and during the 60-day grace period for F-1 students:

  • Change of Education Level to continue another academic program at UW–Madison
    • You are eligible to transfer your record if you complete your Spring 2023 semester. The request must be submitted and processed during your 60-day grace period. Your new program of study must begin within five months of when your Spring 2023 semester ends. ISS uses a program end date of May 22, 2023 for all students.
    • Submit ISS’s Change of Level form once you have been accepted into a new program at UW–Madison at a different academic level. The form can be found in Terra Dotta.

Transfer-out to another SEVP-certified School

J-1 Students: Transfer must be processed to the new school before your DS-2019 program end date. Your academic objective must remain the same between UW-Madison and your new school.

F-1 Students: Transfer must be processed to the new school within your 60 day grace period.

  • Once you have been accepted into a program at another U.S. institution, we can schedule the transfer of your SEVIS record after you submit our online form with your new admission letter and the new institution’s transfer-in form (if applicable). The transfer-out form can be found in Terra Dotta

Change Your Visa Status

  • Come to the ISS office during walk-in advising hours if you are interested in changing your visa status to F or J. ISS can only provide advice on F and J visas.
  • Review the legal resources on our website if you are interested in changing to any other visa status.

Wrap Up Your Housing and Family

  • Confirm the move-out date from your residence hall or rental agreement. Check the obligations you agreed to in your lease.
  • Inform your landlord of your move-out date and set an inspection date. 
Confirm with your landlord the procedure to be reimbursed for your security deposit.
  • Arrange for your utilities to be disconnected by your move-out date.
  • Donate or sell your unneeded furniture, personal items (i.e. clothes) or automobile. If you sell your automobile, make sure to transfer the title to the new owner and remember to cancel your automobile insurance. You can donate clothes to many local charities (Salvation Army, Good Will, Society of St. Vincent de Paul). You can sell items in a garage sale or online (Craigslist).
  • Send any belongings home. 
NOTE: the U.S. Post Office no longer offers surface mail shipping service, (only airmail available). 
Check out your local grocery or liquor store for free boxes.
    • If you are moving elsewhere in the U.S., you can set up mail forwarding through the U.S. Postal Service. This does not work with mail sent to you by the federal government (i.e. USCIS). Mail forwarding services are not available overseas.
  • Cancel any newspaper or magazine subscriptions.

If You Have Dependents

  • If you have children attending a local school or daycare, confirm your child’s last day of attendance and request a copy of their school records.


  • Pay any outstanding medical bills.
  • Pay any outstanding balance on UW–Madison accounts.
  • Pay any outstanding bills (utilities, housing, etc.)
  • Close your bank & credit card accounts and transfer money to a home bank account if you are leaving the country.

Government Documents

  • Keep all old & current immigration documents together in a safe place. Do not destroy these documents. You may need these documents if you plan to return to the U.S. or apply for another U.S. immigration benefit in the future.
  • If you have a Wisconsin state driver’s license, inform the DMV of your change of address within 60 days of departure from the state.
  • Leave your home mailing address and personal email with your current employer. Your employer may need to send you your W2 Statement for tax purposes.
  • Check current tax information at the federal and state level:

This applies to those who have been in the U.S. for a brief period as well as those who have not been employed in the U.S. If you resided in the U.S. during the calendar year, you still have a responsibility to file taxes by the following April, even if you are outside the U.S.

Our checklist was adapted from International Student and Scholar Services at University of Minnesota.