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I am currently in the US on a F1 Visa for studying. My I-20 is valid until May 19th, as then my program is finished. Usually I study in Canada (I am there on a study permit with a passport from Austria).

Before returning back to Canada I wanted to visit a conference in the US (in another state, I will have to take a plane). The conference starts on May 20 and lasts for 6 days.

My question is: am I allowed to attend the conference, as I am in the grace period of my F1 visa? Note, the conference is not part of my program in the US.

Second question: Can I get reimbursed for this conference by the conference organizers? Probably, I would run into troubles here as this might be considered some kind of work, which I am definitely not allowed to do.

Is it maybe somehow possible to apply for an ESTA and get a B1 stamp on it? But I only have domestic flights, so I guess this doesn't work.

Do you have any suggestion regarding what is the best way to proceed to attend the conference and maybe even not to lose the reimbursement?

  • Does your I-94 show that you were admitted until May 19 or that you were admitted for duration of status (D/S)? – phoog May 18 at 18:18
  • It says: Admit Untile Date: D/S – Komarex May 18 at 18:26
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D/S, meaning "duration of status," means that you have been admitted while you remain in F-1 status. You remain in F-1 status until the end of your program plus the 60-day grace period, assuming you complete your program satisfactorily.

Being in B-1 status won't change the answers to your other questions.

am I allowed to attend the conference, as I am in the grace period of my F1 visa?

This should be fine.

Can I get reimbursed for this conference by the conference organizers? Probably, I would run into troubles here as this might be considered some kind of work, which I am definitely not allowed to do.

It depends on what the reimbursements are for. If they are covering your expenses, it should be fine. If they're paying you for any services, or indeed if they're giving you anything in exchange for your services, that is probably not fine. User mkennedy notes that they should not pay you to do even small things such as sitting at the registration desk.

I would go a bit farther: don't do things like that at all, even on a volunteer basis. It is well accepted in US immigration law that you can't get around a lack of work authorization by volunteering to work without being paid.

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    @Klaus No, it's tourism/business. To be "study" in US law, generally it has to count toward an academic degree (or an appropriate vocational certificate for M status). – Michael Hampton May 18 at 19:16
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    As long as the organizers pay your costs--maybe including a per diem (fixed amount of money) for incidentals like food and drinks--but do not pay you extra for working the registration desk or store, etc. you're okay. – mkennedy May 19 at 1:25
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    @mkennedy indeed, even working the registration desk (or similar tasks) on a volunteer basis could lead to trouble. – phoog May 20 at 14:23
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    I wanted to make a short update: The university wants to pay the reimbursement in the form of a stipend. In particular I need to fill a form, which is to be completed by "International Lecturer, Consultant, or Independent Contractor". Essentially everything on the form is indicating that I perform some kind of work, although I am only a conference participant. This way is easier for the organizers as they don't need to collect receipts and simply pay a fixed amount in the form of a stipend. It seems to be general practice. I think I am safer not to take the stipend and lose the money. – Komarex May 23 at 3:45
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    @Komarex indeed. I wouldn't take that money without some indication from an immigration lawyer that it is acceptable. Such advice will possibly cost more than the amount of the stipend, of course. – phoog May 23 at 14:39

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