DS160 – What is Intended Length of Stay for F1, J1 and M Visa

While completing DS160, nonimmigrant visa application form, there’s a question about Intended Length of Stay.

Almost, every applicant for F1 Visa ponders what to answer for “Intended Length of Stay”.

There is a section in your I-20 that says, ” The normal length of study is 24 months/30 months/5years.”

It means your university expects you to finish your course in that duration (until and unless you speed up by taking more courses in each semester or slow down by taking only minimum required credits to fulfill F-1 status).

Now, you can include your one year OPT into the duration in your I-20, making your intended length of stay one year longer than what is mentioned in your I-20.

If you qualify for STEM OPT, then you could make the intended length of stay to as follows:

  • Degree
    • Bachelors – 2 Years
    • Masters – 1 to 3 years
  • OPT – 12 months
  • STEM OPT – 24 Months

The answer could be 5 years or just duration of your degree.

But better I wouldn’t mention your intended length of stay shorter than the duration mentioned in your I-20.

However, it is good to include your OPT period into your intended length of stay because VO knows that almost nobody comes back without doing OPT.

Therefore, in my opinion, the best answer for the intended length of stay is should equal to the normal length of the study mentioned in your I-20.

And you can choose to add OPT and STEM OPT.

Remember, the duration mentioned on your I-20 does not include your OPT duration. My current answer may contradict my previous answer but that’s fine.

Related: Form I20 Sample – Old vs New Format


  1. Rishabh on June 24, 2019 at 3:58 AM

    I am going for my masters for a STEM course and have mentioned the intended duration as 4 years. Is that a problem?

  2. Kishor on June 13, 2016 at 9:21 PM

    Hi there
    In my i20 normal course duration is 60 momth. But it is a 4 yrs bachelor. So what should i have to mention 60 months or 48 months in my finance nd sponsor docs ????

    • Raghuram Sukumar on June 14, 2016 at 11:32 AM

      I would say 4 years in dS160.

  3. Sumit on June 3, 2015 at 12:06 AM

    Hi ,
    Thanks for the information . I’m intending to pursue MS – CS starting fall -2015 . In my i-20 , the normal duration of course is stated as 36 months . But MS usually gets completed in 24 months .
    When I contacted the university , they said 36 months is the maximum time within which you’ve to complete your masters .
    What should I enter into my Visa Application Form ? 24 months or 36 months .
    I’m afraid I don’t have the sufficient funds to show for 36 months.


    • Raghuram Sukumar on June 3, 2015 at 8:00 AM

      Enter 24 months.

      • Sumit on June 3, 2015 at 9:43 AM

        @Raghuram : Thanks for the reply . In this blog you’ve said not to mention the duration of stay lesser than what is stated in the i-20 . In my i-20 , it’s stated as 36 months . So still should I enter 24 months ?


  4. shonak simlote on December 19, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    i have applied for california state univ at long beach. on i20 its written the maximum duration of course is 36 months. in ds 160 form i have mention the Intended Length of Stay for F1 Visa as 36 months. now what should i tell to visa officer should i do like this.( even i am showing enough finance for 3 years also).
    1. tell him that the course can be completed within 30 months and the project which is mandatory should be completed within 6 months
    2. i will opt for opt(optional practical training) for 1 year.
    3. or tell him that i have written the same duration as mentioned on the i20 form.

    • Deepak Yadav on January 1, 2012 at 11:46 PM

      @Shonak: You do not have to worry about the expenses after completing your studies (expenses during OPT period) because during OPT you earn money and can easily afford all expenses on your own as well as can save money to send it back home.

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