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SEVIS Sticky Wickets: Leaves & Transfers. Office of Minority and International Students. Why isn’t this easier??. Regulatory interpretation Agency policy and procedural implementation Lack of coordination/collaboration between agencies Lack of clarity as to regulatory ownership

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sevis sticky wickets leaves transfers

SEVIS Sticky Wickets: Leaves & Transfers

Office of Minority and International Students

why isn t this easier
Why isn’t this easier??
  • Regulatory interpretation
  • Agency policy and procedural implementation
  • Lack of coordination/collaboration between agencies
  • Lack of clarity as to regulatory ownership
  • Levels of authority, OR, What is an FAQ anyway??
problem areas to discuss
Problem areas to discuss
  • Among many…..
    • F-1 leaves of absence in SEVIS
    • SEVIS transfers
    • SEVIS record terminations
transfer process
Transfer Process

Transfer Out

School A DSO updates

student’s SEVIS record

for transfer out:

  • Release date
  • New School

Transfer In

School B DSO processes transfer-in record in SEVIS:

  • New program info
  • New I-20
  • SEVIS registration

Student informs

School A DSO of

plans to transfer

What do the Regulations Say?
  • 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(8)(8) School transfer eligibility. (i) A student who is maintaining status may transfer to another Service approved school by following the notification procedure prescribed in paragraph (f)(8)(ii) of this section. However, an F-1 student is not permitted to remain in the United States when transferring between schools or programs unless the student will begin classes at the transfer school or program within 5 months of transferring out of the current school or within 5 months of the program completion date on his or her current Form I-20, whichever is earlier. In the case of an F-1 student authorized to engage in post-completion optional practical training (OPT), the student must be able resume classes within 5 months of transferring out of the school that recommended OPT or the date the OPT authorization ends, whichever is earlier. An F-1 student who was not pursuing a full course of study at the school he or she was last authorized to attend is ineligible for school transfer and must apply for reinstatement under the provisions of paragraph (f)(16) of this section, or, in the alternative, may depart the country and return as an initial entry in a new F-1 nonimmigrant status.
transfer basics
Transfer Basics
  • Eligibility for Transfer
    • Student must be maintaining F-1 status
    • Student must have been admitted to new program
    • New Program must begin within 5 months of the end date on I-20 or approved OPT period
  • Transfer out School
    • Student notifies DSO of intention to transfer
    • Student and DSO set date of release for transfer based on
      • Academic needs
      • Travel plans
      • Employment plans
      • Projected start date of new program
    • DSO releases student to new school in RTI setting release date
    • DSO advises student to report to new program within 15 days of the start date on the I-20
Transfer In School
    • In SEVIS RTI go to transfer in list on or after date of release
    • Select student
    • Select the Create I-20 option, complete info and submit
    • Print I-20 with “transfer pending” noted in section 3
    • Send to student or hold for check in
    • Student must report to new school in 15 days
    • Register student in SEVIS no later than 30 days following program start date
    • Note in remarks section, Transfer complete and date
    • New I-20 will note “continued attendance” on section 3
Transfers and Travel
  • The student may travel
  • Must use I-20 of school that holds active or initial record for re entry to the US or visa application if necessary
    • If prior to transfer release date, transfer out school I-20
    • If after transfer release date, transfer in school I-20
  • Student may use F-1 visa from transfer out school through its date of validity
  • Student must check in with transfer in school within 15 days
  • Transfer students are not restricted to entry within 30 days of program start date
Transfer to the Wrong School
  • Before the release date, DSO in transfer out school can cancel transfer, then submit a new transfer request to the correct school in SEVIS
  • After the release date, SEVIS allows transfer in school to transfer the record for a student while it is in Initial status, provided the start date at the new school is within 30 days of the student’s initial admission. Note the transfer error in the remarks. Indicate an immediate transfer release date.
Transfers and OPT
  • Students on OPT remain eligible to transfer through end of 60 day grace period
  • Note: OPT ends on the date of release. If student wants to work through summer, set a late date of release
Transfers and Employment Eligibility
  • On campus
    • Students can work on campus that controls SEVIS record
      • Work can begin at transfer in school after the date of release
  • Off Campus
    • Transfer student can count time spent studying at the transfer-out school to count towards any regulatory requirement to be in status for a full academic year.
Transfers and Program Completion
  • Does a student have to complete their previous program before transferring?
  • No, student must be in *lawful status* at time of transfer, does not need to complete.
    • Transfer out should take place prior to withdrawal or leave of absence
transfers of new initial sevis records
Transfers of new Initial SEVIS records
  • Transfer of an initial record is ok, but only if new program will begin within 30 days of the initial date of admission to the U.S.
  • Options if new program starts after the 30-day window?
    • Remain at the original school and enroll for one term, or
    • Withdraw from original school, leave and return with new initial I-20 from new school
Transfers vs. Initial entry

What if I issued a student an initial entry I-20 but then find him/her on my transfer in list?

  • If student has not left the US, DSO can issue a new I-20 through the transfer process and cancel the initial entry I-20.
  • If the student has traveled outside the US and made an entry using the initial entry I-20, that is fine, though the eligibility clock for benefits like OPT will be re-set, and the previous F-1 visa might be needed (school noted on visa has to match sponsoring institution, unless it is a transfer)
Transfers and Study at other Schools

Can a student study at a third school over the summer term without transfer?

  • Yes, under the provision of concurrent enrollment or summer vacation
Transfers and *A change of mind*
  • What if student decides not to transfer and stay at current school after release date?
  • Do not use Transfer out Correction, Call SEVIS help desk to reactivate record
    • Data fix will cancel release date and return record to transfer out school
    • If after program end date, help desk can set a new program end date
Transfers and Terminated SEVIS Records

The student can:

  • apply to USCIS for reinstatement at the current school and wait for reinstatement approval prior to transferring (Can’t transfer while reinstatement pending). The student has to be eligible to continue at the current school though.
  • request that his/her terminated record be transferred to the transfer in school
  • get an initial attendance Form I-20 from the new school, travel outside US and return as initial entry under new F-1 record
  • Types of leaves (anything over five months’ absence):
    • Non-standard vacation term (eg: winter term)
    • Personal leave
    • Sick leave
    • Foreign study abroad term
    • Academic suspension
  • Can overlap with reduced course load allowances
first clarify leave
First – clarify “leave”
  • Temporary absences (five-month rule): 8 CFR (f)(4):An F–1 student returning to the United States from a temporary absence of five months or less (not subject to 5-month rule if on an approved study abroad program) may be readmitted for attendance at a Service-approved educational institution, if the student presents:
    • A current SEVIS Form I–20 properly endorsed by the DSO
    • A new SEVIS Form I–20 if there **has** been a substantive change in the information on the student's most recent Form I–20 information
annual vacation
Annual Vacation
  • Annual vacation (8 CFR (f)(5)(iii)“…if the student is eligible and intends to register for the next term…. if the student has completed the equivalent of an academic year prior to taking the vacation. ”. )
  • Issues:
    • Vacation term that exceeds five months (eg: between program transfers)
    • Non-standard vacation term patterns
    • Graduate vs. undergraduate applications
    • Study at another U.S. school over a vacation
personal leave
Personal Leave
  • Student needs some time off – no medical reasons, no vacation eligibility
  • No way to maintain the SEVIS record, and the F-1 status, in this case
  • Or, not?
  • Explore alternate options with an immigration advisor in OMIS…there are a few exceptions to the rule!
medical leave
Medical Leave
  • 8 CFR (f)(6)(iii)(B): aka Medical RCL (Reduced Course Load), however it can be authorized for no course load
  • 12 months’ maximum, renewable each term or semester, per “particular” program level
  • Documentation from a doctor (MD or Osteopath) or clinical psychologist is required
  • the DSO must
    • update SEVIS prior to the student reducing his or her course load.
    • update SEVIS with the date, reason for authorization, and the start date of the next term or session.
    • notify SEVIS within 21 days of the student's commencement of a full course of study – OR -
    • Re-verify the documentation supporting the medical leave for the next term
academic study abroad
Academic study-abroad
  • Final F-1 rule (2003):
    • a study-abroad term counts toward the required “one full academic year” of lawful enrollment required for practical training eligibility 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10). No time limit given.
  • This implies that a DSO may, or even must, leave the SEVIS record active if the student is on a valid study abroad term…
  • …but, isn’t the five month rule is still in play…??? No. See OMIS for more details.
academic leaves of absence
Academic leaves of absence
  • Generally, and academic leave would have to coincide with an allowed vacation term
  • Liaison call from 8/07 addresses this, and how to process in SEVIS (authorized early withdrawal) *even* if student is still considered active at the school
  • Notes though:
    • Future SEVIS releases may allow these students to be maintained in SEVIS with active records
    • If the student ends up returning to school within the five month limit, a request for a data fix to the SEVIS helpdesk can be made. A flag removal request will also be generated.
unauthorized leaves and reinstatements
Unauthorized leaves, and reinstatements
  • Generally, this will require either a reinstatement application, or travel out of the U.S. / probably a new F-1 visa application
  • Reinstatement is approvable only if a set of circumstances are met, and the student can show that:
    • The reason the violation occurred was beyond the student’s control AND
    • The RCL or leave was approvable by the DSO at the time it happened AND
    • Denial of the reinstatement would result in “extreme” hardship to the student
  • Travel may often be the best option
  • We MUST consider carefully the ethics of *how* we advise on “unauthorized” leaves…