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It is your responsibility to maintain your legal status as an F-1 student. Your legal F-1 status was conferred upon you at the time of your entry to the United States. You presented your I-20 and you F-1 visa to the USCIS at the port of entry. The USCIS officer stamped your I-20 and returned it to you and stamped an I-94 card and gave it to you. By signing the I-20 and entering into the U.S., you agreed to uphold the laws and regulations governing F-1 students in the United States. These laws state that you must do the following at all times to maintain your legal status:
It is very important that you maintain legal status while you are studying in the United States. You are responsible for the maintenance of your passport and should make sure that your passport and your dependents' passports are valid at all times. To extend your passport, you will need to contact your own embassy. Be sure to contact your embassy at least 6 months prior to the expiration date of the passport so that you will have time to process the extension. Visit http://www.embassy.org/ for contact information on your embassy.
When you arrived in the United States, a USCIS officer gave you an I-94 card, which you should keep in your passport with your I-20. These documents are proof of your F-1 status, and you will need them for such purposes as applying for work permits, banking, extending your permission to stay in the United States and reentry to this country. You should keep copy of all previous I-20s permanently.
Note: It is also advisable, after your arrival, to photocopy the identification pages of your passport, your visa stamp, I-94 Departure/Arrival card, and your I-20 and keep them separately from the originals. These are used when applying for replacements, should the originals ever be lost or stolen. The International Student Affairs Office at Truman State University requires that all F-1 students check in at the ISAO promptly on arrival so we can photocopy these documents for our files.
Change to F-1 student status is permitted for individuals in some nonimmigrant visa categories. Those who may not apply for a change of status to F-1 include the visa types of C, D, K, and M. Also, some J-1 visitors who are subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement (212e) and have not had that requirement waived are also not eligible for a change of status. J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education or training are also not permitted to change status to F-1 in the U.S. If you are unsure if you are eligible for a change of status, contact the ISAO for more information.
To apply for a change to F-1 status in the U.S., you must provide the following items to the USCIS.
The USCIS will examine all of the documents you submitted related to your financial ability to pursue the intended course of study, including the cost estimate provided by the institution and the amount and source of funding available to you. If the USCIS is not satisfied that you have the required financial resources, your application for change of nonimmigrant status may be denied.
Reinstatement is a process in which you apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to be restored to legal student status after a violation. Reinstatement is for individuals who, through no fault of their own or through circumstances beyond their control, have violated the terms of their immigration status and can show that not being reinstated would cause a significant hardship. The student also has to verify that they have not worked illegally. Students have the best chance of approval if applying within five months of violating status.
Prepare the following materials to complete the Reinstatement Application.
You will need to schedule an appointment to meet with the International Student Advisor to discuss your reinstatement application. The ISAO will then prepare a new I-20, read and critique your application, and ask you to return to the ISAO in 3-5 days to sign your new I-20 and take your application to be mailed. It will take the USCIS 60 to 120 days to decide the case. The ISAO will contact you when your documents are returned.
If you are not eligible, or are a poor candidate for reinstatement, you may consider obtaining a new I-20 marked "Initial Attendance" and then using that new I-20 to travel outside of the U.S. and re-enter. This is not the same as reinstatement and does not correct, or wipe out previous mistakes. However, it does allow a student to regain lawful student status. By making a new entry, you are in effect starting all over again. This has implications, in that it means that you have to maintain status for a period of one full academic year after the new entry, before regaining any eligibility for practical training or other off-campus work authorization. The travel alternative may be right for students who need to be restored to F-1 status so that they can take up an assistantship or other on-campus employment. For these individuals, the speed of the travel option outweighs applying for conventional reinstatement even for people who are excellent candidates for reinstatement.
Which should you choose?
It depends on your circumstances as to which approach to follow. To discuss your situation more fully, you are urged to schedule an appointment with the International Student Advisor. Keep in mind the following things: How close is your date of completion? Do you need to be in F-1 status right away for an assistantship or on-campus employment or because you are an athlete? How strong is your case for reinstatement?
For more information, visit the ISAO and pick up a Reinstatement Application Packet.
Extension of Stay
The expiration date in Section 5 of your I-20 must always be in the future to maintain a valid stay in the United States as an F-1 student. If for some valid academic reason you cannot complete your degree by the expiration date in your current I-20, you must apply for an Extension of Stay. Failure to apply for an Extension of Stay prior to the expiration on your I-20 will result in a violation of your legal student status.
To request an Extension of Stay, the following must be provided to the International Student Advisor
The ISAO will process the request and you should return in 3-5 days to pick up your new I-20.
ANOTHER OPTION: Transfer by Travel and Reentry
Transfer notification to the USCIS can also take place through the process of travel abroad and reentry on the new I-20.
Occasionally, USCIS Officers at the Ports of Entry on the Canadian Border must be asked to stamp the I-20 and issue a new I-94. Be sure this is done or you have not officially transferred schools.
Note: The SEVIS (Immigration) Transfer process is completely separate from the academic transfer process and must be completed correctly in order to maintain legal student status in the United States.
For more information, visit the ISAO.
A change of level from undergraduate to graduate study must be reported to the ISAO for SEVIS update prior to the start of the semester by completing the SEVIS Update/I-20 or DS-2019 Request Form. A change of level SEVIS update will print a new I-20. You should return to the ISAO in 3-5 days following your request to pick up and sign your new I-20.
Note: You should retain all I-20's issued to you PERMANENTLY.
Changes in major should be immediately reported to the ISAO for SEVIS update by completing the SEVIS Update/I-20 or DS-2019 Request Form. A change of major SEVIS update will print a new I-20. You should return to the ISAO in 3-5 days following your request to pick up and sign your new I-20.
Note: You should retain all I-20's issued to you PERMANENTLY.
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