The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows a “grace period” of 60 days for F-1 visa students and 30 days for J-1 visa students. During this grace period, students with F-1 or J-1 visas are given time to figure out their plans or prepare accordingly to return to their home country. Specifically, students may use this grace period time to change their visa status, start new programs, prepare for departure to their home country, or even transfer between schools. It is imperative that students are mindful of the fact they can’t travel outside of U.S. borders during this grace period because they will not be able to re-enter with their current visa status.
If an F-1 student wants to transfer to another school, they must request that their current school transfer/release their F-1 U.S. government SEVIS I-20 record to their new school before studies begin. This process is known as a “SEVIS transfer.” When a SEVIS transfer is implemented during the time of the grace period, the student does not have to pay the $200 SEVIS fee again, can remain in the U.S. in between programs, and maintains the same current SEVIS ID number.
One may be eligible for a SEVIS transfer if he or she has completed a program at one school and wants to start a new program at a different school, is currently studying at one school and decides to change schools before completing their program, or is currently doing Optional Practical Training (OPT) (temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student's major area of study) and starting a new program of study at a different school.
If a J-1 visa student wants to transfer programs, their ability to transfer or not lies in the hands of the responsible officers of the current and new programs. In addition, the new program must be within the same category of study. Upon verification of visa status and eligibility, the student must complete a new Form DS-2019 to reflect their intent to transfer and obtain release from their current program. Though a student may be eligible for transfer, not all programs are permitted transfer.
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