It does not matter how much research and planning you did before choosing a college, university, or other school to attend as a foreign student, you could find that it is not quite the right fit for you. Perhaps the academic program is not what you anticipated, you are not connecting with your fellow classmates or the school’s geographic location is too cold, too hot or too isolated or something else.
Fortunately, if you are an F-1 Student visa beneficiary, you might be able to transfer to another school. The procedure is fairly straightforward and does not demand a lot of paperwork. But if you are in doubt, you can hire an immigration lawyer to help you.
Qualifying for a School Transfer Under an F-1 Student Visa Status
It is a requirement that you start your studies at the school you listed on your I-20 application. However, if you become dissatisfied with that institution, you can move from that school at any time. You will also need to have maintained your student status at the original institution from when you first entered the U.S. Say, for example, your dissatisfaction got to the point that you failed to maintain a full course of study or you dropped out of classes, you will have rendered your F-1 visa nullified and will not be permitted to transfer schools at least; not until you have applied for and been granted what is called “reinstatement.” This returns you to valid student status.
Policies for School Transfer as an F-1 Student
Unlike certain benefits obtained by student visa holders, a school transfer does not require the approval of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). All the paperwork will be handled by the designated student officer (DSO) or foreign student adviser at your present school. The first step towards a school transfer will be getting accepted by a new, USCIS-accredited school. Note that school application processes differ from school to school. This means that you will need to check in with the schools in which you are interested regarding their requirements and timing.
After getting an acceptance letter from a new school, you will also receive a new Form I-20 AB/I-20 ID. You will then need to tell the DSO at your current school of your intent to transfer and that you will provide proof of a written confirmation of your acceptance at the new school. Plus give your former DSO the new DSO’s contact information. You might want to talk to your DSO even before this to see if they can be of any assistance. At this point it is beneficial to talk to your DSO about the intent to transfer to a new school. It is key to work out the timing of your transfer. Your current DSO must also transfer your SEVIS file to the new school. Presuming that your transfer does not happen immediately, ensure that you maintain a valid student status all the way through your transfer date. If not you might fall out of status and the transfer will then be canceled.
Starting Afresh and Introducing Yourself to Your New DSO
The following step is to relocate to your new school fifteen days before the program start date. During those fifteen days you are required to sign and give your new I-20 to the DSO at your new school along with your updated address. The new DSO then has 30 days in which to advise your old DSO as well as USCIS (utilizing the SEVIS system) that you have transferred. The new DSO will send you your new I-20 ID Copy. If you had a work permit (employment authorization document or EAD) at your first school, it will be canceled automatically at the time of your transfer. You will need to reapply for a new EAD if you want to become eligible to work again.
Talking to an Immigration Attorney
Seeking the assistance of an Immigration Lawyer when applying for an F-1 Student visa will benefit you in the long run. Call Gambacorta Law Office at 847 443 9303, for a first free consultation and ask all the questions you may have. We will gladly provide all the answers you will need.