If you are in F-1 status, the Program of Study section on page 1 of your I-20 indicates the program completion date of your SEVIS record.
If you are in J-1 status, item # 3 of your DS-2019 indicates the program completion date of your SEVIS record.
If you will not complete your academic program by that program end date, you must apply for an Extension of Program of Study before the end date indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 document. You may lose your lawful F-1 or J-1 status and all associated benefits if you: (1) fail to apply for an extension before your I-20 or DS-2019 expires even if you have a valid reason for extension; OR (2) you apply for an extension but do not meet the requirements for an extension.
ELIGIBILITY FOR AN EXTENSION
Immigration regulations limit the circumstances for which international students may be granted a program extension. Federal Immigration regulations provide that you may be eligible for an extension if: (1) you have continually maintained full-time F-1/J-1 status AND (2) if you have compelling academic or medical reasons which resulted in a delay in your program completion. 8 CFR sec. 214.2(f)(7)(iii).
Examples of acceptable/compelling reasons for program extension are:
• Changes in major/research topic;
• Unexpected research difficulties;
• Lost credits upon transfer into The University of Alabama; or
• Documented illness
The following are examples of unacceptable reasons for program extension:
• Repeat of course(s) due to unsatisfactory grade;
• Additional time needed to complete an “incomplete” course(s);
• Failure to work closely or consult with academic advisor;
• Delay of coursework to participate in work experience (CPT) not required for your degree;
• Participation in CPT when all coursework is complete; or
• Delay caused by academic probation or suspension.
PROCEDURES FOR REQUESTING AN EXTENSION
- Complete Sections 1, 3, & 4 of the F-1 I-20/J-1 DS-2019 Student Extension Form (SPECIAL NOTE: ELI Students should complete the ELI Student Extension Form and submit it to the English Language Institute) and prepare the necessary financial support documentation to show proof of funding.
- Obtain your Academic Advisor’s recommendation for the program extension on Section 2 of the F-1 I-20/J-1 DS-2019 Student Extension Form (NOTE: ELI students will seek a recommendation from an ELI Staff Member on the ELI Student Extension Form).
- Submit the complete F-1 I-20/J-1 DS-2019 Student Extension Form/ ELI Student Extension Form with the necessary financial support documentation to International Student & Scholar Services in 105 BB Comer Hall or by scanned email attachment to email@example.com. This should be completed no later than 2 weeks before your program end date of your current I-20/DS-2019.
- Within 5 – 10 business days you will be notified via email whether your extension request was approved or denied. If your request requires additional documentation, you will be notified about what additional details are needed. If your request is approved, you will receive your new I-20/DS-2019.
SEVIS Record Transfer
1. Complete the I-20/DS-2019 Transfer-Out Request Form.
a. Note to Sponsored J-1 students: If you are a J-1 student who is sponsored by an outside agency (e.g. IIE, IREX, AMIDEAST) and require transfer of your sponsorship, please contact your sponsoring agency for information about transferring your records.
2. Submit the I-20/DS-2019 Transfer-Out Request Form to International Student and Scholar Services with an admission letter from the school you plan to transfer to (note: an official admission letter is preferred, but electronic admission letters may be accepted in circumstances in which the admitting school does not issue paper acceptance letters).
3. Many schools require transfer-in documents to be completed by UA. An International Student and Scholar Services advisor will complete the Transfer-In Form from your new school after you provide the admission letter from your new school.
4. UA will then release your record to the school you plan to attend.
a. UA must enter into SEVIS the name of the new school and the “release” date from UA. The release date will be the end of the semester you are currently enrolled. You may not work on campus at UA after your Release Date. In addition, the “transfer-in” school must open your SEVIS record to update the transfer completion requirements. Once the transfer-in school does this, your immigration records will no longer be associated with UA.
b. F-1 Students must be released from UA within 60 days of your program end date. If you are on OPT, you must be released within 60 days of your completion of OPT at the latest. J-1 Students must be released from UA within 30 days of your program end date. If you are on Academic Training, you must be released within 30 days of your completion of AT at the latest.
c. You must begin classes at the new school in the next available session but no later than within 5 months of your program end date or the Release Date, whichever is earlier. If you are on OPT/AT, you must begin studying at the new school within 5 months of transferring out of UA or the date the OPT/AT ends, whichever is earlier.
d. If you are in the middle of your F-1 or J-1 program (e.g. have not completed your degree and reached the end-date on your I-20/DS-2019), to be eligible for transfer, you must be otherwise maintaining your F-1 or J-1 status. This means that you can transfer your F-1/J-1 record between semesters/sessions and up to the last day to register of a semester/session. Additionally, you can request a transfer of your SEVIS record after the start of semester/session only if you are enrolled full-time and actively attending classes at UA and if the new institution can still accept your transferred SEVIS record to begin classes.
If you request a transfer after the last date to register for classes in a semester/session at UA and you are not registered and actively attending classes, your record will be transferred in a terminated status for “Failure to Enroll”, and you will have to seek F-1 Reinstatement or J-1 Reinstatement through the new institution.
If the new institution will not accept a terminated SEVIS record, you will have to seek a new SEVIS I-20/DS-2019 for initial attendance from that institution and travel abroad and re-enter the U.S. on a valid visa to obtain F-1/J-1 status. Please consult the international services office at your new institution about your options for travel and re-entry on a new, initial SEVIS I-20/DS-2019.
Please remember that a request to transfer your SEVIS record only affects your immigration status; you must still withdraw from the University to ensure that you are not billed for classes that may be on a current or future semester registration: https://catalog.ua.edu/undergraduate/about/academic-regulations/policies/withdrawal/
Change-of-Status to F-1 or J-1 within the U.S.
If you are currently in a visa status other than F-1 or J-1 student status and would like to change to F-1 or J-1 status, an application for change of status must be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Please consult with an International Student and Scholar Services advisor before filing your change of status application.
PLEASE BE AWARE OF THE FOLLOWING PRIOR TO FILING A CHANGE-OF-STATUS REQUEST:
- I-539 PETITIONS FOR CHANGE-OF-STATUS ARE SLOW: Please be aware that Change-of-Status petitions take a very long time to process – as long as 6 – 10 months at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (check I-539 Processing times for the Vermont Service Center). So, if you require a faster status change, filing for a change-of-status within the U.S. may not be your best option.
- NO F-1 OR J-1 STUDENT BENEFITS UNTIL CHANGE-OF-STATUS APPROVED: Until the change-of-status is approved, you will not be eligible for any on-campus or off-campus work authorization benefits eligible to an F-1 or J-1 student (including graduate assistantships), and you may not be allowed to study full-time if you are transitioning from an F-2 dependent visa or B-1/B-2 visitor visa categories that restrict university-level study.
- NO TRAVEL DURING CHANGE-OF-STATUS: Once the I-539 Change-of-Status petition is submitted to USCIS, you cannot leave the United States for any reason. If you leave the U.S., even for a Caribbean Cruise, your I-539 petition will be considered “abandoned,” and the case will be cancelled by USCIS. Only once the I-539 Change-of-Status petition has been approved will you be able to travel internationally. Also, please be aware that the I-539 petition approval is not a visa stamp; so, you will need to apply for a new visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate the next time you travel beyond North America (see Student Travel Requirements page).
- B-1/B-2 TO F-1 APPLICANTS: If you are currently on a B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa Status and you want to apply to change status to an F-1 or J-1 student visa status, applying for a Change-of-Status within the first 90 days of entry to the U.S. in B-1/B-2 status will likely result in a denial and may be considered fraudulent entry based on a misrepresentation of status based on 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3)(g)(2) – Inconsistent Conduct Within 90 Days of Entry. This change to the Foreign Affairs Manual was published on September 20, 2017.
- NO BRIDGE PETITION REQUIRED: Effective July 20, 2021, USCIS no longer requires someone in another visa status to maintain their status continuously while awaiting a change-of-status. All that is required as an applicant for a change-of-status is that your nonimmigrant status is unexpired at the time of filing the I-539 change-of-status to F-1 application, and that you otherwise remain eligible for a change-of-status. This is what is known as “timely filing” of a petition. See USCIS’s Special Instruction Page for more information.
Step One — MEET WITH ISSS AND APPLY FOR I-20/DS-2019
- Meet with an ISSS advisor to assess your eligibility for a Change-of-Status to F-1 or J-1 student status.
- Complete and submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form with required proof of funding.
- ISSS will prepare the F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 and any necessary F-2/J-2 Dependent documents for a spouse and children and provide them to you.
Step Two — PREPARE YOUR I-539 PETITION
International Student & Scholar Services cannot prepare your change-of-status petition.
ISSS strongly advises you to seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to represent you in applying for a Change-of-Status to F-1 or J-1 Student status. A list of immigration attorneys can be found on https://ailalawyer.com/.
General guidance for applying to USCIS for a Change-of-status can be found on the USCIS Website.
While International Student & Scholar Services cannot help you prepare your petition, below you will find a generalized list of documents needed to be submitted to USCIS:
- Form I-539: “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status” and an additional Form I-539A for each F-2/J-2 dependent co-applicant.
- The current I-539 Application Fee and additional Biometrics Fee – check should be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- A cover letter from you addressed to the USCIS requesting the change of status and explaining your circumstances. Include why you entered the U.S. in your current status, why and how your intentions changed after arrival in the U.S. and any other relevant information.
- Proof of financial support (bank statement, assistantship letter, etc.) equivalent to one year of study including living expenses.
- A newly-issued Form I-20 or DS 2019 from International Student & Scholar Services.
- SEVIS Fee Receipt (pay online).
- A letter of acceptance from UA.
- Photocopies of the following pages of your passport:
- Passport ID page (with your picture on it)
- Passport page that includes current expiration date
- The most recent US Visa page of your passport
- Copy of your I-94 Record.
- Photocopies of additional immigration documents pertaining to your current status (e.g. H-4, E-2 or L-3 I-797 Approval Notices, F-2 I-20s, J-2 DS-2019s, etc.).
- If you are currently in a dependent visa status (e.g. F-2, E-2, J-2, H-4, etc.), please include copies of the passport, visa, and supporting immigration documents for the primary visa holder (e.g. the F-1, J-1, or H-1B visa holder who sponsors your current status).
- SPECIAL NOTE FOR WORK VISA HOLDERS AND THEIR DEPENDENTS: If your visa status is based on employment or as the dependent of someone who holds a work visa (e.g. H, L, E, TN visas), it is recommended to include documentation of the principal visa holder’s proof of current employment and valid status.
- DEPENDENTS: If your application includes the sponsorship of any F-2/J-2 dependents (spouse or children), include:
- a Form I-539A and $85 biometrics fee for each dependent included on the I-539;
- a copy of the documents listed in items 8, 9, and 10 above, for each dependent;
- proof of your relationship (marriage certificate, children’s birth certificates),
- and a newly issued F-2 Dependent I-20 or J-2 Dependent DS-2019 form for each dependent.
Step Three — SUBMIT PETITION TO USCIS
Ship petition to the appropriate USCIS Office: https://www.uscis.gov/i-539-addresses.
Please make a photocopy/scan of your entire application and supporting documents for your files before sending them to USCIS. Send the application to the appropriate USCIS filing address as indicated in the instructions for form I-539.
When you receive a response from USCIS, please report the outcome to the International Student and Scholar Services immediately. Send or bring a photocopy of your I-20 or DS-2019, I-797 “Approval Notice” and new I-94 record to ISSS.