COVID-19 PAGE - UA International Student & Scholar Services maintains a page for all immigration and travel related questions that current international students and international scholars may have. Leave of Absence & Withdrawal Immigration regulations require that students maintain continuous full-time enrollment during required terms in order to maintain F-1 or J-1 student status. If in consultation with International Student & Scholar Services, you wish to take a leave of absence from The University of Alabama, and thus are not a registered student, your SEVIS record will be terminated for “authorized early withdrawal” and your F-1/J-1 status will end. Unless you apply for a change-of-status or transfer to another institution, you cannot remain in the U.S. beyond 15 days of filing the leave of absence paperwork (except if authorized for a medical leave of absence). Similarly, if you wish to withdraw from The University of Alabama and have no intention to return to resume studies, you must work with International Student & Scholar Services to have your SEVIS record terminated for “authorized early withdrawal.” In order to take an authorized leave of absence or withdraw from UA, you must: • Meet with an International Student & Scholar Services advisor to discuss your plans. • Complete a leave of absence/withdrawal from classes with the Registrar. • Submit a copy of your completed Leave of Absence/Withdrawal Notification to International Student & Scholar Services. (NOTE: Failure to submit a Leave of Absence/Withdrawal Notification is considered to be unauthorized withdrawal, which can have a negative impact on your immigration record) Once Your Leave of Absence/Withdrawal is authorized by the University, International Student & Scholar Services will terminate your SEVIS record for “authorized early withdrawal,” and you will have 15 days to depart the U.S. To Resume Studies at UA in the Future: • If your absence from UA is longer than 2 semesters, you will need to apply for readmission. For those who are absent for only 1 semester, no readmission application is necessary. Please follow the readmission instruction found below in order to be readmitted into your academic program. • Once International Student & Scholar Services receives notification that you have been readmitted, you will receive a new initial I-20 or DS-2019 for entry to the U.S. • You will have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again since you will receive a new SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019. • Current Department of State and Homeland Security guidance, states that if your F-1 or J-1 student visa stamp in your passport has not been cancelled or has not expired, you may use it to enter the U.S. on a new SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019. Impact of Taking a Leave of Absence on F-1 Practical Training Eligibility Since students returning from a leave of absence enter the U.S. on a new initial I-20, they are required to complete another full academic year in F-1 status in order to be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT). If you plan to apply for practical training, you should be enrolled as a full-time student for at least 2 semesters prior to your anticipated CPT/OPT start date. Re-Admission & Return to UA If you are returning to UA after a Leave of Absence or Suspension of longer than 2 semester, in addition to being approved for readmission by your academic department, you may need additional approval if you have one or more of the following holds or issues: • Student Account Services hold (for any outstanding balances) • Medical Clearance hold – All students who take a medical withdrawal must be cleared by the Student Health Center to continue studies • Student Conduct hold (must have letter from Office of Student Conduct certifying eligibility to continue studies) • Academic Probation or Suspension (clearance from the Academic Dean’s Office) Please follow the instructions below to apply for readmission and obtain a new immigration document. Step 1 – If you have been absent from UA for more than 2 semesters, you should complete an application for readmission (NOTE: if you have only been absent for 1 semester, you will likely only need to submit a new I-20/DS-2019 Request Form with required proof of funding to International Student & Scholar Services at firstname.lastname@example.org). For undergraduate readmission, instructions for applying for readmission can be found on http://apply.ua.edu/. For graduate students seeking readmission, please see the Graduate Catalog section on readmission and contact your academic department and the graduate school about readmission. If you are eligible for readmission to the university, the Undergraduate Admissions/Graduate Admissions office will enter your readmission into the University’s computer system and notify you of their decision. Step 2 – When applying for readmission, you will need to submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form with required proof of funding to the admissions office handling your application (e.g. International Undergraduate Admissions, the Graduate School, or the Law School). As a reminder, you must study in the United States in F-1 status for one academic year again to be eligible for Practical Training (Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training). Step 3 – When you are notified of your readmission, please send an e-mail to email@example.com with a subject, “Readmission”. Step 4 – After confirmation of your readmission and receipt of the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form and financial support information from the admissions office handling your readmission application, International Student & Scholar Services will send you a new I-20 or DS-2019. We can send the new I-20 or DS-2019 to you by regular mail, which will take 4 – 6 weeks to reach you, or you may wish to have the new I-20 sent via express mail. In that case, International Student & Scholar Services uses an express mail service that will allow you to receive your I-20 or DS-2019 through DHL, UPS, or FedEx in 3-5 days. For instructions on processing the shipment of your documents, please see this page: Document Shipping Options. Step 5 – Upon return to the U.S. you must attend International Student Check-in and Orientation so ISSS can verify your information for SEVIS and update your records. Probation, Suspension, & Dismissal Probation If you are placed on academic probation, there is no action taken on your SEVIS record and no impact to your immigration status. However, you should be aware that if you are unable to complete your degree due to probation, International Student & Scholar Services will not be able to extend your F-1 or J-1 status on the basis of: the need to repeat of course(s) due to unsatisfactory grade; additional time needed to complete an “incomplete” course(s); or delay caused by academic probation or suspension. Furthermore, poor academic performance may have an impact on future visa renewals at U.S. Consulates and Embassies abroad. Please remember that most U.S. Consulates and Embassies do require you to submit your transcript when applying for a new student visa stamp. Suspension If you are suspended from The University of Alabama, your SEVIS record will be terminated after the suspension takes effect. Upon termination of your SEVIS record, you will no longer be in a valid F or J visa status and you must leave the United States. If the suspension is based on GPA, most students facing suspension will receive notification of a pending suspension at the end of the semester. Information about one-semester and indefinite suspensions and appeals can be found in the University Catalog. Information about Academic Misconduct processes and appeals can be found in the University Catalog. Information about Student Conduct violation processes and appeals can be found with Student Conduct. If you are an academic student and have been informed that you will be suspended in the following semester, please contact an International Student & Scholar Services advisor to discuss options to avoid violating immigration regulations. Dismissal If you are dismissed from The University of Alabama, your SEVIS record will be terminated and you must leave the United States immediately after the dismissal takes effect. Most students facing dismissal for conduct issues face immediate dismissal, which may not allow for any time to take action to transfer a SEVIS record. However, if you have been informed that you will be dismissed with a future effective date or if you appeal the decision, you may be able to transfer your SEVIS record to another school in the United States prior to the effective date of your dismissal and final decision on your appeal. Information about Academic Misconduct processes and appeals can be found in the University Catalog. Information about Student Conduct violation processes and appeals can be found with Student Conduct. Please contact an International Student & Scholar Services advisor as soon as you learn that you are facing dismissal from UA to avoid violating immigration regulations. Loss of Status, Unlawful Presence, and Eligibility to Enroll UNLAWFUL PRESENCE – UPDATE: Permanent Injunction on Unlawful Presence Issued on February 6, 2020. On August 9th, 2018, USCIS released final guidance regarding unlawful presence. This August 9, 2018 guidance changed the effects of falling out of status as an F or J visa holder. The enforcement of the rule is currently under injunction as of February 6, 2020. Despite the injunction, students who have fallen out of status may need to consult with an experienced immigration attorney regarding the accrual of unlawful presence. A list of recognized immigration attorneys can be found online at https://www.ailalawyer.com/. Additional information about the Unlawful Presence Policy can be found on the NAFSA Website. Applying for Reinstatement While unlawful presence accrual is under injunction as of February 6, 2020, if you have fallen out of status, or believe you may have fallen out of status, please work with International Student & Scholar Services immediately to discuss your options regarding Reinstatement. You will need to resolve your status issue in order to be able to continue studies at The University of Alabama. Effect of Loss of Status on Eligibility to Enroll Under Alabama law (Act 2011-535), all international students must have lawful status in order to enroll at any Alabama public institution. If a student were to lose visa status, continued enrollment would not be possible until visa status and enrollment eligibility were resolved. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact International Student and Scholar Services at 205-348-5402 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. F-1 Reinstatement Overview of Reinstatement A student who has failed to maintain F-1 student status and wishes to continue studying at (or transfer to) the University of Alabama must regain valid status. One way to regain F-1 student status is to apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for reinstatement. Alternatively, students may leave the US and reenter using a new I-20 with a new SEVIS number. Traveling abroad and reentering the U.S. on a new I-20 is often the fastest and best option for getting back in-status since I-539 reinstatement applications can take months to process at USCIS. Either option to regain status should be discussed with an advisor at International Student and Scholar Services in detail. (Those planning to transfer to another institution must apply for reinstatement through the new school using the I-20 from that school.) Reasons why a student may fall out of F-1 student status: Failure to extend I-20 before the expiration deadline Failure to complete the F-1 transfer procedure in a timely manner Failure to receive prior written authorization from ISSS to take less than a full course of study for an excusable academic or medical reason under USCIS regulations Suspension or dismissal from the University Unauthorized employment Note: A student who works without authorization is not eligible for reinstatement. If you think that you may be out of status, please visit ISSS immediately. The longer you wait to address the problem, the more difficult it can become. If you have fallen out of status, new rules introduced on August 8, 2018 now mean that you will accumulate unlawful presence, and this must be discussed prior to any decision to seek reinstatement. Furthermore, only students in valid F-1 status are eligible for F-1 benefits from the USCIS (e.g. authorization to work on-campus, practical training work authorization). Eligibility for Reinstatement Under federal USCIS regulation 8 CFR 214.2(f)(16), an F-1 student is only eligible for reinstatement if all of the following conditions apply to the student: 1. Has not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or the failure to file within the 5 month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that the student filed the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances) 2. Does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of [USCIS] regulations 3. Is currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the Form I-20 4. Has not engaged in unauthorized employment 5. Is not deportable on any ground other than section 237(a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Act 6. Establishes to the satisfaction of the [USCIS], in detail showing, either that: a. The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO, but do not include instances where a pattern of violations or where a willful failure on the part of the student resulted in the need for reinstatement, or b. The violation relates to a reduction in the student’s course load that would have been within a DSO’s power to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student ISSS will assist students with a reinstatement petition only if all of the conditions above apply. Students who do not meet the above eligibility requirements will need to consult with a US immigration attorney. Procedure for Reinstatement of F-1 Student Status IMPORTANT NOTE: Once the I-539 reinstatement 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. Only once the I-539 reinstatement 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, if your F-1 visa has expired, 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). Step One — Meet with an ISSS advisor to assess your eligibility for reinstatement. Complete and submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form with required proof of funding. Step Two — Prepare the following documents: 1. USCIS form I-539, available on the USCIS web site at: http://www.uscis.gov/i-539/. 2. I-539 Application Fee (http://www.uscis.gov/i-539/), payable to the US Department of Homeland Security 3. A cover letter from you requesting reinstatement to F-1 status and explaining your circumstances. Provide a clear and detailed timeline which explains when you violated your status, which date you notified International Student and Scholar Services, and what steps you took to get back in status. You should explain that the violation of F-1 status resulted from circumstances beyond your control and/or that the failure to be reinstated would result in extreme hardship. Attach any additional supporting documents. 4. A new SEVIS I-20 issued by The University of Alabama International Student and Scholar Services for purposes of reinstatement (signed by you and a ISSS advisor) 5. A photocopy of your previous I-20 form(s) 6. A photocopy of your financial support documents to show evidence of continued funding—documents should be recent (no more than 12 months old) 7. A photocopy of your passport photo page—include any other pages that contain the expiration date, extensions, or any biographical information. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future. 8. A photocopy of your most recent visa (stamp), used to enter the US 9. A copy of your I-94 Record, available from: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home 10. An original transcript and printout of your course registration/confirmation of full-time status from MyBama Step Three — Meet with ISSS advisor to review final application for reinstatement Step Four — Mail the Petition to USCIS Mailing Your Application Photocopy your complete application for your personal records. We advise that you send your completed application by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested or by express mail with tracking. For the mailing address and instructions, refer to the I-539 application at http://www.uscis.gov/i-539/. Note: Be sure to address the envelope with a reference to F-1 Reinstatement. The USCIS National Customer Service Center telephone number (800) 375-5283 is needed if you will be sending your application by courier service. Final Considerations • A decision to reinstate an individual to F-1 student status is at the discretion of the USCIS. • Processing times at USCIS vary greatly. Expect to wait 3-7 months or longer before receiving a decision. • You are NOT eligible for any F-1 student benefits, such as practical training employment authorization or working on campus, unless the USCIS reinstates you to F-1 student status. • Travel outside the US while a reinstatement application is pending may be considered an abandonment of the application. If you need to leave the US while your application is pending, you must meet with a ISSS advisor prior to travel. • If the application is approved, USCIS will endorse the new I-20 form and return it to the mailing address listed on the I-539 form. ISSS will contact you if we receive any updates on your behalf. Please also contact ISSS when you receive information from USCIS. (F-2 dependent status is automatically reinstated with the reinstatement of the F-1 student.) • If the application is denied, you will begin to accrue days of unlawful presence in the US (accrual of more than 180 days of unlawful presence could subject a person to a 3-year or 10-year bar from reentering the US.). Students who are denied reinstatement have the option to file and appeal with the USCIS, but we strongly encourage these students to hire a competent immigration attorney. J-1 Reinstatement Reinstatement to valid program status becomes necessary when 1) an exchange visitor’s participation in his or her program has somehow interrupted or ended; or 2) the participant remains in the United States beyond the program end date indicated on the current Form DS-2019. Regulatory violations requiring reinstatement of the visitor’s status are classified as: minor or technical infractions, which are considered to be a “correction of the record,” and which the responsible officer may adjust without prior authorization of the Department of State; substantive, which require the authorization of the Department of State prior to adjustment; and non-reinstatable. Minor or Technical Infractions These include, but are not limited to, failure to 1) extend a participant’s program before the end date on the Form DS-2019; 2) process a program transfer prior to the end date on the Form DS-2019; or 3) receive approval and an amended Form DS-2019 prior to accepting an honorarium or other type of payment for an allowable activity. The Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer may correct the participant’s record within 120 days of the stated end date of the participant’s program by issuing a new Form DS-2019 that (1) shows continued authorized stay without interruption; (2) indicates the appropriate purpose code and the additional notation “correct the record”; and (3) is dated as of the date the adjusted Form DS-2019 is executed. Substantive Infractions These include, but are not limited to, (1) failure to maintain valid program status for more than 120 calendar days after the program end date indicated on the Form DS-2019 and (2) if the participant is a student, failure to maintain a full course of study without prior consultation with (and approval of) the Responsible Officer or the Alternate Responsible Officer of the sponsor and with the student’s academic advisor. The Responsible Officer must apply to the Department of State for reinstatement on behalf of the participant. The petition should include (1) all copies of the participant’s Forms DS-2019 issued to date; (2) a new, completed Form DS-2019, showing the new program end date; a (3) copy of the receipt showing that the SEVIS fee has been paid; and (4) a written statement with supporting documentation justifying the request. The statement should (1) declare that the exchange visitor is pursuing at all times the activity for which s/he entered the United States, (2) confirm that the participant’s failure to maintain valid program status was due to circumstances beyond his or her control or to administrative delay or oversight; and (3) demonstrate it would be an unusual hardship to the participant if the Department of State does not grant the reinstatement to valid program status. A nonrefundable fee of $198 is payable to the US Department of State. Program regulations provide additional information on the application process for reinstatement petitions due to substantive infractions. Non-Reinstatable Infractions The following infractions preclude reinstatement. Applications for reinstatement submitted to the Department of State showing any of these infractions will be denied: willful and knowing failure to comply with program insurance requirements; unauthorized employment; involuntary suspension or termination from the most recent exchange visitor program; failure to maintain valid program status for more than 270 calendar days; receipt of a favorable recommendation from the Department of State on an application for waiver of section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 USC 1182(e); and failure to pay the SEVIS fee.