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Understanding SEVP: What to do if a student loses their F-1 status

Students that come to study in the United States on an F-1 visa are able to enjoy the same academic and cultural experiences that resident students are afforded. But in certain situations — sometime even beyond the student’s control — a student’s F-1 visa can be revoked. And that can lead to issues not only for the student but the institution as well. To learn about the impact of the recent ICE announcement regarding the visa status of F-1 and M-1 students and virtual learning, click here.

So what should an institution do if one of their students has their F-1 pulled? Depending on the reasoning, one of the first things an institution can do is work with the student to apply for reinstatement as soon as possible.

Now, there are many different reasons why a student’s F-1 status can be revoked. But to even be eligible to apply for reinstatement, it must be proven that the violation was caused by something out of the student’s control, such as a medical condition, natural disaster, or error by the school.

In fact, a student can lose their F-1 status if the institution:

  • fails to report status milestones in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS);
  • or if it has its SEVP certification rescinded due to compliance violation.

Simple oversights by designated school officials (DSO), such as not regularly reporting in SEVIS, can cost a student from abroad their chance to study at an American institution of higher education. That is why it is imperative to ensure that your foreign student program is SEVP compliant at all times.

Once a student is ready to apply for reinstatement, the first step is filling out Form I-539, the application to extend or change nonimmigrant status. When filling out the I-539, the student must provide the following information in a timely manner:

  • A new I-20 form that is issued by the school and recommends reinstatement of the F-1 visa
  • Evidence proving that the student was out of F-1 status for fewer than five months. If it has been longer than five months and depending on the circumstances, the student should provide evidence that the reinstatement request was filed as soon as possible.
  • Documentation showing that the violation was beyond the student’s control

Once all of the information and evidence have been gathered, the form should be sent to USCIS for review. And if everything checks out, the student’s F-1 status will be reinstated.

If a student’s F-1 status is revoked for one of the following reasons, applying for reinstatement will be much more of a challenge, if even possible at all:

  • Student does not report to school
  • Student fails to maintain a full course load without a documented excuse
  • Student fails academically or is expelled
  • Student commits crime warranting removal from the United States
  • Student departs the United States and tries to re-enter without the proper documents (passport, up-to-date I-20, valid visa)
  • Student transfers to another school or immigration status without the proper transfer process
  • Student remains in the United States past the program completion date and 60-day grace period

So, what should the institution do if a student’s F-1 visa is revoked and they are not granted reinstatement? The institution must retain the following items for three years after program completion:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Country of citizenship
  • School ID number
  • Residential and mailing addresses
  • Credits, grades, course ID code, and term for each course taken
  • Date of withdrawal from any course
  • Cumulative credits or clock hours
  • GPA for each term and cumulatively
  • Unabridged academic transcript
  • Written application
  • Documentation of student acceptance
  • Documentation of student payment and expenses
  • Medical documentation used to substantiate reduced course load

Failure to keep track of these items for the three year period after a student’s departure can cost a college or university its SEVP certification. And as you probably already know, losing SEVP certification can disqualify an institution from enrolling students from abroad.

If a student’s F-1 status is revoked by no fault of their own, it is imperative that the institution works quickly to remedy the error, especially if it is an issue that could jeopardise SVEP compliance.

And if you need some assistance remaining in compliance, contact us today.