Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”

A Form I-20 “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” usually referred to as simply an “I-20” is in INITIAL status when first issued.

  • ‘INITIAL’ is printed on the I-20 under ‘Form Issue Reason.’
  • When transferring from one school to another, the I-20 will have “Transfer Pending – (Name of School)” instead of “Initial,” but it still means that the I-20 is in Initial status.

After students arrive and begin school, a DSO (Designated School Official) registers students in SEVIS for the current term or session. That changes the I-20 to ACTIVE.

  • You must have an ACTIVE I-20 before applying for a CA Driver’s License. Make sure to request a reprinted I-20 that shows your status as ACTIVE before going to the DMV. Wait at least 10 days after the session has started before requesting an ACTIVE I-20.

Your SEVIS Status

Regardless of the dates printed on your I-20, you are only in status if you are in status in the SEVIS database. DSOs in your international office (for Tseng College students that is Admissions, Registration and Client Services, in the Extended University (EU) Commons Building, on the 2nd Floor) must monitor and report to SEVIS all enrollment, change of address, and much more, during the entire time you are on an I-20 issued by the Tseng College.

That’s why it is important to be in contact with a DSO regarding any of the following. See chart below.

All International (F-1) Tseng College Students
Question or Action Steps to Take
Moved to a new address Put new address in your student portal and contact a DSO to say that you’ve moved and the address is in SOLAR, or come into Admissions, Registration, and Client Service, in EU 200, to submit new address, or email new address (emails below) Must report new address to a DSO within 10 days.
Came into the US without I-20 and received a Form I-515A If you need your I-20 reprinted, request it in ARC.  You must send in all required documents within 30 days.
Changing education level Contact ARC when you have met the requirements to change from one Tseng College program to another Tseng program
Traveling outside of the US See SEVIS – Travel.
Transferring to another school Must transfer within 60 days of last enrollment. See SEVIS – Transfer.
Lost, Stolen or Damaged I-20s Submit a request form to ARC.
Need copy of ACTIVE I-20
Requesting more time to complete program
Want or need to drop below full-time enrollment Never do this prior to getting approval! Discuss reasons with a DSO. Under certain, specific reasons, students can receive a Reduced Course Load (RCL) in SEVIS.
Leaving school for 5 months or more If you plan to leave and return, or you are simply done and will be leaving the US, please inform a DSO of your plans.
 
Intensive English Program (IEP) and Grad / Cohort Tseng College Students
Question or Action Steps to Take
Taking a break from school

IEP Students – must have approval from IEP Academics first. Then contact a DSO in ARC. Also submit a travel request. See SEVIS – Travel.

Grad, Cohort, SAC, OUDQ Students – work with your academic advisor and professors prior to requesting a travel I-20. See SEVIS – Travel.

Academic disqualification

IEP Students – contact the DSO if you are leaving the program / leaving the US or if you are transferring to another school.

Grad, Cohort, SAC Students – contact the DSO.

Employment authorization

IEP Students – Language program students are not eligible for any type of employment

Grad, Cohort, SAC Students – See SEVIS – Employment for International (F-1) Grads.

Not Maintaining Status or “Falling out of Status” Result: Terminated I-20

See pages Arriving and Maintaining Student Visa Status, for Intensive English Program (IEP) Students or Arriving and Maintain Student Visa Status, for F1 Grads and Other Credit Programs for maintaining your SEVIS status. Those pages also list situations in which students’ I-20s may be terminated by SEVIS for non-academic reasons.

 

Result Of A Terminated I-20

  • If terminated for violating SEVIS regulations, students must leave the United States immediately, or apply for reinstatement immediately,
  • Cannot re-enter the United States on the terminated I-20.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents may investigate to confirm student left the U.S.
  • If you have a dependent (F-2), that I-20 is terminated at the same time.
  • Employment authorization stops.

Reinstatement or Getting Back Into Status is Not a Right

First of all, a student must be admissible to, or currently enrolled in, a Tseng College program.

Secondly, a DSO in the Tseng College determines if your request for reinstatement is justified. Not all students who request reinstatement or who request a new I-20 are eligible.

Lastly, a reinstatement request can be denied by USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). Also, CBP (Customs and Border Protection) can deny entry into the U.S.

USCIS determines eligibility for reinstatement based on the following. Students WHO ARE ELIGIBLE TO ENROLL may apply for reinstatement (to get back into status) if they can prove the following:

  • The student has not been out of status for more than 5 months prior to filing for reinstatement.
  • The student does not have a record of repeated or willful SEVIS violations.
  • The need for reinstatement did not result from "a willful failure on the part of the student".
  • The student is pursuing, or will in the next available term be pursuing, a full course of study.
  • The student has not engaged in unauthorized employment.
  • The student is not deportable for other reasons.
  • The status violation resulted from circumstances beyond the student's control such as serious injury or illness, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO.
Ways to Re-establish SEVIS Status Who Can Use this Option?
Leave the United States and return to the US on a new I-20.

“Reestablishing F-1 Status Through Travel”

Students who had an I-20 issued by the Tseng College but it was terminated or completed.

Students who never had an I-20 issued by the Tseng College.

Students who cannot transfer their terminated (or completed) in SEVIS from previous school into Tseng College.

Request reinstatement while remaining in the U.S.

“Tseng College Recommends Reinstatement in SEVIS”

Students who had an I-20 issued by the Tseng College but it was terminated or completed.

Students who were able to transfer their terminated (or completed) I-20 in SEVIS from previous school into Tseng College.

Procedure for Reestablishing F-1 Status through Travel

  1. Receive a new initial Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status" from your designated school official (DSO).
  2. Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee and save the proof of payment.
  3. If your visa is valid and you are returning to the United States within five months of the exit date, you do not need a new visa.*
  4. If you do need to apply for a visa, it is best to do it in your home country. However, some students choose to re-enter the US by entering from Mexico or Canada. You can also apply for a visa in Mexico.
  5. Also, your passport needs to valid when re-entering the US.
  6. Re-enter the United States, from any country. Make sure your passport gets an entry stamp.
  7. Bring passport to ARC to verify that you re-entered the United States.

* As with any entry into the U.S., Customs and Border Protection makes the decision to allow or deny entry. If your visa doesn’t match your new I-20, it increases the chance of CBP officers looking at your record more closely. If they determine that you did not comply with SEVIS regulations previously, resulting in termination, they may decide that you are not eligible to re-enter. Thus, acquiring a new F-1 visa to match your new I-20 is preferable.

Procedure for Requesting Reinstatement While Remaining in the U.S.

Reinstatement is only possible through the school that issued your I-20 that was terminated or completed. A new school cannot request reinstatement in SEVIS. A new school can issue a brand-new I-20 that you use to RE-ENTER the U.S. to re-establish yourself.

To be eligible for reinstatement, you must (1) have a valid passport, (2) show that the termination or completion of your I-20 was due to circumstances beyond your control, (3) not have a history of violations, (4) not have worked without authorization, (5) have not been terminated (or completed) more than 5 months ago.

  1. First, you must be admitted to a Tseng College program – then a Form I-20 can be issued.
    • o In order to be admitted, in addition to any and all academic documents required, a current bank statement or financial support documents, a copy of your passport, and possibly information from previous school must be submitted.
  2. Write a letter of explanation addressed to USCIS, stating:
    1. why you are out of status (specify the violation);
    2. the reason for the status violation;
    3. the effect on yourself if you fail to receive reinstatement;
    4. a statement that you are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study;
    5. and specifically request that USCIS reinstate you to F-1 student status.
  3. You must create an account at USCIS before applying for reinstatement. You will be directed to https://myaccount.uscis.gov/ to create the account if you try to apply without doing this first.
  4. Go to https://www.uscis.gov/i539online and apply for reinstatement online. The form used for reinstatement is I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.” Before submitting the application, you will be:
    1. directed to pay the $370.00 fee, and
    2. asked to upload supporting documents.
  5. You receive notification in your USCIS account when they receive your application.
  6. Check your USCIS account periodically. You may receive important information.
  7. Check your mailbox. You may be asked to respond to a notice or receive important information at the mailing address you used on your application.
  8. SEVIS sends an email to the DSO who requested the reinstatement, and to the PDSO, with the decision. If approved, your enrollment will be reported in SEVIS and you will be in status in SEVIS. If denied, follow the instructions in the denial notice.

    To apply using a paper Form I-539, go to https://www.uscis.gov/i-539

USCIS Often Takes 4 to 12 Months to Process a Request

While a request for reinstatement is pending, students:

  • should continue their full-time program of study
  • should not travel outside of the US (leaving the US cancels the application for reinstatement)
  • cannot work on or off campus, even if was eligible to do so before termination

After USCIS Reaches a Reinstatement Decision

USCIS sends an email to the DSO who submitted the reinstatement request and to the PDSO in ARC after a decision has been made. ARC will then contact the student.

If the request is approved, a DSO updates the SEVIS record and the student’s active I-20 is reprinted and given to the student. The student continues studying in the program or begins studying in the next session.

If the request is denied, the student must leave the US. Denials cannot be appealed.

If the student does not leave the US immediately, days of “unlawful presence” start accumulating and can result in being barred from the US 3 years or 10 years depending on the length of the unlawful presence.

The student visa used to enter the U.S. is automatically cancelled.

Note: Because of the serious consequences of reinstatement denial, students are encouraged to seek advice from an experienced immigration lawyer to help decide the best way to restore SEVIS status.

Sources: Reinstatement

USCIS Website with Form I-539, Instructions for I-539, Filing Fee, Where to File, plus a link to Form G-1145. https://www.uscis.gov/i-539
Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-539.pdf
‘Maintaining Your Status’ from the Study in the States Website https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/maintaining-your-status