Reasons to Update Your I-20
Important Changes & Updates
Your education is a journey. At different times, you may choose or need to make changes to your academic program, status and more. Below you'll find important information on how to manage such situations. At all times, it's best to contact your Designated School Official (DSO) for guidance.
IMPORTANT: Certain changes involve you needing a new I-20. You are required to report these changes to your DSO within 10 days. Failure to report these changes could possibly lead to your record being terminated and you being out of status. When you know about an upcoming change, report it!
Reasons to update your I-20
- Program extension request form
- If your I-20 will expire soon, apply for a program extension at least 30 days before the completion date.
If you will be transferring to a different school, tell your DSO. In order for your DSO to transfer your SEVIS record to your new school, you need to provide the following:
- Acceptance letter from the new school
- Transfer to another school form
Changing degree levels
If you were recently admitted into a new program at a higher degree level, you need to provide:
- Acceptance letter to the new program
- Proof of funding for at least the first year of the graduate program
Change or addition of a major of study
If you change your major or add a major, you need to report it to your DSO. Once updated in SEVIS, you will receive a new I-20 stating the correct program(s).
Change of funding
If there is any change of funding (you received a new scholarship), you need to report it to your DSO. Once updated in SEVIS, you will receive a new I-20 indicating the change in funding.
If your name changes, provide your DSO with a copy of the official name change documentation. Once updated in SEVIS, you will receive a new I-20 reflecting the name change.
Reduced Course Load (RCL)
International students in F-1 status are required to maintain full-time enrollment during the school year. If you cannot or will not meet this requirement, you must request a reduced course load. Federal immigration regulations severely limit a student's ability to be less than full-time, but it may be allowed in some circumstances explained below.
If you drop below full-time without authorization after the add/drop period, SFC International is required to report this to SEVIS and you will lose your F-1 or J-1 status.
According to 8 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) § 214.2(f)(6)(iii), the Designated School Official may allow an F-1 student to engage in less than a full course of study as provided below.
A student who wishes to drop below full time must obtain the approval from a DSO in advance, regardless of what the reason might be. A student who drops below a full course of study (after the add/drop period) without prior approval of a DSO will be considered out-of-status.
A lack of financial support does not constitute a valid reason to reduce course load, according to immigration regulations.
- Immigration regulations specify four academic difficulty reasons for which a reduced course load may be approved:
- Initial difficulties with the English language (only in the first year)
- Initial difficulties with reading requirements (only in the first year)
- Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods (only in the first year)
- Improper course level placement (advisor must provide explanation)
A student may be authorized for an academic difficulty RCL only for a single term during any one course of study at a particular program level, and must resume a full course of study (see full-time requirements above) at the next available term (excluding summer).
A reduced course load for academic difficulties must consist of at least six (6) credit hours for undergraduate students and at least four (4) credit hours for graduate students.
A student may apply for RCL if, due to a temporary illness or medical condition, they are unable to be enrolled full-time (or, if necessary, no course load).
The student must provide medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist, to the DSO to prove the illness or medical condition.
The letter from the medical provider cannot be dated more than 30 days before the start of the term for which the RCL is requested.
The letter from the medical provider must recommend either that the student be part-time or not enrolled due to medical circumstances.
A reduced course load for a medical condition can be granted for a period of time not to exceed an aggregate of 12 months while the student is pursuing a course of study at a particular program level.
The student must provide current medical documentation and the DSO must authorize the drop below full-time for each new term.
Completion of Course of Study
A student must apply for RCL in their final term if fewer courses (i.e. less than full-time) are needed and required to complete the course of study.
The student must obtain a letter from their academic advisor to verify that the current term will be the final term for the student to complete their academic program.
Change of address/phone number
If your address changes locally or back home, you have 10 days to report it to your DSO.
If your phone number changes, you have 10 days to report it to your DSO.
If this information changes, you should also update it with the Registrar. You can access the forms needed through MySFC.
Change of status
If you have changed your status from F-1 to another status (Permanent Residency, H-1B, or other visa), report it to your DSO with the appropriate documents so that your SEVIS record can be updated.
Regain F-1 status
If you fail to maintain status, you are ineligible for any of the benefits of F-1 status (ex. employment authorization, travel signatures, on-campus employment).
There are two ways to regain status: apply for reinstatement or travel and re-enter the United States.
The process to regain valid F-1 status can be challenging, stressful, time consuming, and financially cumbersome. We want to discuss your options with you. We also encourage you to contact an immigration attorney so you can make an educated decision and consider the risks with both options.
Schedule an appointment with your international student advisor to discuss both options.
Basic immigration regulations
- Be enrolled and attend classes full-time at the school listed on your current Form I-20. Full-time is 12 or more credits per semester for undergraduate students, and 8 or more credits per semester for graduate students. Exceptions to the full-time requirement must be authorized in advance by ISPS
- Complete your studies before the program completion date listed on your I-20
- Keep your I-20 valid by following proper procedures for a program extension, reduced course load, change in educational level, change in field of study, and transfer of schools
- Remain in the U.S. for no longer than 60 days after completing your current program of study or after completing an authorized period of practical training
- Keep your passport valid at all times unless you are exempt from the passport requirement
- Accept no employment except that which is authorized in accordance with the immigration regulations
- Report any change of address or phone number to ISPS within 10 days of the change
Option 1. Travel and reentry
Before receiving an INITIAL I-20 with a new SEVIS number, you would need to provide updated documents, these include:
- Copy of passport
- Copy of student visa
- Affidavit of Support
- Affidavit of Support-Free Room and Board (if necessary)
Option 2. Reinstatement
This option allows you to stay in the country while USCIS is reviewing your reinstatement application and while you are still enrolled and attending classes full-time. This option costs you money and could take between 12-18 months to be resolved. During the review period, you are not eligible to leave the country unless you want to abandon your reinstatement application and choose Option 1.
To request reinstatement, you must meet the following guidelines:
- Have not been out of status for more than five (5) months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or demonstrate that the failure to file within the five-month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that you filed for reinstatement as soon as possible under these circumstances)
- Do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of immigration regulations
- Are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, full-time course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the Form I-20
- Have not engaged in unauthorized employment
- Are not deportable on any ground other than overstaying or failing to maintain status
In addition to the above mentioned guidelines, you must also meet the following:
- The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of your DSO, but do not include instances where a pattern of repeated violations or a willful failure on your part resulted in the need for reinstatement
- The violation relates to a reduction in your course load that would have been within the international student advisor’s authority to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to you
- Form I-539
- Check or money order for filing fee, made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
- Copies of all previously issued I-20s (including from any previously attended English language programs or other institutions other than St. Francis)
- I-94 printout
- Copies of financial support documents
- Copy of passport
- Copy or transcript and current (or future) course registration
- A letter from you requesting reinstatement to F-1 status explaining your circumstances. 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.
- Copy of reinstatement I-20 from ISPS
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the major difference between the two options?
Students who are reinstated continue in their previous F-1 status. Students who choose travel and reentry are considered initial status students. This is most important when considering eligibility for Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training. Students who reenter using a new I-20 will be required to complete one academic year before becoming eligible to apply for off-campus employment.
What are the costs associated with each option?
Reinstatement in the U.S: USCIS charges an I-539 application fee.
Travel and reentry: There is the SEVIS fee, plus any expenses incurred for travel and visa applications.
Which option is the least risky?
Each option has its risks. If your application for reinstatement is denied, you will be required to depart the U.S. immediately. If you are denied re-entry at the border, you may be required to return home immediately from the port of entry.
May I continue to study while my application for reinstatement is pending?
Yes, you must continue to study full-time in order to maintain your F-1 status.
May I continue to work on-campus while my application for reinstatement is pending?
No. Once it is determined that you have violated your student status, you must stop working immediately.
How long will the reinstatement process take?
Reinstatement applications take approximately six to nine months, and as long as one year and sometimes longer.
Change of Level
If you were admitted into one of the graduate programs, you need to request a change of level I-20. In order to do so, submit the following:
- Acceptance letter for the new program
- Financial documentation to cover at least the first year of your graduate program
Replacing your I-20
Part of your responsibility as an F student is to keep your documents in a secure place. If your I-20 gets stolen, lost, or damaged, request a new I-20 from your DSO.
Concurrent enrollment at SFC / another institution
You may be enrolled in two SEVP-approved schools at one time as long as the combined enrollment credits equal full-time.
Even though you can legally enroll in two schools at once, it does not mean that St. Francis College will allow you to or transfer the credits earned from the other school. Refer to the academic catalog or your advisor for additional information.
Dropping or withdrawing from a course
As an international student you are required to be enrolled full-time throughout the semester. If you would like to drop or withdraw from a course, speak with your DSO immediately to discuss how it may affect your status.