A student who is maintaining valid F-1 status may transfer from one DHS-approved school to another by following the transfer procedures set forth in the regulations. Simply transferring academically from one school to another does not transfer a student's F-1 status unless the student and the Designated School Official of the receiving school follow these procedures.
Eligibility for school transfer
The student must be maintaining status at his or her current school
The course of study at the transfer-in school must begin within 5 months of the end of the course of study at the transfer-out school, or the release date set by the transfer-out school, whichever is earlier
For students on OPT, the course of study must begin within 5 months of the end of OPT, or the release date set by the transfer-out school, whichever is earlier
The student must be eligible for an I-20 at the transfer-in school
The proper transfer procedures must be followed in SEVIS, within the required deadlines
Maintenance of status at the transfer-out school
In a transfer between SEVIS certified schools, SEVIS itself should reflect whether the student has been maintaining status. If there is no information to the contrary, the Designated School Official (DSO) at the transfer-out school can enter the transfer-in school's name and a release date into SEVIS. If the DSO at the transfer-out school determines that the student has failed to maintain status, however, or if the SEVIS record indicates that the student is not in active status, then a release date cannot be set, and the transfer cannot proceed.
Transfer deadlines and timelines
Transfers must be done within the deadlines established by regulations. If a transfer is not done in a timely fashion, the student will be considered "out of status."
Transfers and the 60-day grace period
If a student completes a course of study (or OPT), the student is eligible for transfer through the end of the 60-day grace period. (See "F-1 grace periods
That is to say, before the end of the 60-day grace period, the DSO at the transfer-out school must update the student's SEVIS record with a transfer-in school and a release date.
5-month start-date limit
The start date at the transfer-in school must be within 5 months following the release date set by the transfer-out school, or within 5 months of the program completion date in SEVIS, whichever date is earlier.
This means that a student can remain in the United States for no more than 5 months between completing at the transfer-out school and beginning studies at the transfer-in school.
Students are eligible for transfer through the end of the 60-day grace period after completion of studies. If the student transfers after completing studies, the 5-month clock begins on the date that the student finished his or her course of study at the transfer-out school.
Transfer for students on optional practical training
For students on optional practical training (OPT) following completion of a course of study, a transfer can be done only if the student can begin studying at the new school within 5 months of transferring out to the school that recommended OPT or the date the OPT authorization ends, whichever is earlier.
Students on OPT following completion of studies are eligible for transfer through the end of the 60-day grace period after completion of OPT. If the student transfers during that period, the 5-month clock begins on the date that the student finished his or her OPT.
Special transfer topics
How do plans for travel outside the United States impact transfers?
If a student plans to travel outside the United States, time the transfer to take this into account. The student must reenter the United States with a Form I-20 for the school that holds his or her active or initial record. Travel should be:
Started and completed before the transfer release date with a current Form I-20 from the transfer-out school
Started and completed after the transfer release date with Form I-20 from the transfer-in school
If the student leaves the country before the transfer release date, but cannot return until after, the transfer-in school must send the student an updated Initial Form I-20 for reentry into the United States.
Students who want to travel outside the United States before or after the transfer release date and whose current SEVIS record is in Terminated status should obtain a new Form I-20 from the transfer-in school and return to attend that school within 15 days of the program start date on the new Form I-20.
Students who are attending the transfer-in school with a reinstatement pending on their current SEVIS record should not travel outside the United States until the reinstatement has been adjudicated. If they must travel prior to the reinstatement being adjudicated, the DSO of the transfer-in school should cancel the reinstatement request on the student’s SEVIS record and issue the student a new Form I-20 from the school in order to return. The student will forfeit all application fees paid to USCIS for adjudication of the reinstatement. If the student’s visa is valid, he or she does not need a new visa if returning to the United Stateswithin 5 months of his or her exit date, otherwise the student will need to obtain a new visa.
What if, after the transfer release date, the student decides to transfer to a third school?
The student will have to work with the school that has his or her SEVIS record – which is the current transfer-in school. The original transfer-out school can no longer change the student’s record.
Adding an additional transfer does not add to the maximum of five months allowed between transfers. A student must resume class attendance no later than five months after his or her last date of class attendance. See the question When must I start classes at my new school? for more information on the timing of transfers.
New initial students who have already transferred from their school on their visa will not be able to transfer again until they have started classes and have an Active SEVIS record. The only exception is for errors where the SEVIS record was inadvertently transferred to the wrong school.
Guidance for students at transfer-in schools
“When do I report to my new school?”
“When must I start classes at my new school?”
In all cases, the student must start attending classes within five months of the last day he or she attended classes or the next available session, whichever comes sooner. New initial students must have a program start date that is within 30 days of their arrival in the United States.
However, if the next available term is the annual (or summer) vacation, the student may take a vacation if he or she meets all of the following qualifications:
The student must be sure to coordinate all his or her plans with the new DSO.
Ø If you are traveling outside the U.S. before attending COC - Go to "Arrival Information" page
Ø If you are transferring out from COC and transferring to a different SEVIS certified institute, submit Transfer/Leave Certificate and the confirmation of acceptance letter/email from the transferring-in school to the ISP office.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security's website - Instructions for Transferring to Another School as an F-1 Student