This SEVP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is for designated school officials (DSOs) and provides information about how to transfer the record of an F-1 student from one Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school to another. The FAQ also provides information for DSOs when guiding students through the transfer process.
Last Updated: December 2012
1.1. Background information
2. DSO Guidance for Students at Transfer-Out Schools
2.1. What should I do if an F-1 student (outside of the United States) has a visa, decides to attend a school different from that listed on the visa and has a Form I-20 from the new school?
2.2. If an F-1 student with an Active SEVIS record at your school who wants to transfer to another school, what obligations does that student have?
2.3. What are the choices for an F-1 student with a Terminated SEVIS record who wants to transfer to another school?
2.4. If a new Initial F-1 student wants to transfer to another school, what must happen?
2.4.1. How do I transfer an Initial SEVIS record?
2.5. How long must a student with an Active SEVIS record wait between ending classes at a transfer-out school and starting classes at a transfer-in school?
2.6. How long must a new Initial student wait before attending classes at a new school?
2.7. How long can a student with a Terminated SEVIS record wait between ending classes at a transfer-out school and starting classes at a transfer-in school?
2.8. When does a student need to contact the DSO at the transfer-in school?
2.9. When does a student report to a new school?
3. DSO Responsibilities at Transfer-Out School
3.1. How do I set a transfer release date?
3.2. What if the student's transfer plans change before the release date?
3.3. How do I initiate the transfer process for the student in SEVIS?
3.4. Must a new Initial student report in person in order to transfer to another school?
4. DSO Guidance for Students at Transfer-In Schools
4.1. When must a transfer student report to a new school?
4.2. When must a transfer student start classes at a new school?
5. DSO Responsibilities at Transfer-In Schools
5.1. Must I accept a transferred record from another SEVP-certified school?
5.2. How do I ensure that the DSO at the transfer-out school has the correct information for students we have accepted?
5.3. How does SEVIS show pending transfers?
5.4. What happens on the transfer release date?
5.5. What do I need to do to create/update the record for a transfer student?
5.5.1. Completing the transfer for a student who had an Active record at the transfer-out school
5.5.2. Completing the transfer for a student who had a Terminated record at the transfer-in school
5.6. What must I do if there is a student on my list of students in transfer status (before the transfer release date) but the student has not received acceptance to my school?
5.7. What must I do if a DSO has transferred a student's SEVIS record to my school in error and the transfer release date has already passed?
5.8. How can I tell from which school a DSO has transferred a student's record to my school?
5.9. What must I do if SEVIS terminated my transfer student's record after transfer to the incorrect school?
6. Special Circumstances
6.1. How do plans for travel outside the United States impact a transfer?
6.2. What if, after the transfer release date, the student decides to transfer to a third school?
6.3. Can a student transfer with a pending reinstatement?
6.4. Does time at the transfer-out school count towards the one full academic year provision for employment and practical training?
6.5. What is the impact of a transfer on a student engaged in practical training?
6.6. What is the impact of transfers on employed students?
6.7. What happens to a student who wants to transfer but cannot find an SEVP-certified school?
7. Summer School Issues
7.1. I have a prospective Initial student who wants to attend summer school at another SEVP-certified school and then attend my school for the fall term. Who should issue the Form I-20?
7.2. Must I transfer the record of a continuing student who participates in a summer program or camp at another SEVP-certified school?
7.3. May a student participate in a summer camp or summer program that is not at an SEVP-certified school?
7.4. What should I do if a student who is transferring to another school in the fall wants to take a summer term at a third SEVP-certified school?
8. Concerns about Transferring Students
8.1. Does allowing the transfer of a new Initial student circumvent the approval process for a prospective F-1 student?
8.2. Does allowing the transfer of a new Initial student undermine the tracking and monitoring of F-1 students?
8.3. Does the transfer of a new Initial student make DSOs accountable for determinations over which they have no control?
8.4. May a first term student transfer before the end of the semester?
8.5. Is it possible that a student could be school hopping and improperly prolonging a stay in the United States?
8.6. Is it possible that a student could be changing educational objective or course of study?
8.7. Will this transfer process allow a student to drop out and shop around for another school?
8.8. Should regulations require a student to complete a course of study at the school listed on the visa?
8.9. What if a school is seeking to attract students by having lax attendance requirements?
An F-1 student may transfer between SEVP-certified schools. Regulations governing school transfers are in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(8). The transfer process is a way to electronically move Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records and retain the same SEVIS identification (ID) number for the student.
The SEVIS transfer process does both of the following:
Once the DSO at the transfer-out school releases the record to the transfer-in school, the DSO at the transfer-in school can enter information into the Draft Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status." If the record was in Active status at the transfer-out school, the DSO at the transfer-in school can create an Initial record from the Draft record. The DSO may print a Form I-20 at this time. The DSO must register the student and create an Active record within 30 days of the program start date.
If the record was in Terminated status at the time of the transfer, the transfer-in DSO must populate the fields available in Draft before clicking the submit button. The record will remain in Terminated status and the DSO must recommend reinstatement and print a reinstatement Form I-20. The student must immediately file an application for reinstatement with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unless the DSO put the student into Terminated status erroneously. In this case, the DSO may call the SEVIS Help Desk to request a data fix.
A DSO at a SEVP-certified school must transfer the SEVIS records for any F-1 student accepted at another SEVP-certified school. SEVIS records are government property. A DSO may not refuse to transfer records for a student accepted by another SEVP-certified school for any reason; including financial or business reasons. Please note the SEVIS transfer process is a transfer of SEVIS records only. It does not obligate the school to transfer its own academic records. That is a matter of school policy.
Initial admission – The first admission to the United States by an F-1 student using a given SEVIS ID number
Program start date – The date the student’s program of study begins at an SEVP-certified school
Transfer – The electronic transfer of a student’s SEVIS record from one SEVP-certified school to another
Transfer-out school – The school the student is leaving
Transfer-in school – The school to which the student intends to transfer
Transfer release date – The date on which the student’s SEVIS record is available to DSOs at the transfer-in school for update and can no longer be amended by DSOs at the transfer-out school. The DSO at the transfer-out school sets this date in SEVIS.
Advise the student to get a new visa issued for the new school before entering the United States, rather than transferring after entering the United States. This is a requirement in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(1)(C).
The student must maintain F-1 status at your school by pursuing a full course of study or be engaged in post-completion optional practical training (OPT) until the transfer release date.
Work with the student to choose a transfer release date. Base that date on the student’s academic needs, travel and work plans and projected program start date at the transfer-in school.
On the transfer release date, the responsibility for the student’s SEVIS record transfers to the DSO at the transfer-in school. You can no longer have access to the record to make changes or print a new Form I-20. Your school will have a Deactivated record for the student.
Advise the transferring student to contact the DSO at the transfer-in school. The DSO at the transfer-in school will be able to create a Form I-20 issued for the reason of transfer. This Form I-20 will have the student’s new program start date. It is important that the student get a new valid Form I-20 as quickly as possible. The Form I-20 from your school will no longer be valid.
A transferring student must also contact the new DSO within 15 days of the program start date and register for classes. These students need to ensure that the DSO at the transfer-in school has all the information needed to update the SEVIS record, including any change of address. Once a transfer student registers, the student should ask for a Form I-20 that shows the status as a continuing student and that the transfer is approved.
The student has three choices.
If USCIS denies the reinstatement application , the student must leave the United States immediately or risk being placed in removal proceedings at any time under §237(a)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended.
If the student’s visa is valid, the student does not need a new visa if returning to the United States within five months of the exit date. If the student has a Terminated record because of a failure to maintain status or has violated any provision of the INA, as amended, the student may be denied re-entry to the United States under §212(a)(6)(G) of the INA, as amended.
As with any Initial student, the student must report to your school by the program start date listed on the Form I-20 (in person or via e-mail, telephone and/or fax).
For any F-1 transfer, the student first must provide written verification of acceptance at another SEVP-certified school. The options depend on the program start date and when the student enters (or plans to enter) the United States.
SEVIS functionality requires that you make the student’s record Active in SEVIS in order to release the record to the transfer-in school.
For the current session end date, use today’s date. For the next session start date, use tomorrow’s date. Select the Transfer Out function and use tomorrow’s date as the transfer release date. Write "Transfer of initial student not enrolled at this school" in the remarks.
You can make a student’s SEVIS record Active solely for the purpose of initiating a transfer. ICE does not (and will not) view this as registering the student. In this circumstance, the SEVIS record clearly indicates the student properly reported to your school and that you properly initiated an immediate transfer of the student’s SEVIS record. It does not indicate that the student enrolled in classes.
This depends on the student’s circumstances. According to 8 CFR 214.2(f)(8)(ii)(C), the DSO at the transfer-out school controls the student’s SEVIS record until the transfer release date.
On the transfer release date, the DSO at the transfer-in school controls the student’s SEVIS record. The student must begin classes at the transfer-in school at the next available term or within five months, whichever is sooner, unless taking an authorized break or vacation during that term.
A new Initial student can transfer only if the student has a program start date within 30 days of arrival in the United States. See the question above on transferring Initial students.
A transfer student with a Terminated record must report to the DSO at the transfer-in school no later than 15 days before the program start date for the next available term. The student must take a full course of study even if USCIS has not adjudicated the reinstatement application.
The student may want to report on the record release date to file a timely reinstatement application.
Advise the student to contact the DSO at the transfer-in school as soon as possible after the transfer release date. The student should be sure to do the following:
The student must report to the school no later than 15 days before the program start date.
One purpose of the transfer procedures is to keep the same SEVIS ID number for the student. When a student brings you proof of acceptance from another SEVP-certified school, you will need to coordinate with the student to establish a transfer release date.
The transfer-in school can only create a draft but cannot issue a Form I-20 until the transfer release date.
The release date is the date that access to the student’s SEVIS record will shift from the DSO at the transfer-out school to the DSO at the transfer-in school. According to 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(8)(ii)(C), the transfer release date is "the current semester or session completion date, or the date of expected transfer if earlier than the established academic cycle." Among the considerations in setting the date are allowing the following:
SEVIS will not allow you to set a transfer release date more than six months in the future.
See the section on special circumstances for more information that may impact the choice of an appropriate transfer release date.
Before the release date, as the DSO from the transfer-out school, you can update SEVIS to reflect changes in the student’s plans. If the student decides not to transfer, cancel the transfer using the Cancel Transfer option on the student information screen. You can also cancel the transfer and re-enter transfer data to change the following:
Beginning on the transfer release date, the DSO at the transfer-out school has read only access to the student's SEVIS record. The record will be in Deactivated status. After this point, the transfer-out DSO can no longer make changes and will not be able to see changes made to the record by the transfer-in school. Only the DSO at the transfer-in school can make changes to the record.
Using the Transfer-Out screen in SEVIS, enter the transfer release date that you choose in consultation with the student. The SELECT button opens a second screen where you can type the name of the transfer-in school.
If you use wildcards and type in a partial name, you will see a list of all schools with names that meet the search criteria. For example, typing tex* will result in a list of all schools whose names start with tex and typing *tex* will return a list of all school with tex anywhere in the name. This list will show the school’s name in SEVIS and the school code.
Many schools have similar names, so ensure that the school code matches the one you got from the student. If necessary, call the transfer-in DSO and verify the number.
Convey the transfer information to the student. Be sure the student is aware of the transfer release date and how it affects his or her status.
No. The DSO can transfer the record based upon phone, fax, mail or e-mail notification. If the notification is by phone, you will need to have the student fax or e-mail the student’s acceptance to the new school and a copy of both sides of the student’s Form I-94, "Arrival/Departure Record," so you can verify the date of entry.
Follow the directions in the question If a new Initial F-1 student wants to transfer to another school, what must happen?
A new Initial student who does not ask for a transfer within 30 days of arrival in the United States must immediately report in person to the DSO at the school listed on the visa, if applicable.
In most cases, a transfer student must report to the school within 15 days of the program start date. A new Initial student must report within 30 days of arrival in the United States.
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. A new Initial student must have a program start date within 30 days of arrival in the United States.
However, if the next available term is the annual (or summer) vacation, the student may take a vacation if the student meets all of the following qualifications:
The student must be sure to coordinate all plans with the new DSO.
No. You may return the transferred record to the transfer-out school if your school has not accepted the student in accordance with the rules in 8 CFR 214.3(k). This acceptance includes confirming that your office of admissions has accepted the student for enrollment and that the student demonstrates financial responsibility as you would before creating any Form I-20
We recommend that you provide the student with a letter of acceptance and transfer information including the following:
Before the transfer release date, the student’s name will appear on the Students in Transfer Status list.The record will be in Draft status with printing as the only option.
It is a good idea to check this list regularly. Ensure that your school expects all students on the list by checking with your admissions or registrar’s office. Occasionally, a DSO accidentally transfers a student’s SEVIS record to the wrong school. Before the transfer release date, the DSO at the transfer-out school can cancel the transfer. Notify the DSO at the transfer-out school if you find a SEVIS record transferred to your school in error.
The Create I-20 option for that student will appear on the student’s SEVIS record on the transfer release date.
There is not a separate alert when a record becomes available in Draft, so you must continually monitor the Students in Transfer Status list.
When you choose the Create I-20 option, SEVIS populates the following fields in the student’s record with information from the transfer-out school:
* These fields are optional, and SEVIS may not populate them.
If the field is one that is populated by an interface with another government system (such as port of entry data, for example), you will only be able to update the field if it is blank.
You must enter the following information:
There is a button to submit the form once you have updated the biographical and financial information.
If the student’s record was Active at the transfer-out school, the student’s record will be in Initial status after you submit the form. You can print a Form I-20 that shows the student’s transfer is pending. The record will remain on the list of Students in Transfer Status until you activate the student’s record.
This action completes the transfer process and removes the student from the Students in Transfer Status list.
Note: SEVIS will automatically terminate the student’s SEVIS record if you do not complete the transfer process by activating the record. Complete the process within 30 days of the program start date.
If the student does not report to the school and enroll full-time, you must terminate the record with the reason of Transfer Student – No Show within 30 days of the program start date.
If you are accepting a student whose SEVIS record was released to your school in Terminated status, you will get the record in Draft status. Upon submitting the record to the system, the student’s record will still be in Terminated status ( you are not required to accept a transfer from a student with a Terminated SEVIS record ).You will need to recommend reinstatement, and the student must apply to USCIS for reinstatement. The record will then be on the lists of students pending reinstatement and in transfer status.
While USCIS adjudicates the reinstatement, the student has specific requirements:
If USCIS approves the reinstatement prior to the student’s program start date, the student’s record will be in Initial status. Under the Requests and Authorizations section of the Student Information screen, it will show that the approved reinstatement. Subsequently, the student’s name will drop off the list of students pending reinstatement. It will remain on the list of students in transfer status until you activate the student’s record. Activate the record as described above.
If USCIS approves the reinstatement after the program start date, the record will become Active. Under the Requests and Authorizations section of the Student Information screen, it will show that the reinstatement was approved. The student’s name will drop off both the students pending reinstatementand the students in transfer status lists.
Contact the DSO from the transfer-out school and ask them to cancel the transfer. That DSO can then transfer the record to the correct school or take other appropriate action. If you need help contacting the student or the DSO at the transfer-out school, call the SEVIS Help Desk at 800-892-4829.
You can transfer the record back to the correct school. Contact the DSO at the transfer-out school or the student and determine to which school the student actually plans to transfer. It is a good idea to coordinate with the DSO of the transfer-in school to ensure you have the correct school code. If you need assistance contacting the student or the transfer-out school, or if the student was on OPT, call the SEVIS Help Desk at 800-892-4829.
You can transfer the record for a continuing student while it is in Initial status. Note the transfer error in the remarks. Indicate an immediate transfer release date. After the transfer release date, you will see a Deactivated record for this student.
In addition, you can also transfer the record to the correct school even if a DSO terminated it for No Show or Failure to Enroll.
Open the student’s Draft record and look on the Current Request/Authorization Details page. This page lists the release date and the name and SEVIS code for the transfer-out school. If you need help contacting the transfer-out school, call the SEVIS Help Desk at 800-892-4829.
To reactivate the record, contact the SEVIS Help Desk at 800-892-4829 and ask to have a data fix for this record. Be sure to indicate that a DSO transferred the student’s record to another school by mistake, and the record terminated before a DSO could correctly transfer it back to your school.
If a student plans to travel outside the United States, time the transfer to take this into account. The student must re-enter the United States with a Form I-20 for the school that holds the Active or Initial record. Travel should meet the following requirements:
If the student leaves the United States before but cannot return until after the transfer release date, the DSO at the transfer-in school must send the student an updated Initial Form I-20 for re-entry into the United States.
A student who wants 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 DSO at the transfer-in school and return to attend that school within 15 days of the program start date on the new Form I-20.
A student who is attending the transfer-in school with a reinstatement pending on the current SEVIS record must remember several important points.
Should not travel outside the United States until USCIS adjudicates the reinstatement
If travel is unavoidable, DSO of transfer-in school should cancel reinstatement request on student’s SEVIS record and issue the student a new Form I-20 in order to return
Student forfeits all application fees paid to USCIS for reinstatement adjudication
Returning to the United States within five months of exit date
Student with a valid visa does not need new visa
Returning to the United States with more than five months until exit date
Student will need new visa
The student must work with the DSO at the current transfer-in school. The DSO at the original transfer-out school can no longer change the student’s record.
If the student’s record is still in Draft or Initial status, the DSO at the current transfer-in school can use the transfer procedure described above.
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 the last date of class attendance. See the question When must a transfer student start classes at a new school? for more information on the timing of transfers.
A new Initial student who has already transferred from the school will not be able to transfer again until they have started classes and has an Active SEVIS record. The only exception is for errors where the DSO inadvertently transferred the SEVIS record to the wrong school.
No. The students must stay at the school that supported the reinstatement or withdraw the reinstatement application. If the student withdraws the reinstatement , the student can ask to have the terminated record transferred as described above.
When a student withdraws a pending application, USCIS will not refund the filing fee.
Yes, a transfer student can count the time spent studying at the transfer-out school toward any regulatory requirement that the student be "in F -1 status for a full academic year" in order to qualify for employment.
However, if a student leaves the United States and returns on a new Initial Form I-20 with new SEVIS ID (in lieu of an actual transfer in SEVIS), the student cannot count the time spent studying at a previous school.
A student authorized for CPT employment may continue authorized employment at the transfer-out school until the transfer release date. A student who wants to participate in CPT at the transfer-in school must receive authorization from the new DSO.
The student’s authorization for OPT ends on the transfer release date. Authorization for OPT is not transferable. If the student wants to complete OPT, the transfer-out school must set the release date for a date after the OPT ends. Students can request to transfer up until the end of the 60-day period following post-completion OPT, as long as the transfer release date will occur within five months or at the start of the next available session, whichever is sooner.
On campus employment
Students can work on campus only at the school that controls their SEVIS record. With a DSO’s permission, students can work on campus at the transfer-out school until the transfer release date.
To work on campus at the transfer-in school, the student must consult with the DSO at the transfer-in school to ensure the work qualifies for on-campus employment. See the On-Campus Employment FAQ for more information. A student may begin employment at the transfer-in school after the transfer release date.
The permission to work off campus ends when a student transfers. To continue off-campus employment, the student must request the recommendation of the DSO from the transfer-in school and file a new application with USCIS.
SEVP-certified schools must adhere to their institution’s standards for acceptance and for confirming financial ability.
Eligible to remain at the transfer-out school
Not eligible to remain at the transfer-out school
It is important to note that a student with a new Initial SEVIS record must report first to the school listed on the Form I-20 and visa, if applicable.
Therefore, the DSO at the summer school should issue the Form I-20. You may provide the student with a letter explaining that your school has accepted the student and that the student intends to transfer to your school after completing summer school. Provide the necessary financial information. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate can use this information in conjunction with the information from the summer school to make a visa issuance decision.
After initial admission, the student must report to the summer school, as this is the school on the visa. The DSO at that school can then initiate a transfer to your school for the fall term.
The other alternative is for you to issue the Form I-20 with a start date that allows the student to report to your school and have the record activated before attending the summer session at the other school. You will need to treat the attendance at the other school as concurrent study. If you choose this option, DSOs at your school are responsible for the student and for updating SEVIS while the student attends the summer session at the other school. Offering this option to the student is not a requirement . Choose it only if it works for your school and the student’s situation.
Note that a new Initial student must enroll full-time for the student’s first term, even if it is a summer session.
No. If the student is earning credit, treat this as a concurrent enrollment. If not, this is a recreational summer activity. While you do not have to report recreational activities in SEVIS, it is a good idea to make a remark in the student’s record and issue an updated Form I-20. Be sure to update the student’s address in SEVIS.
Yes. If the student has remained enrolled full-time during the regular academic year, this is a recreational summer break activity. However, the student cannot use any credits earned from a school that is not SEVP-certified to count toward full-time enrollment.
It is a good idea to make a remark in the student’s record and issue an updated Form I-20. Be sure to update the student’s address in SEVIS.
Transferring the student to the summer school is not necessary. Your choices are to treat the summer school as either of the following:
Be sure you update the student’s address information. The transfer release date must be before the reporting date at the transfer-in school.
Alternatively, you can release the student’s record to the transfer-in school before the start of summer activities and the student must work with the transfer-in school to ensure accurate reporting in SEVIS.
No. Remember that one purpose of the Form I-20 for a new Initial student is to serve as certification by the DSO for the following:
The Department of State uses the Form I-20 to ensure an SEVP-certified school has accepted the student. A visa allows the student to apply for entry into the United States with the intent of attending the school listed on the visa.
Upon entry, the student must report to the school on the Form I-20.
However, after entry, the student may decide to attend a different SEVP-certified school. As long as the student applies to another SEVP-certified school, receives proper acceptance and transfers within the deadlines given above, the student has not circumvented the approval process.
No. Transfer by a new Initial student does not extend the 30-day period after initial admission into the United States by which the student must report and enroll.
No. After admission into the United States, a new Initial student can apply for a transfer to another SEVP-certified school. The DSO at the transfer-out school is not responsible for determining the suitability of the transfer-in school and is in no way required to approve the transfer (but must allow the transfer). The DSO at the transfer-out school is only responsible for determining that the other SEVP-certified school has accepted the student.
Yes. If the student has been attending classes and otherwise maintaining status up to the time of request for transfer, the student may transfer. There is no requirement to complete a term before applying for a transfer.
A new Initial student must have a program start date within 30 days of initial entry. The student cannot use a third transfer to prolong time between classes.
A continuing student must begin classes within five months of the last date of attendance or at the next available term, whichever is sooner, and cannot use another transfer to prolong the time between enrollments.
If a student requests multiple transfers without making academic progress, this could result in the student violating status. SEVP can detect this by an audit of a student's SEVIS record.
An F-1 student may change educational objective or course of study. The DSO at the transfer-in school is responsible for ensuring the student meets the requirements of the school. If you suspect a school is accepting unqualified students, report this to SEVP. We investigates all such reports, the outcome of which may affect a school’s SEVP certification.
No. A DSO should terminate a student’s SEVIS record for Unauthorized Withdrawal or Unauthorized Drop Below Full Course who if the student withdraws from all classes before requesting a transfer. This student must either apply for reinstatement or depart the United States and return as a new Initial student with a new Form I-20.
The current regulations do not require an F-1 student to complete a course of study at the school listed on the visa. Transfers and changes in programs of study for an F-1 student do not require adjudication. A student may transfer to any SEVP-certified school with an F-1 program that will accept the student.
If you suspect a school’s officials are not enforcing attendance requirements, you should report the school to SEVP. SEVP investigates all such reports, the outcome of which may affect a school's SEVP certification.