Murthy Overcomes RFEs for Students Transferring Upon Admission22 Jun 2016
The Murthy Law Firm has recently received approvals of optional practical training (OPT) requests for students who had transferred schools immediately after their initial F-1 entry to the United States. These students received requests for evidence (RFEs) questioning the propriety of changing schools soon after entry into the U.S.
Background: Immediate School Transfer Raises Questions
As part of the review of an F-1 student’s optional practical training (OPT) application, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) typically checks whether the student has maintained status and complied with all requirements of the F-1 program. In recent months, attorneys at the Murthy Law Firm have received a number of inquiries from students who had received RFEs issued on their respective OPT applications over concerns related to school transfers. These inquiries all involved students who had entered on the F-1 visa and I-20 for one school, and then transferred to a different school shortly thereafter, without registering for classes with the original school.
Immediate Transfer Exception to Full Course of Study
These RFEs asserted that, if a student failed to register for or attend classes at the school listed on the F-1 visa and initial I-20, this meant the student was not engaged in a full course of study. And, in general, USCIS regulations require that an F-1 student be pursuing a full course of study in order to transfer schools. Thus, the USCIS indicated in the RFEs that, unless the student could evidence having enrolled in the school that issued the initial I-20, this resulted in a violation of F-1 status, so the OPT application would be denied.
Exception to the Rule Requiring a Full Course of Study to Transfer
There is an exception to the general rule that an F-1 student be enrolled in a full course of study to be eligible to transfer to a different school. Per Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance, a newly arriving F-1 student has 30 days from arrival in the United States to report to the designated school official (DSO) at the initial school and request a transfer. The person may report to the DSO and request the transfer either in person, or via phone, fax, mail, or eMail.
Similar Fact Patterns for Students Receiving RFEs
The fact patterns of the students engaging the Murthy Law Firm to represent them to respond to these RFEs were relatively similar: Each student had applied to a number of colleges and/or universities. After receiving a favorable admission decision early in the process from one school, the student scheduled an appointment to apply for a visa stamp. The student then was accepted into a preferred school shortly before or immediately after arrival in the United States. Each student then reported to the DSO at the initial school to request a transfer within 30 days, per the exception to the “enrolled in a full course of study” rule discussed above.
Success: OPT Approvals After Murthy Responds to RFEs
Over the past several months, the Murthy Law Firm has responded to a number of RFEs for students who transferred to new schools shortly after their initial admissions in F-1 status. We clearly and persuasively explained to the USCIS that the students relied upon the exception provided for in SEVP in transferring to new schools. We detailed the laws and regulations that supported the argument that the students had maintained valid F-1 status. We are very pleased to report that we have received a series of approvals for our clients in these cases.
Issues relating to maintenance of F-1 student status can be tricky, as there are complex regulations and interpretive guidance. When problems arise, it is important to consult a qualified immigration attorney without delay.
The Murthy Law Firm never reveals details of any case handled by our firm, nor the identity of any client, without first obtaining his/her express consent. We appreciate the generosity of our client in allowing us to use this case as an example to our readers. Please note that all cases are different. Even with cases that appear to be similar, past success does not guarantee a favorable result.
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