I am sometimes paranoid about my F-1 student visa in US because many people tell scary stories about unlawful presence or out of status etc. In the course of being in US I have switched (transferred) between 4 schools. But as far as I know my DSOs have done all the paperwork within 60 day grace period. Currently, I have valid I-20 and am enrolled in a school as lawful F-1 student (my visa stamp is D/S) (I started the classes within 5 months after my last attendance date and kept good attendance as SEVIS requires)
I am guessing that SEVIS would NOT allow the transfers if I were to be out of status and the fact that I have current, valid I-20 says that I will not have a problem with USCIS in the future if I want to change my status, AM I RIGHT??? Does SEVIS work this way?
Yes, if you stop attending school. In F1 visa context unlawful presence is not an issue unless determination is made by USCIS that renders you out of status. This holds true all the way to the immigration court where it does not hold true any longer. Conclusion - study well and avoid situations which would land you in front of an immigration judge.
A current SEVIS enrollment does not equate with compliance with all conditions of F-1 status. As an example, if a F-1 status holder works without authorization the act of taking employment is a violation of the terms of the student status and could cause serious problems during subsequent cos/aos processing. If you have questions about the restrictions of the F-1 status talk to your student advisors and to an immigration attorney.
It's not as simple as just attending class and doing the new I-20/SEVIS forms/updates.
I suggest you go and meet with the school's Foreign Student Adviser (the one who signed your most recent I-20) and have a chat with him/her to learn ALL the rules regarding being 'in status'.
As for unlawful presence, there is a special (and complicated) rule that applies for students. Simply put ... you need a judge or immigration to declare you unlawfully present ... in writing.
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