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Is it possible to have current I-20 in your hand but be out of status at some point?

New York, NY |

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?


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Attorney answers 4


Not necessarily but the fact that your F-1 status keeps getting renewed is a good sign. To get more precise advice, talk to a lawyer in detail about your immigration history

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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.

Answers to questions are for general purposes only and do not establish an attorney-client relationship.


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.

PROFESSOR OF IMMIGRATION LAW for over 10 years -- This blog posting is offered for informational purposes only. It does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Also, keep in mind that this is an INTERNET BLOG. You should not rely on anything you read here to make decisions which impact on your life. Meet with an attorney, via Skype, or in person, to obtain competent personal and professional guidance.


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.

NYC EXPERIENCED IMMIGRATION ATTORNEYS; email:; Phone: (866) 456-­8654; Fax: 212-964-0440; Cell: 212-202-0325. The information contained in this answer is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

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