SEVP has published proposed policies regarding F-1 temporary absence that would affect your school and students. It is urgent that you submit your feedback by November 16, 2013. The draft guidance and instructions for submitting feedback are available at Study in the States. SEVP’s broadcast message alerting SEVIS users to this comment opportunity indicated that to comment on the guidance, “e-mail SEVPFeedback@ice.dhs.gov with the title of the guidance in the subject line. Comments for each guidance document must be in a separate e-mail.”
Following is IETS’s assessment of the impact such policies could have on your school and students:
Regulation: 8 CFR 214.2(f)(4): “An F-1 student returning to the U.S. from a temporary absence of 5 months or less may be readmitted for attendance at a Service-approved educational institution, if the student presents:
(i) A current SEVIS Form I-20…., properly endorsed by the DSO for reentry if there has been no substantive change to the most recent Form I-20 information; or
(ii) A new SEVIS Form I-20…, if there has been a substantive change in the information on the student’s most recent Form I-20 information, such as in the case of a student who has changed the major area of study, who intends to transfer to another Service approve institution or who has advanced to a higher level of study.”
Impact of SEVP Draft Policy Guidance:
Articulates the current SEVP “workaround” for correcting the SEVIS status of a student who is authorized an early withdrawal from school from Terminated to Active upon notification to the school of intent to resume studies in 5 months or less.
1. Students who do not contact the DSO and obtain an Authorized Early Withdrawal Temination are treated differently even if returning within the legally permitted 5 months or less.
· Why the limitation to Authorized Early Withdrawal Terminations? Regulation allows an F-1 student to be readmitted provided returning to U.S. in less than five months.
· Students facing personal emergencies do not always think about getting DSO authorization to “withdraw.”
· There is no regulatory requirement that a student must request DSO authorization to withdraw from school. A student may leave school under any circumstances with or without notifying anyone according to regulation.
2. Requires the F-1 student to “intend to return”
· The student may have no clear plan at the time of departure. The regulation does not require any intention to return at the time of departure; it simply requires that the student return in less than five months with the appropriate I-20.
3. Requires the F-1 student to “resume the program of study.”
· Regulation specifically allows an F-1 student to transfer schools and change education levels/programs.
4. Returning to the United States is based on obtaining an Authorized Early Withdrawal Termination.
· A student who was Terminated for “Unauthorized Withdrawal” or “Failure to Enroll” who can demonstrate a timely departure from the U.S. and an absence of less than five months should equally qualify for readmission for attendance in accordance with the Temporary Absence regulation. This would allow the breadth of applicability to more scenarios when students need or wish to interrupt their studies that the current regulation allows rather than narrow them.