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Actions that Impact the Form I-20

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Changing Majors/Fields of Study

If you change your major, (i.e. from Biology to History) you must obtain a new I-20. You must inform the DSO of the Center for Global Engagement that you would like to change your program of study.

Requesting Program Extension

If you cannot complete your program of study prior to the completion date listed on your current I-20, you must inform a DSO ONE MONTH prior to the expiration of the I-20.

Eligibility For Program Extension

  • Apply to the DSO for the extension prior to the program completion date, the SEVIS record is updated to reflect the extension before the program completion date
  • Continually maintain status
  • The delay in completion is caused by compelling academic or medical reasons, such as changes of major or research topics, unexpected research problems, or documented illnesses

If you are ineligible for a program extension or fail to apply for a program extension prior to the completion date on I-20, you are considered out of status.

Moving From One Educational Level to Another

If you complete one educational level and plan to continue to another at TCNJ (i.e. bachelor’s to master’s), you must obtain a new I-20 to reflect the change of educational level, which effectively notifies DHS that you are changing educational levels. You must obtain a new I-20 within the 60-day period following completion of the previous level.

Reinstatement to F-1 Status (after a status violation)

Reinstatement to lawful F-1 status is at the discretion of the USCIS and only under certain conditions.
Conditions for Approval of Reinstatement:

  • The student has not been out of status for more than 5 months prior to filing for reinstatement (unless he/she can show that there was an exceptional circumstance that prevented the student from filing during the 5-month period)
  • The student does not have a record of repeated offenses
  • The student is pursuing, or will be pursuing in the next available term, a full course of study
  • The student has not engaged in unauthorized employment
  • The student is not deportable on any grounds other than the status violation for which reinstatement is being requested
  • The status violation resulted from either:
  1. Circumstances beyond the student’s control OR
  2. Failure to apply in a timely fashion for a reduced course load authorization from the DSO, but only if the violation relates to something that would have been within the DSO’s authority to have approved ( if it had been done in a timely manner) and that the student would experience extreme hardship if the application were not approved.

How to Apply for Reinstatement

STEP 1:

  • Provide the DSO with all the documents necessary to issue a new Form I-20

STEP 2:

  • Write a letter of explanation addressed to USCIS, stating the following:
  1. why you are out of status (specify the violation)
  2. the reason for the status violation
  3. how you would be affected by the failure to receive reinstatement
  4. a statement that you are currently pursing or are intending to pursue a full course of study
  5. specifically request that USCIS reinstate you to F-1 status

STEP 3:

  • Complete and sign Form I-539 (Application to Extend Status/Change nonimmigrant status), writing in part 2 item phrase “Reinstatement to F-1 Status”
  • Write a check to the order of “Department of Homeland Security” in the amount of the fee for the Form-539
REMEMBER, maintaing you F-1 status in the United States is your responsibility. You are expected to know and comply with federal regulatory restrictions relative to your status.
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