International students on an F or J visa have federal requirements that must be followed in order to maintain legal immigration status in the U.S. In most cases a failure to comply with these requirements means that the F or J status must be terminated by the school.
Termination of status means that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been notified through the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) that the F or J student no longer has legal immigration status due to a compliance issue. This is typically a very serious issue, and students facing a termination should depart the U.S. immediately. Terminations typically occur in the following situations:
- Failure to enroll for full-time in-person courses for a semester;
- Suspension or dismissal from a degree program;
- Failure to complete a required immigration check in.
These types of terminations have immediate and serious impact on the legal status of an F or J student. Other types of terminations do not have the same implication. These types of terminations include an Authorized Early Withdrawal and a Change of Status Approved.
Authorized Early Withdrawal
Authorized Early Withdrawal is termination where a student has decided that a leave of absence (permanent or temporary) from their degree program is in their best interest. An Authorized Early Withdrawal is completed in direct consultation with an International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) advisor. This type of termination does not indicate a violation of status. It indicates that a student, with consultation of the institution, is voluntarily ending their status and departing the country. Students who pursue an Authorized Early Withdrawal have 15 days to leave the country.
Change of Status Approved
A Change of Status Approved termination occurs when a student receives a new immigration status that replaces the F status. This does not indicate a violation of status, but it indicates the replacement of the F status with a new valid immigration status. Common examples of this include F students receiving H-1b status or Permanent Residency.
Regaining Status and Reinstatement
F and J students who have lost status may regain legal status. Meeting with an ISSS advisor is the first step in this process. There are two primary ways students can regain legal status: through re-issuance and re-entry, and reinstatement.
Re-Issuance and Re-Entry
Students who have lost status may request new immigration documents after departing the country. ISSS will issue new immigration documents if the student is still admitted and in good-standing with the University of Tennessee. The student can use the newly issued immigration documents to re-enter the U.S. and resume their studies at the next appropriate date. It is critical to note that re-entry after termination is NOT guaranteed. DHS may deny entry to persons who have previously violated U.S. immigration law.
Reinstatement is an option for students who lost status due to a circumstance outside of their control. Students seeking reinstatement must meet with an ISSS advisor. If the case can be argued as a reinstatement, the student must file a petition to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the appropriate filing fees for adjudication. The process can take 6-9 months for resolution and approval is not guaranteed.