When students are admitted to the University of Tennessee, they receive either an I-20 form (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students). These forms have a program start and end date. Occasionally, students are not able to complete their academic program by the program end date. Or they may change their program (major or degree level) during their studies.
When students are not able to complete their program by the program end date on their I-20/DS-2019, they must request a program extension. Sometimes this is also referred to as an I-20 extension or DS extension. Immigration regulations require a “compelling academic reason” and proof of funding for a student to qualify for an extension. Academic advisors must confirm the academic reason for an extension, and the employing department may need to confirm that the source of funding—such as a graduate assistant position—will continue through the extension period.
Important: A program extension must be granted before the I-20 program end date. An extension may not be approved after the end date. For this reason, we ask students and advisors to provide the required e-forms at least two weeks before the I-20 program end date.
Extension Request Procedures
1. The student logs in to the iVols portal and submit an Extension of Program Request e-form.
2. An email is automatically sent to the student’s academic advisor. The advisor must confirm or explain the reason an extension is necessary.
3. The student submits the Financial Documentation e-form via iVols.
4. The student’s employing department may be required to fill out the GA verification form in support of the student’s application and proof of funding requirement.
Once the extension is approved, a new I-20 will be issued and provided to the student. Please note that the student may need to provide a copy of this I-20 to the employing department in order to continue on-campus employment.
What is a “compelling academic reason”?
According to 8 CFR 214.2(f)(7)(iii) in the US Federal Code of Regulations, “changes of major or research topics, unexpected research problems, or documented illnesses”are considered compelling reasons. It is important to note that this list of examples is not exhaustive. For this reason, CGE requires an explanation in many cases so that we can document the reason in SEVIS as we are required to do. Two things are important to keep in mind when providing this information.
1. A student may extend the academic program only because more time is required to complete the academic program requirements as stated in the university catalog. Students may not extend their program to have more time merely to publish articles or to continue their employment.
2. An explanation must provide details about the reason for the extension. It is not enough to just state that a student needs more time to finish the program.
Change of Program
CGE issues a new I-20/DS-2019 to graduate students who have changed their program through the Graduate School office. CGE advises students to work with their academic departments and the Graduate School office to initiate this process. CGE requires students to fill out a Change of Program request in iVols once they have department and grad school approval and have formerly applied for a Change of Program using the forms on the Graduate School website.
Change of Major
CGE is notified when an undergraduate student’s major is updated in Banner and will issue an updated I-20 form with the new major. Once the I-20 is ready, CGE will send an email notifying the student that the I-20 is ready to pick up from CGE.