New York City Your Best Tool for Learning English

Today’s blog is a serious topic. It’s about something that I-20 holders want to know. This information has been personally exchanged with the person responsible for the SEVIS.

Since last year, the SEVIS Field Associate (responsible for our school) has regularly come to visit the campus several times. They come to share the latest rules and visa information regarding the SEVIS, and to check that our school isn’t unusual at the same time.

Aside from that, the one question that we are often asked by students is:

“Will I be able to get the 60 days Grace Period?”

The Grace Period is a sixty-day legal stay within the country following the completion of your program. During this time, a student must either transfer to another school, or leave the United States.

The one thing that students on an F1 visa tend to get incorrect is that they will automatically be entitled to the 60 days Grace Period if they hold a valid I-20. This is wrong.

Not everyone is entitled to the sixty-day legal stay. To receive the Grace Period, a student must meet the requirements outlined below.

Properly complete their program →  this means they complete their program without failing, and while meeting the appropriate attendance rates.

For example, a student has enrolled in a twelve-week program. Imagine they have now transferred to another school in the middle of the program. This transfer is possible, but it means they haven’t completed their program in this case (since they have transferred) and are not entitled to the 60 days Grace Period.

In this particular case, the student has a 15-day legal stay within the country.  During this time, they must either leave the United States, or complete the transfer process to the new school and begin their next program from the earliest possible start date.

If a student’s attendance is insufficient, and their I-20 is terminated by the school, they must leave the United States immediately.

As for transfers, the SEVIS advises that it doesn’t mean “It would be good to complete the transfer process within the 60 days, and start the program at your next school”, but rather, “If you want to transfer during the Grace Period, you should finish the application process promptly and start your new program from the earliest possible start date.”

It is vital for students staying in the country on an F1 visa to take personal responsibility for maintaining their status. (Especially regarding attendance)

Students who come to America on an ETSA are able to stay for 90 days. Staying any longer than this will be an illegal stay and this will remain on their record.

It is highly likely that applications for visas from people with a record of illegal stays will be rejected. Please take plenty of care.

Transfers between language schools are popular within America. As mentioned previously in this blog, it is possible for the transfer process to be completed by the student themselves.

Transfer Process

  1. Before the conclusion of your program, decide whether to extend the program at your current school or transfer to another
  2. If you decide to transfer, choose the school you will transfer to
  3. Proceed with the enrollment process of the school you will transfer to (fill in application forms, make payments etc; please follow the school’s procedure)
  4. Submit required documents to your current school
  5. Your current school moves your SEVIS record to your next school

This isn’t a difficult process, but some troubles have occurred from time to time.

Student has forgotten to submit the documents, and their status has changed to ‘Complete’!

The documents required to move your SEVIS record to the next school are the ‘Transfer Form’ and the ‘Acceptance Letter’ for the school you are transferring to.

The issues that occurred in a certain case are related to this.

A student who had completed their program submitted a ‘transfer form’. The staff filled out all the necessary information and handed the form back to the student. Despite being urged to submit the acceptance letter prior to the final day, it was not submitted. More than sixty days passed following the end of the student’s program, and their status changed to ‘Complete’.

As previously mentioned in this blog, in the sixty days following the end of your program date (in the case of our school, the last day of your I-20 validity is the end date of your program) you will enter a Grace Period.  Students must either transfer schools during this period or leave the United States.

The SEVIS status will automatically switch from ‘Active’ to ‘Complete’ on the 61st day. Once a status has become ‘Complete’, the school can do nothing more. You need to leave the US immediately.

Why is the transfer process incomplete without an ‘Acceptance Letter’?

Most schools mention the following warning on their ‘transfer forms’:

“Please do not release the student’s SEVIS record to us until our school DSO has confirmed acceptance of the student via a written Letter of Acceptance. This transfer Verification form is not a confirmation of acceptance.”

According to this warning, your current school cannot send your record to them unless both your ‘acceptance letter’ and ‘transfer form’ are complete.

Even if you complete your enrollment form and payment of fees, and the transfer process has been completed at the school you’re transferring into, whether or not your record is transferred depends on whether or not your documentation has been submitted properly.

At each school’s discretion, if a student’s SEVIS record has not been transferred despite completing the transfer process, the school may be able to contact the previous school and check the issue. However, not all schools will go that far.

NYEA takes a lot of admissions from other schools. After completing the enrollment process with us, we issue an ‘acceptance letter’ and we always ensure to send the ‘transfer form’ and ‘acceptance letter’ to the school the student is transferring from. We will contact the previous school in cases where the record has not been sent to us.

The transfer process is not difficult, but it’s a good idea to confirm the steps with the staff at your current or future school.

As long as your student visa remains valid (even if your I-20 has expired) your stay in America may be mistakenly considered a legal stay.

The I-20 form is attached to the F1 visa. Your I-20 must be valid for the duration of your study. The validity period is stated on the first page of the I-20 form.

The validity period of your visa is stamped on the visa page.

These two periods of validity are not necessarily limited to one another.

Let’s consider an example where the student has enrolled in a six-month program. The I-20 document states a validity period of 6 months; however, the F1 visa has been approved for a period of 5 years.

*There may be some cases where schools allow a validity period of one year or more even for a six-month enrolment. Each school’s policy differs on this*

The most important thing for students holding an F1 visa is to ensure that they also have a valid I-20. If the validity period expires on their I-20, they must do one of the following:

  • Transfer into a different school within 60 days from your current program ending date
  • Leave the United States within 60 days from your current program ending date
  • Have the I-20 renewed at the current school (this may or may not be possible)

The abovementioned 60 days are referred to as a “grace period”. If a student completes a program at their enrolled school, they will receive a legal-stay period of 60 days.

In cases students are terminated by the school with some reasons, then they do not receive this 60-day period and they may be unable to transfer to another school.

If, during the 60-day grace period, a student does not go through the procedure to transfer schools and remains within the US, their stay will become an illegal one.

In cases where a student’s program has finished but they wish to continue their studies in the US, we ask that they extend their program and acquire an extension of their I-20 from their school. Students should always ensure that they personally retain their currently valid I-20.

The extension procedure at the New York English Academy is as follows:

  1. Complete the application form for the next program
  2. Prepare the certificate of bank balance
  3. Pay the fees for the next program

Even if your visa expires while you are residing in the United States, as long as you hold a valid I-20 your stay will be a legal one. It will not become an illegal stay.

However, if you temporarily leave the country and re-enter, you will require a valid visa and will need to go through the visa extension procedures.

It is not possible for students to extend their visa within America, so they will be required to do so from outside the country or from their home country. Please contact your individual schools for the documents necessary for a visa extension application. The New York English Academy will assist you with any documents required to avoid any issues with your visa extension, including your transcripts and a support letter from the school.

Entry into other countries basically requires both a visa and a passport.

The first thing that is essential for passage into a foreign country is a passport. Without a passport, you will be unable to leave Japan. However, even though you’re able to leave Japan with just a passport, you may not be able to enter other countries. A “visa” is a document which allows entry to specific foreign countries, like an entry permit. Once a visa is issued, it is attached to your passport.

Visas are split into many different types. We will be explaining the different kinds of American visas. The two main categories are “Non-immigrant Visas” and “Immigrant Visas”.

A Non-immigrant Visa is a visa that allows you to stay in the United States for a specified period of time to accomplish a specified purpose. This is applicable for those who are tourists, students, businesspeople or special workers etc.

An Immigrant Visa is a permit to allow you to reside in the United States on a Green Card or after applying to be an American citizen.

Usually, those studying abroad will be under the “Non-Immigrant Visa” category. Non-Immigrant Visas are divided into various types according to the purpose of the traveller.

Commercial/Tourist Visa (B1/B2 Visa): Short-term entry visas for business, travel or medical treatment purposes.

Employment Visa (H1, L, O, P, Q Visa etc): Visas that permit legal employment. These are visas for working within the United States. Depending on the type of work, these visas are split into different types; e.g. special skilled laborers, internal transfers, artists, entertainers, athletes etc.

Student Visa (F1/M1 Visa): Visas for studying abroad.

Exchange Visitor Visa (J Visa): A visa for those participating in exchange programs such as training programs and internships etc.

Transit/Cruise Visa (C/D Visa): Visas for the staff and crew of planes and ships entering and landing in America.

Religious Activist Visa (R Visa): A visa for those undergoing religious activities.

Employee Visa (B, A, G Visa etc): Visas for those travelling with an employer; these are divided according to the visa status of the employer. This applies to people such as butlers, drivers, housekeepers, assistants, gardeners, diplomats and government officials etc.

Press Visa (I Visa): A visa for news media (who are based in foreign countries) to temporarily stay in the United States.

Treaty Trader/Investor Visa (E Visa): A visa for residents of countries that have treaties and investments with America.

Spouse Visa (K Visa): A visa for those who are engaged to a U.S. citizen and wish to gain permanent residency in America.

You will need a visa that matches the purpose of your stay in the United States.

Generally, to study abroad, apply for a Student Visa (F1 or M1 Visa).

All visas have specific accompanied documents.

For example, the J Visa has the DS-2019 document, and the H Visa has the I-129 document. In the case of the student visas, this document is called the I-20 form.

Both the F1 and the M1 are Student Visas.

For general university and language school studies, you’ll need the F1 Visa. For specific professional studies or training, computing, IT classes etc, you’ll need the M1 Visa. Students who attend the New York English Academy will have an F1 Visa.

When entering the United States, you must go through Immigration. (Specific to the JFK airport)

The procedure for entering the United States is as follows:

  1. Arrival of the plane
  2. Immigration
  3. Baggage collection
  4. Customs
  5. Airport arrival lobby

Go through Immigration once your plane has landed. This will be split up into two lanes, one for American residents and one for foreign residents. Line up in the lane for Non-US Citizens.

Immigration at the JFK Airport in New York City has kiosks. (Some other airports may not have kiosks)

The John F. Kennedy Airport is a large airport which serves as the gateway to the East Coast of the United States, with many international visitors. The “APC KIOSK”, or Automatic Passport Control Kiosk, has been implemented to cut down on immigration.

<Immigrants who can use the kiosks> Those who can use the kiosks do not need a customs declaration form.

  • People who have an ESTA and have entered the U.S. after 2008
  • U.S. citizens
  • Permanent residents of the U.S.
  • Canadian citizens

<Immigrants who cannot use the kiosks>

  • People entering for the first time with an ESTA
  • People who have entered with an ESTA after 2008 but have renewed their passport
  • People on a student or work visa
  • People who have been directed by personnel to use the immigration desk

[Using the Kiosks]

  1. Choose your language
  2. Scan your passport on the screen
  3. Answer the U.S. Customs questions
  4. Answer ‘yes or no’ for ESTA registration
  5. Fingerprint scan
  6. Photo taken
  7. Confirm travel companions
  8. Confirm arrival flight information

Once everything has been completed, a receipt will be printed, and you will need to line up for Immigration. This is a simple lane just for showing your documents, and it means there are no issues with your entry. However, if there is a cross on the printed receipt, you will need to proceed to the same in-person immigration examination as other visa holders.

Sometimes this cross is displayed if your photo or fingerprints are not taken correctly.

Immigration Procedures

For immigration, you will need a passport containing the correct visa, and the accompanying documents for that specific visa. (In the case of a Student Visa, the I-20 form). Submit these to the immigration officer.

Having a visa does not necessarily mean you can enter the country. The immigration officer will allow your entry by checking your visa type, your purpose for visiting, and whether or not your documents have expired. At this time, the immigration officer may ask you some questions.

  • Purpose of visit
  • How much money you have
  • How long you plan to stay
  • Where you will be staying

If nothing is checked, the immigration procedure is over. If there are any issues or some of your documents are missing, more checks will be necessary, and you will be led into a separate room. This procedure will take a considerable amount of time, so please ensure your documents are completed prior to immigration.

Please refer to the following video for an explanation.

Please note that circumstances and procedures will differ with each airport.

Once you have gone through Immigration, collect your luggage and proceed to your destination. The New York English Academy offers “First-Day Immigration Support” as an option. There is also a pick-up service to take you to your accommodation.

*First-Day Immigration Support: We will pick you up from the airport and take you to your accommodation. Once you have dropped off your belongings, we will show you around the facilities and areas you will be using during your time here. This is the recommended option for those coming to New York for the first time.