The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently issued a cable to its consulates to clarify whether an F-1 visa remains valid after a student has had a break in his/her studies or departs the United States for a period of longer than five months.
The DOS has announced that a student's unexpired F-1 visa continues to be valid even if the student is physically in another country, as long as the student is maintaining course registration with his or her U.S. university. But, if a student departs the United States and terminates study, then the F-1 visa will be considered to be invalid if the student remains outside the United States for more than five months, even though there may still be still time remaining on the visa. Thus a student who may have been studying as an F-1 in the United States, ends his or her studies, departs the United States, and subsequently decides to return to the United States to attend school more than five months following their date of departure, will need to apply for a new F-1 visa.
The DOS has also stated that a student in F-1 status to study in the United States who is transferring between schools or programs is no longer regarded to be in student status if the classes are not resumed within five months of the date of transferring out of the previous school or within five months of the program completion, whichever is applicable. In such a situation, if the student is in the United States, then the student must apply for reinstatement of student status with US Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to restore his or her status. The DOS stated that if the reinstatement application is approved by the USCIS, the student's F-1 visa remains valid (assuming that the visa has not expired). However, the DOS stated that if the reinstatement application is denied, the student's visa would be invalidated. The DOS did state that there is no automatic bar for a student who is denied reinstatement from applying for and receiving another student visa, assuming that the student remains eligible for the visa.
The State Department cable may be viewed at:
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