This DOS cable discusses whether F/M visas continue to be valid after a break in studies longer than five months. NAFSA's Policy and Practice Committee is in the process of arranging for follow-up with the Department of State to clarify some of the cable's more confusing provisions.

Highlights of the cable:

  1. A student who is transferring between schools or programs, but who does not begin study at the transfer-in school as required within five months of the date of transferring out of the previous school or within five months of the date of program completion, whichever is applicable, is is no longer in valid student status.
    • If the student applies for reinstatement and the reinstatement is approved, then the student's F-1 or M-1 visa remains valid (assuming that the visa has not expired).
    • If the student applies for reinstatement but the reinstatement is denied, the F or M visa is considered to be automatically cancelled under INA 222(g). This student not only would need to apply for a new F or M visa, but under INA 222(g) can apply for a visa only at a U.S. consulate in his or her country of citizenship or last permanent residence.
  2. If a student takes a break from studies and is outside the United States for more than 5 months, DOS states "that student's F-1 or M-1 visa is subject to cancellation and should not be used, even though it remains valid on its face." To resume study in the United States, the student would have to obtain a new visa.

  3. For students who depart the United States for more than five months for activities related to their course of study, such as field research or study abroad, schools should maintain those students in active SEVIS status. DOS states that "Since these students continue to maintain their student status while overseas, their F-1 visas are not considered to be invalid after an absence of more than five months." AMDOC #: 200601007