Can I switch schools immediately after arriving in the U.S. with an F-1 visa?

Yes, but the process can be tricky. Before you can switch your F-1 visa to a different school, you have to make sure that your program at the new institution meets the requirements of the student visa.

In order to qualify for an F-1 visa, your studies in the U.S. must:

  • Be performed at an accredited college, university, academic high school, elementary school, seminary, conservatory, or similar academic institution
  • Take place at an institution that is authorized to accept international students by the U.S. government
  • Be full-time
  • Include a language training program
  • Award you with a degree, diploma, or certificate upon completion

If your new program of study meets these requirements, you can transfer your visa almost immediately. When you arrive in the U.S., you must report to the school you initially chose (listed on your Form I-20). The Designated School Official (DSO) will activate your SEVIS record before transferring it to the new school you wish to attend.

Even if you have been terminated from a current or previous school, the school is obligated to transfer your SEVIS record to any institution you choose. U.S. schools are prohibited from withholding SEVIS records for financial or business reasons. If the school refuses to transfer your SEVIS record, you can contact the DSO at your new school for assistance or seek legal advice to expedite the process.