Can I Use My Current Visa If I Change Schools? A Complete Guide for International Students

If you’re an international student and are considering changing schools, you may be wondering if you can use your current visa. The good news is that the answer is usually yes, but there are some important things to keep in mind. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about changing schools while holding a visa.

Understanding the Terms: Visa and International Student

Before we dive into the specifics of changing schools with a visa, let’s define these terms. A visa is a document that allows a person to enter, leave or stay in a country for a specified period. An international student is a student who is not a citizen or permanent resident of the country where they are studying.

Types of Visas for International Students

There are several types of visas that international students can obtain, including F-1, J-1, and M-1 visas. F-1 visas are the most common and are issued to students enrolled in academic programs, while J-1 visas are for students involved in exchange programs. M-1 visas are issued to students attending vocational or non-academic institutions.

Changing Schools with a Visa

The process for changing schools with a visa can vary depending on the type of visa you hold. In most cases, you will need to transfer your SEVIS record to your new school before you begin classes. To do this, you will need to work with your current school’s designated school official (DSO) to initiate the transfer.

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You will also need to provide your new school’s DSO with your current SEVIS ID, your current I-20 form, and your new I-20 form. You should plan to initiate the transfer process as early as possible so that you can start classes at your new school seamlessly.

What Happens if My Visa is Cancelled?

If your visa is cancelled because of a school transfer, you will need to leave the country and apply for a new one. This can be a difficult and time-consuming process, so it’s essential to make sure you follow all the necessary steps to transfer your visa correctly.

Tips for Changing Schools with a Visa

Here are some helpful tips for international students who are thinking of changing schools with a visa:

  • Communicate with your DSO: Your DSO will be your main point of contact throughout the transfer process, so be sure to keep them informed about your plans.

  • Start the process early: Transferring your SEVIS record can take time, so start the process as soon as you know you’re changing schools.

  • Get help if you need it: If you’re experiencing delays or need assistance with the process, don’t hesitate to reach out to a lawyer, your school’s international student office or another school official.

  • Be patient: Remember that transferring your visa can take time and that it’s essential to follow all the necessary steps to do it correctly.


Changing schools with a visa can seem overwhelming, but it’s generally an easy process as long as you follow the correct steps. Communicate with your DSO, initiate the transfer process early, and be patient throughout the process. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to switch schools without any issues.

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Q: Are there any exceptions to the visa transfer process?

A: In some cases, you may not need to transfer your SEVIS record to your new school. For example, if you are simply taking a leave of absence from your current school and plan to return after a semester or two, you may not need to transfer your SEVIS record. However, in most cases, the transfer process is necessary.

Q: Can I switch to a different type of visa when I change schools?

A: If you are planning to switch to a different type of visa when you change schools, you will typically need to leave the country and apply for a new visa. However, in some cases, it may be possible to change your visa status while you’re still in the United States. Consult with a lawyer or school official to determine what steps you need to take in this case.

About the Author

Latasha W. Bolt

Latasha is a travel writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a degree in journalism and has been traveling the world since she was a teenager. Latasha is experienced in navigating the visa and passport application process and shares her knowledge and experiences on the blog. Her articles are personal and engaging, providing readers with a unique perspective on the joys and challenges of international travel.

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