SEVP Draft Policy Guidance on Conditional Admission, the Form I-20, and English Proficiency

by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
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The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (“SEVP”) issued draft guidance clarifying issues related to the appropriate issuance of the Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” where international students may not meet all standards of admission.   

The guidance provides definitions relevant to the ability of designated school officials (DSO) to issue a Form I-20 to prospective F-1 or M-1 students. The immigration regulations, at 8 CFR 214.3(k)(3) and (4), state that a DSO may issue a Form I-20 to a prospective F-1 or M-1 student only after "the appropriate school authority has determined that the prospective student's qualifications meet all standards for admission" and "the official responsible for admission at the school has accepted the prospective student for enrollment in a full course of study." 

“Conditional admission” is as “an agreement between a school and a student to admit the student into a program of study for which the student does not meet all standards for admission. This agreement is contingent upon the student successfully meeting a school specified set of conditions that will fully qualify the student for the program. The student may begin the program upon meeting the required conditions. The regulations prohibit Form I-20 issuance on the basis of conditional admission.

SEVP also clarifies for its adjudicators how to interpret DSO usage of the English proficiency field on the Form 1-20 in a manner consistent with SEVP regulations. SEVP regulations require issuance of a Form 1-20 for any program of study only when a student has met all standards for admission, including any English proficiency requirement. School officials must notate field 18 on the Form I-17, ''Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student," with any language proficiency requirement if it is a standard for admission.

An adjudicator must verify that:

  • A DSO who determines a prospective F-1 or M-1 student has met the required English proficiency standards for admission to the program listed on the Form 1-20 answers yes to question 1 and yes to question 2a.
  • A DSO who admits a prospective F -1 or M-1 student to the program listed on the Form 1-20 that does not require English proficiency as a standard for admission answers no to question 1. A DSO must provide an explanation in the box in question 2b.

A DSO who answers yes to question 1 and no to question 2a fails to comply with 8 CFR 214.3(c).

An adjudicator may take adverse action against any schools that have issued Forms I-20 contrary to applicable statutes, regulations, policy guidance or the school's Form 1-17, including but not limited to withdrawal of SEVP certification or denial of recertification.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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