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Regaining F-1 Status

When an F-1 student’s I-20 is terminated, the student loses status/becomes “out of status”.  Students who fail to maintain valid status are ineligible for any of the benefits of F-1 status.

There are two options to regain active status: depart the U.S. and seek a new admission to the U.S. in F-1 status, or apply for "reinstatement" to F-1 status while remaining in the US.

The process to regain valid F-1 status can be challenging. Please discuss this with your International Student Advisor/DSO. We also recommend you to contact an experienced immigration attorney so you can make an informed decision and consider the risks with both options. 

Option 1: Travel and Re-Entry
Obtain a new I-20 from the school you are currently attending or wish to attend, then depart the U.S., apply for a new F-1 visa if the F-1 visa stamp in your passport has expired, and return to the U.S. Note that students who violated status are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation. A re-entry to the U.S. after a status violation is viewed by Immigration as “initial attendance” in F-1 status. As such, you are bound by restrictions placed on new students, such as the academic year waiting period for eligibility for practical training.

To request a new I-20 for travel and reentry:
  1. Schedule an appointment with your assigned International Student Advisor to discuss your options to regain F-1 status. 
  2. Via your online profile, you will be asked to upload copies of financial documentation. The financial documentation must show enough funds to pay for at least one academic year (unless you are requesting an I-20 for only one semester).
  3. Your International Student Advisor will review your request and if approved, will create a new I-20 for your travel & reentry.
  4. After you receive the new I-20, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again, and complete the immigration check-in with the International Programs Office on your return.

Option 2: Reinstatement
When requesting reinstatement, you must establish to the satisfaction of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you:
  • Have not been out of status more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or demonstrate that the failure to file within the 5-month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that you filed for reinstatement as soon as possible under these circumstances).
  • Do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of immigration regulations.
  • Are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the Form I-20.
  • Have not engaged in unauthorized employment.
  • Are not deportable on any ground other than overstaying or failing to maintain status.

You must also establish that:
  • The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of your ISS adviser, but do not include instances where a pattern of repeated violations or a willful failure on your part resulted in the need for reinstatement, or
  • The violation relates to a reduction in your course load that would have been within the international student adviser’s authority to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to you.

If USCIS approves the reinstatement request, the adjudicating officer will update your SEVIS record to indicate that you have been reinstated. If USCIS does not approve the reinstatement request, you may not appeal the decision and need to prepare to leave the U.S. immediately.

Reinstatement Application Procedure
  1. Schedule an appointment with your assigned International Student Advisor to discuss your options to regain F-1 status. At the appointment the ISS adviser will review your eligibility for F-1 reinstatement and will discuss the application process.
  2. Submit the Reinstatement request via your online profile in the Request & Document the International Programs Office. You will be asked to upload copies of the following documents:
    1. USCIS form I-539, available on the USCIS website.
      1. In Part 2, question 1, check the box "reinstatement to student status".
      2. In Part 3, question 1, write “D/S”
    2. I-539 Application Fee, payable to the US Department of Homeland Security
    3. A typed cover letter from you requesting reinstatement to F-1 status and explaining your circumstances. You should explain that the violation of F-1 status resulted from circumstances beyond your control and/or that the failure to be reinstated would result in extreme hardship. Attach any additional supporting documents.
    4. A copy of all your previous I-20 form(s)
    5. A copy of financial documentation that must show enough funds to pay for at least one academic year (unless you are requesting an I-20 for only one semester). Documents should be recent (no more than 6 months old).
    6. A copy of your passport photo page—include any other pages that contain the expiration date, extensions, or any biographical information. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future
    7. A copy of your most recent F-1 visa
    8. A copy of your most recent I-94 record
    9. A copy of your unofficial transcript printed from Workday (click here for instructions for how to generate this in Workday)
  3. Your International Student Advisor will review your request and if approved, will create a new I-20 with issue reason "reinstatement" and provide you final instructions for mailing your complete application to USCIS. Do not mail your application to USCIS without this new "Reinstatement" I-20 or your application will be denied.

Frequently Asked Questions
What is the major differences between the two?
Students who are reinstated regain in their previous F-1 status and the same SEVIS ID number. Students who choose travel and reentry are considered initial status students and will have a new SEVIS ID number. This is important when considering eligibility for Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training. Students who reenter using a new I-20 will be required to complete one academic year before becoming eligible to apply for off-campus employment, OPT, or CPT.

How long does the reinstatement process take and may I continue studying while it's pending?
Reinstatement currently takes 6 - 9 months or up to a year, but it allows the student to remain in the U.S. while the petition is pending with USCIS. Full-time enrollment is required while reinstatement is pending. If reinstatement takes longer than the 60 day grace period after completion of your program of study end, you will not be eligible for OPT. 

Can I travel outside the U.S. while reinstatement is pending?
You should not travel outside the US while a reinstatement application is pending, since it may be considered an abandonment of the application. If you need to leave the US meet with your International Student Advisor prior to travel.

What does each option cost?
Reinstatement in the U.S: USCIS charges a Form I-539 filing fee.

Travel and reentry: There is the SEVIS I-901 fee, plus any expenses incurred for travel and visa applications.

Which option is the least risky?
Each option has its risks. If your application for reinstatement is denied, you will be required to depart the U.S. immediately. If you are denied re-entry at the border, you may be required to return home immediately from the port of entry.

Can I continue to work on-campus, or apply for OPT or CPT while my reinstatement application is pending?
No. Students who fail to maintain valid status are ineligible for any of the benefits of F-1 status.

What if I don't do either option and stay in the US?
If you don’t apply for reinstatement or pursue the travel option to regain status, you will be unlawfully present in the U.S., which is risky. This could lead to deportation proceedings if you come into contact with law enforcement. In addition, you will not be eligible for F-1 benefits, including employment. The longer you are in the U.S. unlawfully, the more difficult it will be in the future to present a compelling reason for new status or visa and associated immigration benefits.