Resolving Status Problems

Reinstatement to F-1 status

If you are admitted to the U.S. in F-1 status and fail to comply with F-1 immigration regulations, you will be considered "out of status." In order to regain valid F-1 status you must either 1) leave and reenter the U.S. in F-1 status or 2) request a reinstatement from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). While out-of-status, you are subject to expedited removal from the U.S. and ineligible for any type of employment.

As an F-1 student you may lose your status for any of the following reasons:

  • Enrolling for less than the required full course load (i.e., a minimum of 12 credits for undergraduates; 9 credits for graduates during Spring and Fall semesters) without the approval of your ISSS Advisor.
  • Failing to complete a timely transfer procedure if transferring from another U.S. institution.
  • Entering the U.S. with a Form I-20 from one school but attending a different school, i.e., attending a school you are not authorized to attend.
  • Failing to complete a timely notification procedure if changing from one academic program to another.
  • Failing to request a program extension in a timely manner, or an invalid reason for program extension.
  • Having an expired passport.
  • Working on campus for more than 20 hours a week while school is in session.
  • Working off-campus without authorization. In this situation, you are ineligible for reinstatement and must leave and reenter the U.S. to regain your F-1 status.

Who is eligible to apply for Reinstatement?

If you are out-of-status, you are only eligible to apply for reinstatement if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • You have not been out-of-status for more than five months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or you can demonstrate that the failure to file within the five month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that you are filing the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances); and
  • You do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of USCIS regulations; and
  • You have not engaged in unauthorized employment; and
  • You are not deportable on any ground other than section 237(a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Act; and
  • You establish to the satisfaction of the USCIS, by a detailed showing, either that:
    • The violation of status resulted from circumstance beyond your control (such circumstance might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the Designated School Official, but do not include instances where a pattern of repeated violations or where a willful failure on your part resulted in the need for reinstatement; or
    • The violation is related to a reduction in your course load that would have been within a Designated School Official's power to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to you.

Procedures for Reinstatement to F-1 Status

If you have failed to maintain F-1 student status, International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) will assist you in preparing the documentation required to request reinstatement from the USCIS. The following documents are necessary for this procedure:

  1. Form I-539
  2. Form G-1145  “E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance.”
  3. Most recent Form I-94.
  4. Original Form I-20 (you must sign and date the Student Attestation).
  5. Copy of entire passport, including biographical data page, visa pages, pages with U.S. and foreign admission/departure stamps.
  6. Copy of initial Form I-20 stamped by USCIS, if available.
  7. Copy of Social Security Number, if you have one.
  8. Letter from you explaining why you fell out of status.
    • This letter should illustrate that the violation of F-1 status resulted from circumstances beyond your control or that failure to receive reinstatement would result in extreme hardship for you.
    • It has to include the date you realized you were no longer in valid F-1 non-immigrant status, and the date you contacted your ISSS advisor to resolve the problem.
  9. Funding documents covering all your expenses as indicated on Form I-20.
    • If you answered, "yes" to any question in Item 3, Part 4 of Form I-539, be sure to satisfy the additional documentary requirements specified.
  10. Official transcripts and registration statement for the current semester.
  11. Any other materials supporting your request for reinstatement (i.e., transcripts, registration statement for the current semester, I-20's from previous schools, and the like).
  12. Money orders for the filing fee and biometrics fee made payable to the "US Department of Homeland Security."
  13. Receipt for payment of the SEVIS fee. To reprint the receipt, or pay the SEVIS fee, if applicable (only for students who have been out-of-status for more than five months), go to I-901 Fee.

ISSS will issue an updated Form I-20 and provide you with instructions on how to submit your application for reinstatement to USCIS. Processing usually takes approximately one year, but may take longer, depending on USCIS workload.


Reinstatement and employment authorization

One of the criteria for off-campus employment authorization is that a student must have been in lawful F-1 status for at least one academic year prior to qualifying. If you regain your status through reinstatement, and you had accrued at least one academic year in valid status before the status violation, that time can be used for purposes of qualifying for practical training after reinstatement.

While you are awaiting the USCIS’ decision on your application for reinstatement, you are ineligible for any type of employment, either on- or off-campus.

Alternatives to reinstatement: travel and re-entry

If you do not want to apply for reinstatement through USCIS, you may choose to depart the country and seek reentry with a new Form I-20. Please be aware that in this circumstance, you must first submit payment and obtain a receipt of payment of the SEVIS fee before seeking reentry to the U.S. (see information above for procedures regarding payment of SEVIS fee) Traveling abroad and re-entering the U.S. will put you back in F-1 status; however, it will only put you back in F-1 status from the day you re-enter the U.S. In this situation, you must again accumulate one academic year in F-1 status before you are eligible for any off-campus employment authorization.