Regaining F-1 Status
You are maintaining lawful status if you are making normal progress toward completing a course of study and complying with the immigration regulations outlined below. For more information on the benefits and restrictions of your F-1 student status, see page three of your I-20, studyingthestates.gov or email an International Student Advisor.
- Pursue a “full course of study” at the school listed on your current Form I-20. A full course of study is 12 or more credits per quarter for undergraduate students, and 10 or more credits per quarter for graduate students. Exceptions to the full-time requirement must be authorized in advance by your International Student Advisor.
- Complete your studies before the program completion date listed in item 5 of your I-20.
- Keep your I-20 valid by following proper procedures for a program extension, change in educational level or field of study, and transfer of schools.
- Remain in the U.S. for no longer than 60 days after completing your current program of study or after completing an authorized period of practical training.
- Keep your passport valid at all times unless you are exempt from the passport requirement.
- Accept no employment except that which is authorized in accordance with the immigration regulations.
- Report any change of address to immigration within 10 days of the change.
If you fail to maintain status, you are ineligible for any of the benefits of F-1 status (for example, employment authorization). There are two ways to regain status: apply for reinstatement or depart the U.S. and seek a new entery to the U.S. in F-1 status.
Option 1: 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 issueued 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 International Student Advisor, 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 endorse your I-20 to indicate that you have been reinstated and will return the I-20 to you. 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
- Schedule an appointment with an International Student Advisor
- Draft a letter explaining your situation and bring supporting documents discussed at your meeting with the International Student Advisor who will determine if a new I-20 can be made for you. Allow 7-10 business days for I-20 processing.
- Prepare your reinstatment application following the list of documents below. Submit
your reinstatement application to USCIS by mail.
(The online USCIS ELIS application option is no longer available).
Mail the following documents to the USCIS Lockbox.
- Form I-539 (write “REINSTATEMENT” at the top of the form)
- Check or money order made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” for USCIS filing fee
- Photocopies of all previously-issued I-20s
- Original I-94 (the white card stapled inside your passport) or I-94 printout obtained at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/
- Photocopy of new Reinstatement I-20 signed by International Student Advisor
- Evidence of source and amount of financial support
- A letter requesting reinstatement to F-1 student status which explains your situation and truthfully states that failure to maintain status was due to any or all of the reasons listed above
- Supporting documentation (for example, a letter of support from a faculty adviser familiar with the circumstances of your case)
- Current transcript and transcripts from other U.S. schools previously attended
- Photocopy of passport identification and visa pages; do not send your passport
- Completed G-1145 Form (optional; it signs you up for email/text message notification of your application’s arrival at USCIS)
Keep a copy of your entire application for your records. It is recommended that you send your application by express or certified mail, return receipt requested.
Mail to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox
USPS - Post Office:
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266
FedEx, UPS, or DHL:
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
Option 2: Travel and Reentry
In some cases it may be advisable to depart the U.S. and re-enter with a new I-20, rather than applying for reinstatement. You may do this by obtaining a new I-20 from the school you are currently attending or wish to attend, then departing the U.S., applying for a new F-1 visa if the F-1 visa stamp in your passport has expired, and returning 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:
- Schedule an appointment an International Student Advisor
- Prepare new financial documents and proof of enrollment in the next available term
- The advisor will create a new initial attendance I-20 for your travel & reentry. Allow 7-10 business days for I-20 processing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the major difference between the two options?
Students who are reinstated continue in their previous F-1 status. Students who choose travel and reentry are considered initial status students. This is most 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.
What are the costs associated with each option?
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.
May I continue to study while my application for reinstatement is pending?
Yes, you must continue to study in order prove you intend to maintain F-1 status.
May I continue to work on-campus while my application for reinstatement is pending?
No. Once it is determined that you have violated your student status, you must stop working immediately.
How long will the reinstatement process take?
Reinstatement applications take approximately three to four months to process.
Can I reenter from Canada or must I return to and reenter from my home country?
Reentry from Canada is fine; however, you must already have a valid visa to enter Canada, if needed. The Canadian Consulate will not issue an entry visa to students with “initial attendance” I-20s. For more information, contact your International Student Advisor.