Regaining F-1 Status After a Failure to Maintain Status
If a student fails to maintain status, the F-1 SEVIS record and F-1 status will be terminated. The student will begin to accrue “unlawful presence” from the time the violation occurs.
To regain F-1 status, a student has two options: apply for reinstatement through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or regain status through travel and re-entry with a new F-1 I-20. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. Students who are seeking to regain status should consult an ISSS advisor and are also recommended to consult an immigration attorney. If a student chooses not to accept the help of an immigration attorney, ISSS will ask the student to put into writing that the student is choosing not to use legal counsel despite ISSS’s recommendation.
Option 1: Reinstatement
Reinstatement is a process through which a student submits an application to USCIS to request that their F-1 status be reinstated. The USCIS will evaluate F-1 reinstatement applicants on the following criteria:
• The applicant has not been out-of-status for 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 the student filed for reinstatement as soon as possible under these circumstances
- The violation of status was due to circumstances beyond the student's control. Some examples of "circumstances beyond the student's control" might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster or inadvertence
- The applicant must not have a record of repeated or willful violations of USCIS regulations
- The applicant is currently pursuing a full-time course of study
- The applicant must not have engaged in unauthorized employment prior to filing for the reinstatement
If you are considering reinstatement and believe you meet the above criteria, keep the following in mind:
- To request reinstatement you must obtain an I-20 from ISSS specifically for the resinstatement application (see ISSS for further procedural information).
- Reinstatement applications may take up to 12 months or longer for USCIS to process
- You must be engaged in a full course of study while the reinstatement is pending
- You cannot travel outside the U.S. while the reinstatement is pending
- You are required to pay a filing fee of $370 to USCIS for the reinstatement request
- If the reinstatement is approved, you regain your prior status and any unlawful presence is no longer applicable. This means you are eligible for CPT/OPT (if you meet all other eligibility requirements for those programs)
- If the reinstatement is denied, you risk having accrued unlawful presence from the time the violation occurred.
- The reinstatement is program specific, so if your program completes (i.e. you meet all graduation requirements) you will need to consult an immigration attorney about leaving the U.S. before the reinstatement is adjudicated and what happens next.
- Students with a pending reinstatement application are not eligible for F-1 benefits.
Option 2: Travel and Re-entry
The second way to regain F-1 status is through travel outside of the U.S. and re-entry. Under this process, the student requests a new I-20 with a new SEVIS number from ISSS and then pays a new SEVIS I-901 fee. The student then must depart the U.S. and re-enter using a valid F-1 visa. The student should check with the respective embassy/consulate that issued the visa to determine whether or not a current visa will still be valid for re-entry, or if the student must re-apply for a new F-1 visa before re-entering.
If you are considering travel and re-entry, keep the following in mind:
- You must request a new I-20 from ISSS (see ISSS for further procedure information)
- This process could potentially be quicker than reinstatement, depending on whether or not you need to apply for a new F-1 visa and your consulate/embassy’s processing times
- You will only regain status upon successful re-entry as a F-1 visa holder at the port of entry. Entry into the U.S. is always to the discretion of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, and past violations can be considered when the CBP officer is determining whether or not to grant a F-1 student admission into the U.S.
- If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa as a method of regaining status, ISSS recommends you do so in your home country only
- If you have less than one academic year remaining after re-entry, your OPT/CPT eligibility may be jeopardized
- If you may not be able to prove non-immigrant intent at your visa appointment, or you have past violations in your record, you should consult an attorney before choosing this option