How to Regain F-1 Status
F-1 students who have been terminated or fallen out-of-status can regain status in two ways:
- Leave the U.S. and re-enter on a brand new “Initial Attendance” I-20 document with a new SEVIS ID number
- Apply to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) for reinstatement. The Study in the States website has a good article that summarizes the reinstatement process.
If you think you need to take steps to regain your status, please read the information below and contact ISSS if you have any questions or concerns. ISSS recommends that all students who have fallen out of status consult with an experienced immigration attorney regarding their options to regain status.
Regain Status through travel
An F-1 student can regain status by traveling outside of the U.S. and returning on a brand new “Initial Attendance” I-20 document issued by ISSS. This method of regaining status is usually much faster than applying for reinstatement through USCIS. However, all travel carries some risk. Please review the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Travel FAQ page regarding re-entry for F-1 non-immigrants for further details.
Submit Returning from Leave Request in the ISSS Portal as soon as you are certain of your plans to regain status through travel. ISSS will review your request and, if approved, issue you a new “Initial Attendance” I-20 document. Because you will have a new “Initial” F-1 record, the rules for new students apply to you:
- You cannot enter the U.S. more than 30 days prior to the Program Start Date on your new I-20
- You will not be eligible for off-campus work authorization (CPT/OPT) until you have completed a full academic year after your return.
When returning to the U.S., you will need your:
- New “Initial Attendance” I-20 document with new SEVIS ID
- SEVIS Fee Receipt for your new SEVIS ID
- Because you were issued a new SEVIS ID, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee again
- Go to https://fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.html pay the fee and print your receipt
- Valid F-1 visa
- You do not need to apply for a new visa, if your current F-1 visa is still valid
- Valid passport
After returning to campus, you must submit an ISSS Check-In Request in the ISSS Portal so that your SEVIS record can be activated.
Reinstatement through USCIS
An F-1 student can regain status by applying to USCIS with a “Request Reinstatement” I-20 document issued by ISSS. Keep in mind that this process can take 9-12 months or possibly more. While your application is pending, you must be enrolled full-time. However, you do not have any benefits associated with F-1 status and cannot work on or off campus .
You are only eligible for reinstatement through USCIS if you meet ALL of the following criteria:
- You have not been out of status for more than 5 months (the only exception to this rule is if you can prove that the delay in filing was the result of exceptional circumstances and you filed as promptly as possible)
- You do not have a record of repeated status violations
- You have not engaged in any unauthorized employment
- You are not deportable on any other grounds
- You are currently pursuing or intend to pursue a full course of study in the immediate future
- You can establish that the status violation occurred due to circumstances beyond your control
- Examples include: natural disaster, serious illness, closure of the institution
How to Apply
The reinstatement application process is two-step. First you must apply to ISSS for your new I-20 document and then you must apply to USCIS.
ISSS must first recommend you for reinstatement before you can apply to USCIS. We show our recommendation by creating your new “Reinstatement Requested” I-20 Document.
To apply for your new “Reinstatement Requested” I-20 you must first notify ISSS of your intention to file for reinstatement. ISSS will manually add a Reinstatement Request to your ISSS Portal account. You will need to login to the ISSS Portal and click on the request in your Control Center, complete all fields, and submit the request.
ISSS will carefully review your request to determine whether you meet the eligibility requirements listed above. If we find that you are eligible, your request will be approved, and you will receive your new I-20 document. Be sure to sign your new document when you receive it.
After you have your new “Reinstatement Requested” I-20 document from ISSS, you can apply to USCIS for reinstatement of your F-1 status by filing Form I-539. This form can now be filed online .
ISSS will not review I-539 applications as you (as the applicant) are responsible for the completeness and accuracy of your application. The following checklist is provided for your convenience. It should not be viewed as legal advice and is not meant to replace the official instructions listed on the USCIS website. Please visit https://www.uscis.gov/i-539 for the most up-to-date and complete filing information and instructions.
USCIS Application Checklist:
- Form I-539 - https://www.uscis.gov/i-539
- In Part 2; question 1 - Check the box for “Reinstatement to student status”
- In Part 3; question 1 – Write “D/S” in the date field
- In part 4; question 12 – mark “Yes”
- Write “REINSTATEMENT” at the top of the form (not applicable, if filing online)
- Filing Fee – details can be found at https://www.uscis.gov/i-539
- Must pay for both filing fee AND biometric fee
- Check or money orders should be written out to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" (not applicable, if filing online)
- If paying with credit card, include Form G-1450 in your application (not applicable, if filing online)
- Copy of new I-20 with issuance reason: "Reinstatement Requested"
- Before copying or scanning the I-20, the student must sign the form where required.
- A cover letter/letter of explanation written and signed by the student
- The letter should explain the situation and request reinstatement of your F-1 status.
- You should explain clearly and in detail how you violated your status and the circumstances beyond your control that caused the status violation.
- Supporting documentation to substantiate the explanation given in your letter
- Copies of your F-1 Proof of Finances and supporting financial documents
- Proof of enrollment in a full course of study.
- School transcript and copy of your class schedule for the current/next session
- Copies of all previous I-20s
- Copy of F-1 visa
- Copy of passport
- Copy of your electronic I-94 printout
- Copy of the SEVIS I-901 fee payment receipt
If filing via mail, you must mail the I-539 and supporting documents to the correct USCIS filing address; ISSS recommends you make file copies of all documents before sending to USCIS; Use a receipt-based mailing option with tracking, so that there will be evidence that the documents were received by USCIS.