Regaining Legal F-1 Status
If you have violated your F-1 student status, you have two options to regain your legal status:
- Reinstatement application to U.S government or
- Travel outside the U.S. and re-enter with a new I-20
- Read the Reinstatement and Travel information below to familiarize yourself with the two options.
- Schedule a 30-minute appointment with an ISS immigration advisor to discuss and decide which option is best for you.
Options to Regain Legal Status
Reinstatement is an option for an F-1 student who fails to maintain status and wishes to regain status without leaving the U.S. These applications can take several months to process and you cannot work on campus while the application is pending. If the application is approved, your current SEVIS record (I-20) is reinstated and you are immediately eligible for all F-1 benefits again for which you qualify.
- cannot have been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing reinstatement (unless the student can demonstrate exceptional circumstances and he/she is filing as promptly as possible);
- does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of USCIS regulations;
- is currently pursuing, or intending to pursue a full course of study in the immediate future;
- has not engaged in unauthorized employment;
- is not deportable on any other grounds; and
- establishes to the satisfaction of USCIS by a detailed explanation showing either that
- the violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control (such as serious injury or illness, closure of KU, a natural disaster, or a mistake made by the international student advisor) OR
- the violation relates to a reduction in course load that would have been in the international student advisor’s power to authorize, and failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student.
Reinstatement Process Overview
- Write a personal letter explaining circumstances why you are out of status.
- Complete USCIS Form I-539 for “reinstatement” following USCIS instructions.
- Request a Reinstatement I-20 from ISS, required for the USCIS application: submit request in iHawk (F-1 Student Services --> I-20 Requests) and upload updated proof of finances
- Pay form I-901 SEVIS fee, if applicable (SEVIS fee is not required if applying for reinstatement and out of status less than five months).
- Submit complete application by paying $85 biometrics fee (per person in application as an applicant or co-applicant) + $370 application fee to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- Processing times are unpredictable (can be 5~12 months).
- Detailed steps on how to apply provided below.
- Do not lose continuity of student status; if reinstated student status is restored.
- Can (should) remain in the US while reinstatement application is pending.
- If reinstatement is denied you must be prepared to depart the U.S. immediately.
- Also if denied, the visa you used to enter the U.S. is automatically cancelled; you are permanently limited to applying for nonimmigrant visas in the future only in your home country.
How to Apply for Reinstatement
If you are not eligible or a poor candidate for reinstatement you do have an alternative method to regain student status. By the travel and re-enter method, you are making an active choice to leave the U.S. and attempt to return. Prior to leaving, you will need to obtain a new I-20 marked “Initial Attendance” from ISS and use the new I-20 to re-enter the U.S. After making a new entry, you will in effect start your student status all over again.
Travel Process Overview
- Complete ISS “I-20 Request” form in iHawk (F-1 Student Services > I-20 Requests) and show proof of finances.
- Pay form I-901 $350 SEVIS fee.
- Travel outside of the U.S., and re-enter to regain legal F-1 status.
- May be a right choice if you had already made plans to travel (i.e. for vacation, to visit family, etc). The speed or convenience of the travel option outweighs applying for conventional reinstatement.
- No application or fee is required.
- Upon re-entry and check-in with ISS, your student status is restored, allowing you to resume an assistantship or engage in on-campus employment.
- May not be the right choice if you are close to completing your degree and plan to apply for optional practical training. With new entry you must wait/maintain student status for one full academic year before regaining eligibility to apply for practical training or any off campus work authorization.
- Face the risk of a visa denial if you must apply for a new F-1 visa.
- Face the risk of your admission into U.S. being denied at port-of-entry (even if you are in possession of valid new I-20, passport, and F-1 visa).
- Pay the $350 SEVIS fee prior to re-entering the U.S., or before applying for an F-1 visa (if new visa is required).
- Reentry to the U.S. is limited to no earlier than 30 days before the new I-20 program start date.
- Must complete an ISS check-in upon re-entry and pay $50 ISS check-in fee.