Reinstatement to F-1 Status After a Status Violation

A student who has failed to maintain status (See "Maintaining F-1 status" page) may be reinstated to lawful F-1 status at the discretion of USCIS, but only under the limited conditions.

Conditions for approval of reinstatement

The USCIS District Director may consider reinstating a student to F-1 status if the student can prove the following:
  • The student has not been out of status for more than five months prior to filing for reinstatement (unless he or she can show that there were exceptional circumstances that prevented the student from filing during the five-month period).
  • The student does not have a record of repeated violations.
  • The student is pursuing, or will in the next available term be pursuing, a full course of study.
  • The student has not engaged in unauthorized employment.
  • The student is not deportable on any grounds other than the status violation for which reinstatement is being requested.
  • The status violation resulted from either:
    • Circumstances beyond the student's control; or
    • Failure to apply in a timely fashion for a reduced course load authorization from the ISP office, but only if the violation relates to something that would have been within the ISP office's authority to have approved, if it had been timely done, and that the student would experience extreme hardship if the application were not approved.

Procedures for applying for reinstatement

What the student must do
You should first discuss your situation in detail with the ISP office, who will assess the case; if the ISP office recommends that you apply for reinstatement, you should do the following, and submit the documentation to the ISP office:
  • Provide the ISP office with all the documents necessary to issue a new Form I-20, including, if necessary, updated financial support documents.
  • Write a letter of explanation addressed to USCIS, stating the following: why you are out of status (specify the violation); the reason for the status violation; the effect on you of failure to receive reinstatement; a statement that you are currently pursuing, or are intending to pursue, a full course of study; and specifically request that USCIS reinstate you to F-1 student status.
  • Complete and sign Form I-539 (Application to Extend Status/Change Nonimmigrant Status), writing in at Part 2 item 1 the phrase "reinstatement to F-1 status."
  • Write a check to the order of "Department of Homeland Security" in the amount of the fee for Form I-539.

Materials to submit with a reinstatement application

  • Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
    - The phrase "reinstatement to F-1 status" should be written in at Part 2, item 1, and the word "REINSTATEMENT" should be written at the top of the form in red to distinguish it from other uses of Form I-539. The student should complete the entire form and sign it, and include the proper fee, in the form of a check or money order. Instructions for Completing Form I-539
  • Form I-539 fee, made payable to the "Department of Homeland Security"
    • Get the most current fee amount from the USCIS Website
  • A new I-20, issued for reinstatement and all I-20s previously issued to the student
  • A letter from the student explaining the situation and requesting a reinstatement
    • The letter should establish convincingly that the violation resulted from circumstances beyond the student's control or relates to a reduction in course load that would have been within the ISP office's power to authorize
  • A letter from the ISP office recommending reinstatement and providing corroboration of the situation, particularly when the violation of status resulted from an error on the part of the ISP office
  • Copy of the new financial support documents that supported issuance of the new I-20 for reinstatement
  • Copy of I-94 front and back
  • Copy of identity pages of student's passport
  • Any other documentation that might help to: establish the nature of the violation; or document that the violation occurred less than five months ago; or justify why it should be accepted even if the violation occurred more than five months ago and that the student is pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study
  • Transcripts from all the schools you have attended in the U.S.
  • If you have dependents in the U.S., you must also include them in the application since a violation of your F-1 status affects your dependent family members as well
  • Certified translations for foreign language documents

    Please submit certified translations for all foreign language documents. The translator must certify that he or she is competent to translate and that the translation is accurate. The certification format should include the certifier's name, signature, address, and date of certification. A suggested format is:

Certification by Translator

I typed name, certify that I am fluent (conversant) in the English and               languages, and that the above/attached document is an accurate translation of the document attached entitled                   .

Date                                          Typed Name Address

If a student cannot meet the minimum qualifications for “reinstatement." The USCIS officer will ask the student to volunteer to depart the USA or could refer the student to a judge for a formal hearing.

Filing instructions

Go to USCIS website for the form and filing instructions: I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
Go to USCIS website for Electronic filing: USCIS ELIS

If the reinstatement application is denied

If the District Office denies the application for reinstatement, the ISP office will receive e-mail notification of the denial, and the SEVIS record will revert to the terminated or completed status, and the reinstatement request will disappear.

Consequences of reinstatement denial

The reinstatement denial would have the following effects, as of the date of the denial:
  • The visa that the student used to enter the United States is automatically canceled.
  • The student is permanently limited to applying for nonimmigrant visas in the future only in his or her country of citizenship or permanent residence.
  • The student will begin accumulating days of "unlawful presence." If the student remains in the United States after the denial for over 180 days, he or she will be barred from returning to the United States for three years; if he or she remains after the denial for one year or more, he or she will be barred from returning the United States for ten years.
Additionally, whether the application is approved or denied there is an official record of a violation of status in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) files. Status violations can have future impact on eligibility for immigration benefits such as adjustment of status.

Eligibility for F-1 employment benefits after reinstatement

A student who has been reinstated is eligible for F-1 student benefits such as employment.  If a student had accrued nine consecutive months in valid status before the status violation, that time could be used for purposes of qualifying for practical training after reinstatement.  An accrued period of less than nine months, however, could not be used for purpose of qualifying for practical training, since the nine months had to be consecutive.  A status violation breaks the consecutive accrual of time, and so the nine-month practical training clock was seen to start over after reinstatement if the student had not accrued nine months in valid status before the status violation.

Alternatives to reinstatement: travel and reentry

In cases that have a poor likelihood of success, it may be more advisable to depart the country and reenter with a new I-20, rather than making the application for reinstatement. This would require the creation of a new SEVIS record, with a new SEVIS ID#. However, it is advisable that consular officers may ask questions about a student's prior stays in the United States.
Under current government interpretation, reentry to the U.S. after a status violation is viewed as a new entry in F-1 status. As such, a student would be bound by restrictions placed on new students, such as the "full academic year" waiting period for eligibility for practical training or economic necessity employment authorization.