Failure to maintain proper F-1 status results in the termination of your I-20. International students in this situation should apply for reinstatement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). You will want to make an appointment with the International Services office.
A student might “fall out of status” in one of these common situations:
- Failure to maintain full-time enrollment during required terms (without a valid exception as defined by DHS regulations)
- Failure to complete the I-20 transfer procedure on time when changing schools or degree programs
- Failure to apply for an extension of program before the I-20 expires
You will want to meet with International Services as soon as possible in order to discuss your options.
If you have failed to maintain status, you may apply for reinstatement to lawful status at the discretion of DHS, but only under limited conditions specified by federal regulations. In general, to be eligible for reinstatement, the student must:
- Not be out of status for more than five months at the time of filing or show the exceptional circumstance that prevented filing in that time frame.
- Not have a record of repeated or willful violations of regulations.
- Not have worked without authorization.
- Be pursuing or intend to pursue a full course of study in the immediate future at your school.
- Not be deportable for any reason other than failing to maintain F-1 or M-1 status.
- Be able to show that:
- Circumstances beyond the student’s control caused the status violation.
- Student fell below a full course load for a reason the DSO could have used to authorize a reduced course load, and the student would experience extreme hardship, if the student fails to get reinstatement.
You are not in legal F-1 status again until your application for reinstatement is approved. Until then, you are in “pending status” once your petition has been received by USCIS. This means that you are not guaranteed approval but can still stay as normal. When in “pending status” you should still attend school and maintain full time enrollment. You are still not able to work, and you are not able to gain a drivers license.
An alternative to applying for reinstatement in the U.S. is to depart and re-enter the U.S. using a new “initial attendance” I-20. Please note that this type of travel will restrict your eligibility for OPT/CPT.
How to Apply
Please make an appointment with International Services and bring all of the following documents with you to this meeting.
- Check or money order in the amount of $455
- There is the $370 fee plus an $85 biometrics fee.
- All previously issued I-20s
- I-94 Card or Print out (https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/recent-search)
- Passport with Visa
- Proof of Financial Support
- (if applicable) Any dependent passports and I-94s
- Personal letter explaining your situation and the basis of your request for reinstatement
- Copy of academic transcripts (unofficial is acceptable)
- Form I-539
- This is completed online via https://www.uscis.gov/i-539
Note: if you are out of status for over 5 months, you will need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again. A receipt should also be provided in the documents.
Suggestions for Personal Letter
A strong and persuasive letter should clearly establish why you are out of status by stating the specific violation and the reason(s) for this. State how failure to receive reinstatement approval will affect you and that you are currently pursuing a full course of study. Be sure to state that you have not violated any other immigration regulations and have not been employed without proper authorization. Do no lie in the letter!
The International Services team can look over the letter and suggest edits if needed.
Once your application is complete and has been reviewed by International Services, it will be processed for adjudication. In a few weeks, you will receive a “Notice of Receipt/Action” from the service center handling your request. This does not mean that the application has been approved.
Please read any emails carefully as they might request further information. If you are not sure about the email, please contact International Services.
Processing time is currently unpredictable and can take months to complete. While this is in process, you must still be attending school full time and staying in compliance with all F-1 regulations.
When you receive your final adjudication (outcome) letter, you must inform the International Services office so that they can update your immigration (SEVIS) records accordingly. Failure to update this might result in becoming out of status