If you have not maintained your status (expired I-20; did not complete 12 credit hours; etc.) you must file for Reinstatement. Reinstatement is the process in which you make an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to have mistakes cleared away and to be restored to your student status. Reinstatement is not something to be taken lightly, as not all students who apply for reinstatement are successful in obtaining it.
Failure to maintain status has enrollment consequences.
When to Apply for Reinstatement
You must apply to USCIS for reinstatement to F-1 student status if:
You did not carry a full program of study without previous approval from the Designated School Official to drop below full-time;
You did not attend school during the fall or spring semesters, unless you were excused for medical reasons;
You failed to attend the school you were authorized by USCIS to attend (on your I-20);
You remained in the U.S. beyond the time authorized under duration of status and did not apply for extension of stay;
You violated the immigration regulations in any other manner.
Who should apply for Reinstatement
Reinstatement is for those individuals who, through no fault of their own or through circumstances beyond their control, have violated the terms of their immigration status. If a student can show that not being reinstated would cause a significant hardship, s/he is eligible for reinstatement.
Not all violations can be corrected through reinstatement. Some violations cannot be corrected or will not be corrected by USCIS. Working without valid employment authorization is a violation that can never be rectified through reinstatement.
An Alternative to Reinstatement
Students who are not eligible, or who are poor candidates for reinstatement, have an alternative to regaining their student status. Students who find themselves in this situation have the option of obtaining a new I-20 and then using that new I-20 to travel outside of the U.S. and re-entering. This is not the same as reinstatement but does allow a student to regain lawful student status. By using this method, students have to wait another period of nine months, maintaining status, before they regain any eligibility for practical training or other off-campus work authorization.
A. To Apply for Reinstatement
Prepare the following materials to bring to your appointment with the International Counselor:
- If you have been out of status for more than 5 months, you must repay the SEVIS fee. Go to http://www.FMJfee.com for payment instructions
- Letter to USCIS explaining why you are out of status and stating why you are eligible for reinstatement
- Completed USCIS form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status which can be downloaded from www.uscis.gov
- The application fee, check or money order payable to USCIS
- Current documentation of financial support (sponsor may need to submit updated bank letter)
- Official academic transcripts from all schools attended in the U.S.
- Copies of your passport and visa information
- Original I-94 card
- New SEVIS I-20 requesting reinstatement
- We recommend you include a copy of the SEVIS fee receipt.
This application is sent to the California Service Center for processing. It may take USCIS 60 to 120 days to decide your case. There is no formal appeal procedure if reinstatement is denied. Applicants may file a motion to reconsider with USCIS. If the application is approved, you are restored to student status with full-credit for previous time spent in status as it relates to eligibility for practical training. If reinstatement is denied you will be issued a notice of "voluntary departure" meaning that you will have to leave the United States. You will need to consult with the Registrar to find out if you are eligible for any tuition reimbursement.
B. To Travel and Reenter
For students who need to travel and reenter, different steps need to be followed.
- Obtain current financial documentation/bank letter from sponsor.
- Request a new SEVIS I-20 for travel and reentry from the International Student Office, circumventing the need for reinstatement.
- Repay the SEVIS fee if you have been out of status for more than 5 months or out of the U.S. for more than 5 months.
- If you still have a valid visa, then you simply need to exit the U.S. and reenter using the new I-20.
- It is very important to make sure that your I-20 is stamped by an Immigration Officer when you reenter the country.