Reinstatement of F-1 Student Status
An F-1 student in the U.S. who has failed to maintain status and wishes to continue studying in the U.S. can either petition USCIS for reinstatement of their F-1 status or depart the U.S. and re-enter using an F-1 visa. The first point of contact when a student believes they may have failed to maintain status should be their academic institution’s International Students Office, or Designated School Official (“DSO”).
An F-1 Student can fall out of Status by:
- Failing maintain a full course load without proper authorization;
- Failing to attend the academic institution whose I-20 was used to receive the F-1 visa or status;
- Failing to extend their I-20 prior to expiration; or
- Failing to properly transfer between schools
Qualifying for Reinstatement
For those who choose to remain in the U.S. and file for reinstatement rather than depart and re-enter using an F-1 visa, USCIS may consider the reinstatement request if the student applicant:
- Has not been out of status for over 5 months (unless exceptional circumstances apply);
- Can show that the violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control;
- Is currently pursuing, or intends to pursue, a full course of study;
- Does not have a record of abuse of applicable regulations;
- Has not been unlawfully employed in the U.S.; and
- Is not deportable from the U.S.
While the Reinstatement Request is Pending
Typically, USCIS will take 3-5 months to decide a reinstatement request. The F-1 student may continue in their studies while the application is pending, but is not eligible to work unless and until the F-1 status has been reinstated by USCIS. Departing the U.S. while the reinstatement application is pending is considered an abandonment of the reinstatement request.
After a Decision is Issued
If the reinstatement request is approved, the new I-20 form will be endorsed by USCIS and returned to the student applicant. The student should take the new paperwork to their DSO so that their student records can be properly updated and, if eligible, on-campus employment can begin.
If the reinstatement request is denied, an applicant can consider a Motion to Reopen/Reconsider or appeal of the decision. He or she can also consider departing the U.S., then receiving an F-1 visa abroad and then returning to the U.S. Prior to departure, the student’s unlawful presence should be reviewed. If an individual has accrued over 180 days of unlawful presence, he or she will incur a 3 year bar to reentry upon departure from the U.S. If an individual has accrued over 1 year of unlawful presence, he or she will incur a 10 year bar to re-entry upon departure from the U.S.
If you think that you may be out of status, please speak to your academic institution’s DSO as soon as possible, and if necessary, the assistance of an immigration attorney should be sought. With the passage of time, student status issues become more difficult to resolve. Only students in valid F-1 status are eligible for related immigration benefits, including authorization to work on-campus and practical training work authorization.