International Student Services

Regaining F-1 Status

Regaining F-1 Status

You are maintaining lawful status if you are making normal progress toward completing a course of study and complying with the immigration regulations outlined below. For more information on the benefits and restrictions of your F-1 student status, contact your primary adviser in International Student Services.

Immigration Regulations

  • Pursue a "full course of study" at the school listed on your current Form I-20. A full course of study is 12 or more credits per quarter for undergraduate students, and 10 or more credits per quarter for graduate students. Exceptions to the full-time requirement must be authorized in advance by your ISS adviser.
  • Complete your studies before the program completion date listed in item 5 of your I-20.
  • Keep your I-20 valid by following proper procedures for a program extension, change in educational level or field of study, and transfer of schools.
  • Remain in the U.S. for no longer than 60 days after completing your current program of study or after completing an authorized period of practical training.
  • Keep your passport valid at all times unless you are exempt from the passport requirement.
  • Accept no employment except that which is authorized in accordance with the immigration regulations.
  • Report any change of address to immigration within 10 days of the change. Local address updates made on MyUW will be automatically sent to immigration through the SEVIS system unless you have graduated and are authorized for OPT. To change your permanent address, review the instructions for permanent address updates.

If you fail to maintain status, you are ineligible for any of the benefits of F-1 status (for example, employment authorization). There are two ways to regain status: apply for reinstatement or depart the U.S. and seek a new admission to the U.S. in F-1 status.

Option 1: Reinstatement

When requesting reinstatement, you must establish to the satisfaction of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you:

  • Have not been out of status more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or demonstrate that the failure to file within the 5-month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that you filed for reinstatement as soon as possible under these circumstances).
  • Do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of immigration regulations.
  • Are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the Form I-20.
  • Have not engaged in unauthorized employment.
  • Are not deportable on any ground other than overstaying or failing to maintain status.

You must also establish that:

  • The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of your ISS adviser, but do not include instances where a pattern of repeated violations or a willful failure on your part resulted in the need for reinstatement.

    or

  • The violation relates to a reduction in your course load that would have been within the international student adviser's authority to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to you.

If USCIS approves the reinstatement request, the adjudicating officer will endorse your I-20 to indicate that you have been reinstated and will return the I-20 to you. If USCIS does not approve the reinstatement request, you may not appeal the decision and need to prepare to leave the U.S. immediately.

Reinstatement Application Procedure

  1. Call International Student Services (ISS) at 221.7857 between 10am and 4 pm, Monday through Friday, to schedule an appointment with an ISS advisor. At the appointment the ISS advisor will review your eligibility for F-1 reinstatement and will discuss the application process.

  2. Complete the ISS Reinstatement/Reentry Request Form. Submit the form and supporting documents discussed at your ISS meeting to ISS. You can email your request form and documents to uwiss@uw.edu or bring the request form and documents in person to the ISS front desk.
    ISS will create a new I-20 for your reinstatement application. Allow 7-10 business days for I-20 processing.

  3. Prepare your reinstatment application following the list of documents below. Submit your reinstatement application to USCIS by mail.
    (The online USCIS ELIS application option is no longer available).
    Mail the following documents to the USCIS Lockbox.

  • Form I-539 (write "REINSTATEMENT" at the top of the form)
  • Check or money order made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" for USCIS filing fee
  • Photocopies of all previously-issued I-20s
  • Original I-94 (the white card stapled inside your passport) or I-94 printout obtained at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/
  • Photocopy of new Reinstatement I-20 signed by ISS adviser
  • Evidence of source and amount of financial support
  • A letter requesting reinstatement to F-1 student status which explains your situation and truthfully states that failure to maintain status was due to any or all of the reasons listed above
  • Supporting documentation (for example, a letter of support from a faculty adviser familiar with the circumstances of your case)
  • Current transcript and transcripts from other U.S. schools previously attended
  • Photocopy of passport identification and visa pages; do not send your passport
  • Completed G-1145 Form (optional; it signs you up for email/text message notification of your application's arrival at USCIS)

Keep a copy of your entire application for your records. If you choose the paper application option, it is recommended that you send your application by certified mail, return receipt requested.

Mailing Address

USCIS
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266

Option 2: Travel and Reentry

In some cases it may be advisable to depart the U.S. and re-enter with a new I-20, rather than applying for reinstatement. You may do this by obtaining a new I-20 from the school you are currently attending or wish to attend, then departing the U.S., applying for a new F-1 visa if the F-1 visa stamp in your passport has expired, and returning to the U.S. Note that students who violated status are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation. A re-entry to the U.S. after a status violation is viewed by Immigration as "initial attendance" in F-1 status. As such, you are bound by restrictions placed on new students, such as the academic year waiting period for eligibility for practical training.

To request a new I-20 for travel and reentry:

  1. Call International Student Services (ISS) at 221.7857 between 10am and 4 pm, Monday through Friday, to schedule an appointment with an ISS advisor. At the appointment the ISS advisor will review your situation and discuss the travel & reentry process in detail.
  2. Complete an ISS Reinstatement and Reentry form.
    Submit the form and financial documentation to ISS. You can email your request form and documents to uwiss@uw.edu or bring the request form and documents in person to the ISS front desk.
  3. ISS will create a new I-20 for your travel & reentry. Allow 7-10 business days for I-20 processing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the major difference between the two options?

Students who are reinstated continue in their previous F-1 status. Students who choose travel and reentry are considered initial status students. This is most important when considering eligibility for Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training. Students who reenter using a new I-20 will be required to complete one academic year before becoming eligible to apply for off-campus employment.

What are the costs associated with each option?

Reinstatement costs $300 ($290 for applications mailed, postmarked or otherwise filed on or after November 23, 2010). Travel and reentry costs $200 for F-1 students (SEVIS fee), plus any expenses incurred for travel and visa applications.

Which option is the least risky?

Each option has its risks. If your application for reinstatement is denied, you will be required to depart the U.S. immediately. If you are denied re-entry at the border, you may be required to return home immediately from the port of entry.

May I continue to study while my application for reinstatement is pending?

Yes, you must continue to study in order to maintain your F-1 status.

May I continue to work on-campus while my application for reinstatement is pending?

No. Once it is determined that you have violated your student status, you must stop working immediately.

How long will the reinstatement process take?

Reinstatement applications take approximately three to four months to process.

Can I reenter from Canada or must I return to and reenter from my home country?

Reentry from Canada is fine; however, you must already have a valid visa to enter Canada, if needed. The Canadian Consulate will not issue an entry visa to students with "initial attendance" I-20s. For more information, contact your ISS adviser.