How to Regain F-1 Status

If you failed to maintain your legal status, you must take action to regain lawful F-1 status as soon as possible. There are two ways to regain your F-1 status:

  • Travel/re-entry: travel outside the U.S. and re-enter the U.S. with a new "initial attendance I-20" with a new SEVIS ID, or
     
  • Applying for reinstatement: stay in the U.S. and file I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status along with supporting documents and apply to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). apply to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  

You should first discuss your situation in detail with an International student advisor at OIP before deciding which method you wish to use to regain F-1 status.

 

Travel/Re-Entry v.s. Reinstatement
  Travel/re-entry reinstatement
Cost
  • Plane ticket to home country
  • Visa application fee (if you need to apply for a new F-1 visa)
  • I-901 SEVIS Fee: $200
  • Filing fee for I-539: $370
Processing Time

You may travel during semester breaks to “fix” your status if you are currently enrolled full-time.  There is no need to apply for an F-1 visa if your current F-1 visa is still valid.  You must apply for a new F-1 visa if your current visa has expired.

USCIS Processing Time: 90 days or more.  See USCIS service center processing time information.  This processing length can change at any time and is not guaranteed.  While your I-539 reinstatement application is pending, you must:

  • Register for a full-time course load
  • Physically remaining in the U.S.
Other Concerns It may be difficult to travel in the middle of the semester.  You are out of status until you leave the U.S. and ret-enter with a new I-20.  You will not be eligible for F-1 benefits (Off-Campus Employment) until you enroll in a full-time status for one full academic year.

You will not be eligible to work on campus or off campus.

You must depart the United States immediately upon denial.  A denial of an application for reinstatement cannot be appealed.

You may be eligible for travel/re-entry only if you:

  • Are currently pursuing, or will in the next available semester be pursing, a full course of study.
  • Has not engaged in unauthorized employment.

You will be required to satisfy the "full academic year" waiting period for eligibility for practical training.  For example, if you are graduating in December 2018 and did travel/re-entry in July 2018, you will not be eligible for Post-Completion OPT after you graduate.

You must request an initial attendance I-20 from OIP and leave the U.S.  You do not need to apply for a new F-1 visa if your current one is still valid.  If you don’t have a valid F-1 visa, you must apply for one before returning to the U.S. 

  1. Request a new I-20: To request a new I-20, provide the following documents to OIP.
    • A signed I-20 Request Form (PDF, 202KB).
    • A signed Financial Affidavit (PDF, 203 KB).
    • Proof of Finances: you and/or your sponsor(s) must prove that you have the financial ability to pay for school costs plus living expenses for one academic year.  See Financial Affidavit for the minimum amount of funds you are required to have.  Photocopies are acceptable.
      1. Acceptable types of proof: balance verification issued by the bank or Financial Guarantee/award letters issued by the scholarship organization.
      2. The proof must be issued within the past 6 months.
      3. If you have sponsor(s), your sponsor(s) must provide a Sponsor’s Letter (See template. Microsoft Word, 12.1KB) signed by your sponsor(s) along with the financial proof.

Include your full name and SF State student ID in your email to OIP.   An F-1 International student advisor will review your request and issue a new I-20 within 5 business days.  After receiving the I-20 you must:

  1. Pay a $200 SEVIS I-901 fee online and print the receipt.
  2. Return to your home country and apply for an F-1 Student visa (if your current one has expired)
  3. Come back to the U.S. with your I-20 and F-1 Student visa.
  4. Provide proof of your new F-1 status within 30 days for your entry to the U.S.: bring your passport and I-20 to an International student advisor at OIP at OIP during drop in advising hours.
  5. Follow the F-1 regulation and maintain full-time status while you are in the U.S.

You may be eligible for reinstatement only if you:

  • Have not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement.  I-539 and supporting documentation must be received within 5 months of your SEVIS termination date.
  • Do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of F-1 regulations.
  • Are currently pursuing, or will in the next available semester be pursing, a full course of study.
  • Have not engaged in unauthorized employment.
  • Are able to establish to the satisfaction of USCIS that the violation of status resulted from circumstances is beyond your control.
  • Do not plan to travel outside the U.S, as doing so will be considered an abandonment of the pending reinstatement application.
Reinstatement is only granted under the limited conditions.   You must discuss your case in details with an International student advisor at OIP.  The advisor will be realistic about the chances of approval, to fully discuss the possible consequences of a reinstatement denial.  In some cases, the advisor may suggest that you consult with an experienced immigration lawyer.

Applying for reinstatement is a two-step process.  You should submit application materials to OIP to receive a reinstatement I-20.  After receiving the I-20, you should mail the filing fee, I-539 application, photocopy of the reinstatement I-20, and all the supporting documentation to USCIS.

To request a reinstatement I-20, you must prepare all the application materials and schedule a 30-minute appointment for documents review.  To schedule an appointment, e-mail oip@sfsu.edu with “Request a reinstatement Appointment” in the subject line.  The e-mail should also include your full-name and SF State student ID number. 

Only schedule an appointment AFTER you have everything listed below:

  • I-539: Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status:  Complete and sign I-539.  I-539 is a fillable PDF form. We advise that you type the application instead of filling it out by hand.
     
  • Photocopy of the identification page(s) in your passport.
     
  • I-94 Admissions Verification: Print the most recent I-94 at http://www.cbp.gov/i94.  If you entered the U.S. prior to April 30, 2013, provide a front and back copy of the I-94 card stapled to the passport.
     
  • Proof of Your Previous Immigration Status: Photocopies of current visa stamp and biographical page of your passport, or photocopies of USCIS approval of you current status.
     
  • Letter of Explanation: write a one-page (no longer) letter that explains in detail the circumstances or reasons which caused you to violate your F-1 student status. Include evidence supporting your case, if possible. Your letter should include the following points: you are currently enrolled as a full-time student and/or that you intend to pursue a full course of study for the next semester, you have not been employed off campus without authorization, you have not violated any other immigration regulations, your failure to maintain F-1 student status was due to circumstances beyond your control and failure to receive reinstatement to student status would result in extreme hardship.  Your letter should be written in as much detail as possible as this will be your only opportunity to explain your situation to the USCIS.
     
  • Proof of Finances: you and/or your sponsor(s) must prove that you have the financial ability to pay for school costs plus living expenses for one academic year.  See Financial Affidavit (PDF, 203 KB) for the minimum amount of funds you are required to have.  Photocopies are acceptable.
    • Acceptable types of proof: balance verification issued by the bank or Financial Guarantee/award letters issued by the scholarship organization.
    • The proof must be issued within the past 6 months.
    • If your sponsor(s) are overseas, your sponsor(s) must provide a Sponsor’s Letter (See template. Microsoft Word, 12.1KB) signed by your sponsor(s) along with the financial proof.
    • If your sponsor(s) are in the U.S., you must submit an I-134, "Affidavit of Support" completed and signed by your sponsor(s) along with the financial proof.
    • If the proof of financial support appears weak, USCIS may send applicants a Request of Evidence (RFE) letter to request additional documents.
  • Photocopies of all PRIOR I-20s from previous schools you were authorized to attend.
     
  • Official transcripts from SF State and any other U.S. schools you may have attended. The transcripts must be in sealed envelope(s).
     
  • Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (PDF, 240 KB).  This form is optional.  If you would like to receive a receipt notification of your application electronically either via email or text, complete this form.

The F-1 International Student Advisor will review all the documents you are going to submit to USCIS during the 30-minutes appointment. Leave all the documents (except your passport) with the advisor after the appointment.

Step 2

The F-1 International Student Advisor will issue you a reinstatement I-20 and an explanation letter.  Pick up the I-20, letter, and application materials within 5 business days (or follow advisor’s instruction).

Submit the application materials to:
USCIS, P.O. Box 660166, Dallas, TX 75266. 
(OIP recommends that you send your application by Priority Mail - additional fee will apply)

For Express mail and courier deliveries:
USCIS, ATTN: I-539, 2501 S. State Highway 121, Business Suite 400, Lewisville, TX 75067

A completed reinstatement application should have all the materials you picked up at OIP, plus the following items: 

  1. Filing Fee: $370.  Money order or check payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”.
  2. $200 SEVIS I-901 Fee Payment Receipt: You must pay $200 SEVIS I-901 fee online after receiving the I-20.  Print the receipt and mail it with your application.

We recommend that you scan or make photocopies of the application package for yourself before mailing it to USCIS.

After You Submit the Application to USCIS

  • You should receive a Form I-797C, Notice of Action 3-4 weeks after you mailed your application.  I-797C is the receipt letter and it indicates your receipt number.  You can check your application status by enter this number at USCIS’s website: http://www.uscis.gov/
  • Call USCIS National Customer Service Center if you did not receive an I-797C.
  • After approval, USCIS will mail you an Approval Notice with I-94 card at the bottom. The new I-94 will have the “F-1” designation and "Valid for Duration of Status" remarks on it.
  • Provide the proof of your F-1 status to OIP after you receive it by mail.  You may bring the approval notice to OIP during drop in hours, or scan the approval notice to oip@sfsu.edu.
  • You are responsible to follow the F-1 regulation and maintain full-time status while you are in the U.S.