How to Regain F-1 Status

There are two ways to regain F-1 status:

    How to Regain F-1 Status
  1. Regain F-1 Status by Travel/Re-Entry: travel outside the U.S. and re-enter the U.S. with a new "initial attendance I-20", or
  2. Regain F-1 Status by Applying for Reinstatement: stay in the U.S. and apply for a reinstatement by application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  The standard processing time for is 90 days.
Travel/Re-Entry v.s. Reinstatement
  Travel/Re-Entry Reinstatement
  1. Plane ticket to home country
  2. Visa application fee (if current visa has expired)
  3. SEVIS Fee

USCIS Application Fee: $370


Processing Time You may travel during semester breaks to “fix” your status. There is no need to apply for an F-1 visa if your current F-1 visa is still valid.

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. 

You must register for a full-time course load while the reinstatement application is pending.

Other Concerns It may be difficult to travel in the middle of the semester. OIP recommends students to apply for reinstatement if they are not able to travel.  Students will not be eligible for F-1 benefits (Off-Campus Employment) until they enroll in a Full-Time status for one full academic year.

Once denied student must leave the U.S. immediately – no grace period.

Regain F-1 Status by Travel/Re-Entry:

You must request an initial attendance I-20 from OIP and return the U.S. with it.

  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, 185 KB)
  • A bank letter verifying you or your sponsor(s) have sufficient funds to support your study in the U.S. for at least one academic year.  You can find the minimum amount of funds that you are required to show on the Financial Affidavit.  

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. 

  1. After receiving the initial attendance I-20 from OIP, 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 on has expired).
  3. Come back to the U.S. with your new I-20 and F-1 Student visa.  You may not enter the U.S. any earlier than 30 days before the start date on your I-20.
  4. Provide proof of your new F-1 status:  bring your passport and I-20 to an F-1 advisor 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.

Regain F-1 Status by Applying for Reinstatement:

Students who are out-of-status may be eligible for reinstatement if they can satisfy both of the following two conditions:

  1. Must not have been out-of-status for more than 5 months, unless you can show exceptional circumstances beyond your control such as serious injury or illness, natural disaster, closure of your school, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of International Student Advisor.
  2. Does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of USCIS regulations.

Applying for Reinstatement a two-step process.  Students should submit application materials to OIP to receive a Reinstatement I-20.  After receiving the I-20, students should mail the application fee, I-20, and the application materials to USCIS.

Step 1

To request a Reinstatement I-20, students must prepare all the application materials and schedule a 30-minute appointment for documents review.  To schedule an appointment, e-mail 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:

  • Form I-539: Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status:
    Complete and sign Form I-539.  Form I-539 is a fillable PDF form. We advise students to 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  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 visa stamp and biographical page of your passport, or photocopies of USCIS approval of 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 your I-20 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, you must provide a Sponsor’s Letter (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 a 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).

The 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 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 by certified mail to:
USCIS, P.O. Box 660166, Dallas, TX 75266.

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 $370 application fee (Money order or check payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”).  

We recommend you to make copies of the application package for yourself before you send it.

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:
  • 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 after you receive it by mail.  You may bring the approval notice OIP during drop in hours, or scan the approval notice to
  • You are responsible to follow the F-1 regulation and maintain full-time status while you are in the U.S.