Reinstatement/Regain F-1 status

If students failed to maintain their legal status, they must take action to regain lawful F-1 status as soon as possible.  

There are two ways to regain F-1 status:

  • Travel/Re-Entry: leave the U.S. and enter the U.S. with an initial I-20.  Students must apply for F-1 visas in their home countries their current F-1 visa stamps have expired. 
     
  • File I-539 for reinstatement online: file I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status online with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Students must remain in the U.S. throughout the entire process.

See Department of Homeland Security: How Should an F or M Student File for Reinstatement? | Study in the States (dhs.gov).  Students should first discuss their situation in detail with an F-1 international student advisor before deciding which method they wish to use to regain F-1 status.

General Information

 
 

TRAVEL/RE-ENTRY

REINSTATEMENT

Cost

  • Filing fee for Form I-539: $370
  • Biometrics fee: $85 (For USCIS to collect their fingerprints)

Processing Time

Current USCIS Processing Time: 11 months or longer. (See USCIS service center processing time information)

While students' Form I-539 petition is pending, they must:

  • Register for a full-time course load
  • Staying in the U.S.

Other Concerns

  • It may be difficult to travel in the middle of the semester. 
  • Students will not be eligible for F-1 benefits (On-Campus Employment) until they have obtained F-1 visa and entered the U.S. in F-1 status
  • If USCIS denies students' Form I-539 petition, they must be prepared to leave the U.S. IMMEDIATELY

Students may be eligible for travel/re-entry only if they

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

Attention

  • Students will be required to satisfy the "full academic year" waiting period for eligibility for off-campus employment authorization such as Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). 
     
  • For example, if students are graduating in Fall 2022 and regained F-1 status in Summer 2022 by travel, they will not be eligible for Post-Completion OPT when they graduate in Fall 2022.

Students may be eligible for reinstatement only if they

  • Have not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement. Speak to an F-1 international student advisor if they have been out of status for more than 5 months.
  • 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 their 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 and is a lengthy and complex process. Students must discuss their case in details with an F-1 international student advisor. 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 they consult with an experienced immigration lawyer.

Students seeking to regain F-1 status should obtain information from the F-1 international student advisors. We will provide information concerning the pros and cons of reinstatement and travel/re-entry. It is up to the student to determine which method is in their best interest, and the student assumes all liability associated with any decision made.

The F-1 international student advisors do not provide legal advice. For complicated cases, an experienced immigration lawyer is best positioned to advise on all aspects of any reinstatement application, including exploring alternative immigration strategies such as consular processing and re-entry, responding to Requests for Evidence (RFEs), and other matters that relate to the personal immigration status of students and their dependents.

Due to the fluid nature of governmental interpretation, applicants must understand that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reserves the right to change their interpretation of immigration regulations or requirements to establish eligibility for benefits at any time.

Regain F-1 Status by Travel/Re-entry

Review the reinstatement and travel/re-entry resources above carefully

  • Understand students' responsibilities
  • Choose a desired method of changing to F-1 status
     

Complete the mandatory Reinstatement Responsibilities Checklist

  • Students must sign the online "Reinstatement Responsibilities Checklist" before requesting an initial I-20

Email the following documents to f1@sfsu.edu from the students' SF State email account.  We accept digital signatures, scanned copies, and high-resolution/clear pictures of the completed form and documents. 

An F-1 international student advisor will review their request and issue an initial I-20 within 5 business days. Students must clear all the registration holds in order to receive I-20s. 

  • A signed New I-20 Request Form (PDF, 209 KB)
  • A signed Financial Affidavit Form (PDF, 296.4 KB)

  • Proof of Finances: students and/or their sponsor(s) must prove that they have the financial ability to pay for school costs plus living expenses for one academic year. 
    • See page 1 of the Financial Affidavit Form for the minimum amount of funds they are required to have.
    • 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.
    • Photocopies are acceptable.

After receiving the initial I-20

Leave the U.S.

  • Students should leave the U.S.  
  • Students who have expired F-1 visas must return to their home countries to apply for new F-1 visas.

Return to the U.S.

  • Students should return to the U.S. with their initial I-20. Students may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days after the program start date indicated on the initial I-20.
  • No later than 30 days after entering the U.S., students must report their arrival to F-1 international student advisors by emailing f1@sfsu.edu.
  • Maintain F-1 status by following the instructions posted at Maintaining Status.

 

Failure to report to F-1 international student advisors after returning to the U.S. will result in losing F-1 status again.

Regain F-1 Status by Reinstatement

Review the reinstatement and travel/re-entry resources above carefully

  • Understand students' responsibilities
  • Choose a desired method of changing to F-1 status
     

Complete the mandatory Reinstatement Responsibilities Checklist

  • Students must sign the online "Reinstatement Responsibilities Checklist" before requesting an Reinstatement I-20

Email the following documents to f1@sfsu.edu from the students' SF State email account.  Include students' full names and SF State student IDs in their email. 

An F-1 international student advisor will review their request and issue an initial I-20 within 5 business days. Students must clear all the registration holds to receive I-20s.

  • A signed New I-20 Request Form (PDF, 209 KB)
     
  • Student letter of explanation:
    • Write a one-page (no longer) letter that explains in detail the circumstances or reasons that caused them to violate their F-1 student status. Include evidence supporting their case, if possible. Students' letters should include the following points: they are currently enrolled as a full-time student and/or they intend to pursue a full course of study for the next semester, they have not been employed off campus without authorization, they have not violated any other immigration regulations, their failure to maintain F-1 student status was due to circumstances beyond their control and failure to receive reinstatement to student status would result in extreme hardship.  Their letter should be written in as much detail as possible as this will be their only opportunity to explain their situation to the USCIS.
       
  • A signed Financial Affidavit Form (PDF, 296.4 KB)
     
  • Proof of Finances: students and/or their sponsor(s) must prove that they have the financial ability to pay for school costs plus living expenses for one academic year. 
    • See page 1 of the Financial Affidavit Form for the minimum amount of funds they are required to have.
    • 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 they have sponsor(s), their sponsor(s) must provide a Sponsor’s Letter (See template provided below) signed by their sponsor(s) along with the financial proof.
    • Photocopies are acceptable.
  • Sponsor's Letter: see template (Word, 12KB) 

File Online

Filing fees

Notice of Action

Request of Evidence (RFE)

  • If the USCIS needs further clarification from students regarding their application, a Request for Evidence (RFE) notice will be sent to them.  It is important to follow the instructions on the RFE carefully and by the noted deadline.  If an RFE is not filed correctly promptly, it may result in the denial of their change of status application.
  • Students are advised to contact the F-1 international student advisors if receive RFE.

Biometrics

  • Students will receive a biometric services appointment notice containing their receipt number.
  • The biometric services appointments will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the their address. 
  • During the appointment, USCIS will collect their biometric information such as fingerprints as part of their reinstatement application.

Approval

  • USCIS will mail students an Approval Notice with an I-94 card at the bottom.  
  • The I-94 will have the "F-1" designation and "Valid for Duration of Status (D/S)" remarks on it. 
  • Email a copy of this approval notice to f1@sfsu.edu from SF State email address.    
  • Maintain F-1 status by following the instructions posted at Maintaining Status.

Denial

If USCIS denies students' Form I-539 petition, they must be prepared to leave the U.S. immediately.

Last updated: January 2024

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The information contained in this website is provided as a service to the international students, faculty, staff, employees, and administrators of San Francisco State University, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax, or other matter. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website or any associated site. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Neither San Francisco State University nor the Division of International Education is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.