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Reinstatement of Status

International students who have not followed F-1 or J-1 regulations are considered out of status. Remember that a visa is different from nonimmigrant status. While your visa can remain valid, your nonimmigrant status is terminated if you violate the immigration regulations.  You may be able to regain status by one of two methods: By application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or by international travel.

To begin your reinstatement process, an initial appointment is required with an ISSS advisor. During the appointment, the advisor will discuss your individual situation and methods of reinstating your status.

Reinstatement by Travel (Recommended by ISSS)

It is possible to reinstate your status by departing the U.S. and re-entering on a new I-20 or DS-2019.  Once you enter the U.S. with your new immigration document you will begin a new period of valid status.


  • In most cases it may be much quicker to reestablish a valid status this way.
  • The timing is more predictable than a reinstatement application to the USCIS.


  • The flight home is an added expense.
  • If your visa is not valid, you will need to reapply for the visa at a U.S. consulate.
  • You will begin a new period of F-1 or J-1 status. This will mean a new I-901 fee payment and you must reenter the US within the 30 days preceding the start of your I-20 or DS-2019. 
  • For F-1 students: You will not be eligible for a period of CPT or OPT until you have completed two academic semesters (or four quarters) in the new period of F-1 status.

Important points to know:

  • Your reinstatement is not complete until you reenter the United States and meet with an international student advisor to activate your immigration record.
  • You may begin on-campus employment only after you reenter in F-1 or J-1 status and check-in with ISSS.
  • You may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on the I-20 or DS-2019. Therefore it is important to plan your travel carefully.

Steps to Changing Status By Travel

After meeting with an international student advisor and deciding to reinstate your status by travel, the international student advisor will give guidance for how to apply for the I-20/DS-2019. Information will be collected about your estimated graduation date, and proof of funding for one year of estimated expenses.

Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee

Payment may be made only after obtaining an I-20/DS-2019. For more information about the SEVIS fee, please refer to the Department of Homeland Security's website on the I-901 SEVIS fee.

When you leave the United States, you will need the Form I-20 or DS-2019. If your visa has expired, you will need  to obtain a new visa from a U.S. consulate or embassy. It is not possible to obtain a visa inside the United States.

If needed, we recommend that you make your visa appointment in your home country or country of residence. Please visit our Visa Information web page for more information on how to apply for a visa.

  • You may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on the I-20/DS-2019.
  • At the port of entry present your I-20/DS-2019 and visa to the inspection officer.
  • After you return to the United States in your new immigration status, review and print your I-94 information. The I-94 record should  indicate “F-1” or “J-1
  • and “D/S.” 
  • Once you have arrived in the US, consult with your ISSS advisor on how to complete your immigration documents check. The documents check is required for the activation of your SEVIS record. Failure to complete the documents check within a week of your arrival could lead to the termination of your SEVIS record and the loss of your immigration status.

Reinstatement within the United States

For J-1 students: Reinstatement within the U.S. is rarely utilized. Contact an ISSS advisor for more information.

For F-1 students: A reinstatement application within the United States is only possible if the student:

  • Can establish "that the violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student's control or the violation relates to a reduction in course load that would have been within DSOs power to authorize and that failure to receive reinstatement to lawful F-1 status would result in extreme hardship to the student;" [USCIS]
  • Is currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study at the school which issued the I-20
  • Has not engaged in unauthorized employment and is not deportable on any ground other than section 241 (a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Act [overstaying or failing to maintain status]. [8CFR 214.2(f)(16)]
  • Does not have a record of repeated or willful violations
  • Has not been out of status for more than 5 months at time of filing request (unless student provides substantial reasons for delay) 


  • You may remain in the U.S. while your application is pending. This would avoid any additional travel expenses and in some cases an additional visa application.
  • You must continue your studies while your application is pending.
  • If the reinstatement application is approved before the end of the degree program, you may be eligible for CPT or OPT.


  • The application process is lengthy and there is no guarantee your application will be approved. 
  • Students who are near the end of their academic program may not receive an outcome prior to graduation.


Steps to Apply for Reinstatement by USCIS

After meeting with an International Student Advisor and deciding to apply for reinstatement in the United States, submit these documents to the advisor for review: 

  • Letter of explanation addressed to USCIS, stating the following: the circumstances behind the status violation; the effect it would have if you were unable to be reinstated; a statement that you are currently pursuing or are intending to pursue a full course of study; and specifically request that USCIS reinstate your F-1 student status.
  • Completed I-539: Application to extend or change non-immigrant status. In part 2 of the form, select “Reinstatement to student status”.
  • Original copies of your financial support information.  Acceptable sources of funding can be found here.
  • Photocopy of current immigration status documents, visa stamp, I-94 card and passport ID pages
  • Letter from your academic advisor, indicating when you are expected to complete all degree requirements.

After the new I-20 is issued, file the reinstatement application with USCIS. Include the filing fee of $420 (for applications filed online) or $470 (for applications filed by mail).

We suggest you retain photocopies of your application for your records.  Mail application materials to the appropriate USCIS Service Center.  Please indicate clearly "I-539: Reinstatement" on the outside of the envelope. Use a traceable mailing system. Filing online is also permitted.

You should receive a notice from USCIS within two to three weeks indicating they have received your application or instantly if you are filing online. Please send your ISSS advisor a copy of the receipt.

Once your application for reinstatement is reviewed,  please notify your ISSS advisor immediately of the approval or denial.

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