An F-1 student who does not follow the guidelines for maintaining status can lose his/her legal ability to remain in the United States as a full-time student. Violations of status include:
- Unauthorized drop below full-course load
- Failure to timely file for a program extension
- Accepting off-campus work without prior authorization
If you are an F-1 student who has fallen out of status and would like to continue your studies, there are two ways to regain your status. Each has its own requirements, costs, and risks. Before reviewing your options, please be sure you understand the difference between visa and status. Also, please note that there is no “grace period” if you have fallen out of status; if you believe you are no longer in status, it is recommended that you take prompt action to correct the situation.
Students in the U.S. who have fallen out of F-1 status may depart and then reenter the country with a new I-20, effectively ‘resetting’ their status. Students considering travel to regain status should first meet with an OIA adviser to discuss their options.
To obtain a new Form I-20, you should coordinate with your department to submit a completed Academic and Financial Review (AFR) form and supporting financial documentation to OIA. You will be required to show financial resources to cover the amount listed as the “Difference*” in the lower right corner of page 2 of the AFR. Students that who obtain a new I-20 with a new SEVIS number are required to repay the SEVIS fee.
Students whose visa has expired will have to reapply for the F-1 visa prior to returning to the United States. The consular officer has the right to deny the application if he/she feels that resumption of F-1 status is not warranted. Similarly, students who have fallen out of status, depart, and then return to the country may be denied reentry by Customs and Border Patrol, even if they are in possession of the required documents.
For students who have fallen out of status for reasons out of their control
Students in the U.S. who have fallen out of F-1 status within the last five months may apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to have their status reinstated. Reinstatement may be granted if the violation of status was due to circumstances that were unforeseen and beyond the student’s control, such as a medical or family emergency. Reinstatement is not appropriate for students who have lost their status because they worked without authorization or forgot to apply. If you believe you are eligible to apply for reinstatement, you should first speak to an international student adviser at OIA to discuss your situation.
The reinstatement process involves these steps:
Obtain a Form I-20 from OIA. To do so, you must follow all instructions provided on the admitted student section of our website (if you are beginning a new program at the University of Chicago) or coordinate with your department to submit a completed Academic and Financial Review (AFR) form and supporting financial documentation to OIA (if you are a continuing student). Students applying for reinstatement are not required to repay the SEVIS fee.
Assemble the following items:
- A completed Form I-539. Under Part 2, Question 1, you should check option “c,” “Reinstatement to student status.” Follow the instructions that come with the form carefully and attach all required documents;
- Your original University of Chicago I-20 with issue reason “Reinstatement Requested.” Remember to complete and sign #11 on the I-20;
- Photocopies of all previous I-20s issued to you by The University of Chicago and any previous institution(s) (if applicable) ;
- Photocopies of your passport and visa stamp;
- Your I-94 record;
- Photocopy of I-797 approval notice (if you changed status to F instead of applying for a visa abroad);
- A check or money order for the filing fee (see the USCIS website for the current fee) payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security;"
- Evidence of your funding;
- A written explanation of why you fell out of status and why this was beyond your control;
- Any supporting documentation (examples include proof of medical treatment and doctor’s notes);
- A letter recommending reinstatement from a University of Chicago International Student Adviser;
- Optional document: Form G-1145, "E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance," if you want to be notified by email and/or text message when your application is received.
Send your documents via certified mail to:
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266
Students applying for reinstatement must begin the next available quarter and must remain in class while the application is pending. It usually takes 4-5 months for a reinstatement request to be adjudicated. If reinstatement is approved, the student may continue studies. Students that are denied reinstatement have 30 days from the date on the receipt notice to depart the country before they begin accruing additional days of unlawful presence.