International Students and Scholars Office

Regain F-1 Visa 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:

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

You should first discuss your situation in detail with your International Student Advisor before deciding which method you wish to use to regain F-1 status.


  • Plane ticket to home country
  • Visa application fee (if you need to apply for a new F-1 visa)
  • I-901 SEVIS Fee
  • Filing fee for I-539: $370
  • Biometrics fee: $85 (For USCIS to collect your fingerprints)
Check current filing and biometrics fees
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: 19 months or more. This processing length can change at any time and is not guaranteed.

See USCIS service center processing time information.

While your I-539 reinstatement application is pending, you must:

  • Register for a full-time course load
  • Physically remain 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 re-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 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 the ISSO 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 do not have a valid F-1 visa, you must apply for one before returning to the U.S.

Request an initial I-20

To request a new I-20, submit I-20 e-request and notify your International Student Advisor via email.
We will review your request and issue a new I-20 within 10 business days.

After receiving the I-20

  1. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee 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. Complete the Immigration Check-In and report your return to the U.S. to the ISSO
  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:

  1. 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.
    1. Speak to your International Student Advisor if you have been out of status for more than 5 months.
  2. Do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of F-1 regulations.
  3. Are currently pursuing, or will in the next available semester be pursing, a full course of study.
  4. Have not engaged in unauthorized employment.
  5. Are able to establish to the satisfaction of U.S.. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the violation of status resulted from circumstances is beyond your control.
  6. 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 your 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 you consult with an experienced immigration lawyer.

Step 1: Request a reinstatement I-20

We strongly encourage you to speak to your International Student Advisor before requesting a reinstatement I-20. Schedule an appointment through CPP Connect
To request a reinstatement I-20, complete the following. Your International Student Advisor will review your request and issue a reinstatement I-20 within 10 business days.

  1. Upload a letter of explanation
    1. 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.
    2. Your letter should include the following points:
      1. 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
      2. You have not been employed off campus without authorization
      3. You have not violated any other immigration regulations
      4. 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
      5. 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
  2. Submit I-20 e-request
  3. Notify your International Student Advisor via email

Step 2: Mail your reinstatement application to USCIS

Mail the following documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

  1. I-539 "Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status" 
    1. We advise that you type the application instead of filling it out by hand
  2. Photocopies of the reinstatement I-20 and DSO letter issued by ISSO
  3. Photocopy of the identification page(s) in your passport
  4. I-94 Admissions Verification
    1. Print the most recent I-94 
    2. 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.
  5. Proof of Your Previous Immigration Status
    1. Photocopies of current visa stamp and biographical page of your passport, or photocopies of USCIS approval of you current status
  6. Letter of Explanation
  7. Proof of Finances
    1. If the proof of financial support appears weak, USCIS may send applicants a Request of Evidence (RFE) letter to request additional documents.
  8. Photocopies of all PRIOR I-20s from previous schools you were authorized to attend.
  9. Official transcripts from CPP and any other U.S. schools you may have attended
    1. The transcripts must be in sealed envelope(s).
  10. Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (OPTIONAL)
    1. If you would like to receive a receipt notification of your application electronically either via email or text, complete this form.

A completed reinstatement application should have all the materials listed above plus the $370 nonrefundable filing fee and $85 nonrefundable Biometrics fee (check current filing fees).

The personal check or money order must be made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Do not use the initials “USDHS” or “DHS.”

Scan or make photocopies of the application package for yourself before mailing it to USCIS.
    • USCIS, P.O. Box 660166
      Dallas, TX 75266
    • USCIS, ATTN: I-539
      2501 S. State Highway 121, Business Suite 400
      Lewisville, TX 75067

After You Submit the Application to USCIS

You should receive an I-797C "Notice of Action" 3-4 weeks after you mailed the application. I-797C is the receipt letter and it indicates your receipt number. You can check your application status by entering this number at USCIS’s website: Call USCIS National Customer Service Center if you did not receive an I-797C.

If you receive an RFE, notify your International Student Advisor with the date and reason for the RFE.

  • Biometrics
    • USCIS will mail you 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. Upload a copy of this approval notice.
    • You are responsible to follow the F-1 regulation and maintain full-time status while you are in the United States.
  • Denial
    • Prepare to leave the United States upon denial.
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