Applies to students on an F or J visa status
Regaining F-1 Status
Students maintain lawful status by making normal progress toward completing a course of study and complying with the immigration regulations outlined below. For more information on the benefits and restrictions of your F-1 student status or your J-1 status, contact an adviser in International Student and Scholar Services at email@example.com. Any and all fees and regulations listed in this guidance are set by the United States government and are subject to change at any time.
The immigration regulations require that students follow certain rules in order to maintain their status:
- Pursue a “full course of study” at the school listed on your current Form I-20. A full course of study is 12 or more credits per semester for undergraduate students, and 10 or more credits per semester for graduate students. Exceptions to the full-time requirement must be authorized by ISSS and, if applicable, the WSU Graduate School.
- Complete studies by or before the program completion date listed in item 5 of the student’s I-20.
- Keep the student’s I-20 valid by following proper procedures for a program extension, change in educational level or field of study, and transfer of schools.
- Remain in the U.S. for no longer than 60 days after completing the current program of study or after completing an authorized period of practical training.
- Maintain a passport so that it is always valid for at least 6 months into the future.
- Accept no employment except that which is authorized in accordance with the immigration regulations.
- Report any change of address to immigration within 10 days of the change.
Failing to properly maintain status will result in the termination of the student’s SEVIS record and loss of status. One immediate effect of losing status is losing access to the benefits of F-1 status (for example, on-campus employment authorization). There are two ways to regain status: apply for reinstatement or depart the U.S. and seek a new admission to the U.S. in F-1 status. WSU strongly encourages students to contact an immigration attorney to make an informed decision, get direct assistance with the application, and consider the risks related to both options. WSU cannot provide legal advice regarding particularities of any student’s application but will provide information regarding the process to help students maintain their visa status.
The process to regain valid F-1 status can be challenging. Typically, WSU assists with reinstatement applications only for students who fall out of status while at WSU. Exceptions are made for extenuating circumstances at the discretion of the Principal Designated School Official. However, for students who would like to begin studies at WSU while being out of status, we can discuss options and provide a referral to outside resources for reinstatement if necessary. Please contact this office if you have questions regarding the reinstatement application. If you have legal questions about the process that WSU cannot answer, please contact an immigration attorney.
When requesting reinstatement, an individual must establish to the satisfaction of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that he or she:
- Has not been out of status more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or demonstrate that the failure to file within the 5-month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that you filed for reinstatement as soon as possible under these circumstances).
- Does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of immigration regulations.
- Is currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school that issued the Form I-20.
- Has not engaged in unauthorized employment.
- Is not deportable on any grounds other than overstaying or failing to maintain status.
An individual seeking reinstatement must also establish that:
- The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond his or her control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or excusable neglect on the part of your ISSS adviser, but do not include instances where a pattern of repeated violations or a willful failure on your part resulted in the need for reinstatement, or
- The violation relates to a reduction in your course load that would have been within the international student adviser’s authority to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to you.
If USCIS approves the reinstatement request, the adjudicating officer will update the student’s SEVIS record to indicate that the student has been reinstated. If USCIS does not approve the reinstatement request, the decision cannot be appealed, and the individual must prepare to leave the U.S. immediately. Processing times for this application vary between 8-12 months.
In some cases, it may be advisable to depart the U.S. and reenter with a new I-20, rather than apply for reinstatement. This may be done by obtaining a new WSU I-20, departing the U.S., applying for a new F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad (if the F-1 visa stamp in your passport has expired), and returning to the U.S. Note that students who violated status are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation. A reentry to the U.S. after a status violation is viewed by Immigration as “initial attendance” in F-1 status. As such, individuals who reenter are bound by restrictions placed on new students, such as the academic year waiting period for eligibility for practical training.
To request a new I-20 for travel and reentry:
- Schedule an appointment with an International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) adviser to discuss options. At the appointment the ISSS adviser will review the situation and discuss the travel and reentry process in detail.
- Submit the online I-20 request to ISSS, including uploaded scans/photos of financial documentation. The financial documentation must show enough funds to pay for at least one year of expenses (unless you are requesting an I-20 for only one term). Once approved, the student will receive a new I-20.
- ISSS advisers can discuss this process in general, if you have legal questions regarding the reentry process, please contact an immigration attorney.
- What is the major difference between the two options?
Students who are reinstated continue in their previous F-1 status. Students who choose travel and reentry are considered initial status students. This is most important when considering eligibility for Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training. Students who reenter using a new I-20 will be required to complete one academic year before becoming eligible to apply for off-campus employment.
- What are the costs associated with each option?
Reinstatement in the U.S: USCIS charges a Form I-539 filing fee of $455 and it requires an appointment with a USCIS office (the closest office to Pullman is in Spokane).
Travel and reentry: There is a $350 SEVIS fee, plus any expenses incurred for travel and visa applications.
- Which option is the least risky?
Each option has its risks. WSU cannot provide legal advice to students about the full extent of the risk of each option. If you have questions regarding this, you should contact an immigration attorney. However, generally, if your application for reinstatement is denied, you will be required to depart the U.S. immediately. If you are denied reentry at the border, you may be required to return home immediately from the port of entry.
- May I continue to study at WSU while my application for reinstatement is pending?
Yes, you must continue to study to maintain your F-1 status.
- May I continue to work on campus while my application for reinstatement is pending?
No. Once it is determined that you have violated your student status, you must stop working immediately.
- How long will the reinstatement process take?
Reinstatement applications take approximately 8 to 9 months or even as long as 1 year.
- Can I reenter from Canada or must I return to and reenter from my home country?
Reentry from Canada is possible. However, you must already have a valid visa to enter Canada, if needed. The Canadian Consulate will not issue an entry visa to students with “initial attendance” I-20s. For more information, contact your ISSS adviser.