Reinstatement of F-1 Status

From time to time, F-1 students fail to maintain their status, often unintentionally. A foreign national student studying in the United States can fall out of status either as a result of an action on his or her own part, such as working without authorization (some students believe that they have the same rights to work as U.S. citizen classmates), or for a reason out of the student’s control, such as when s/he transfers to another school and the school official does not carry out the transfer procedures correctly, or if the student falls ill and cannot attend classes with the required minimum credits to maintain F-1 status. Other reasons include dropping out of school entirely, or not completing the course work in time and being unable to meet the requirements for an F-1 extension, or failure of the Designated School Official (DSO) to give the correct end date of a student’s program.

Please note that if a student needs to reduce his or her course load for any reason, such as a serious illness, the matter should be discussed with the DSO. There may be circumstances under which a lighter course load can be authorized with the assistance of the DSO. If a student has fallen out of status, but wishes to resume studies, the student may be able to apply for reinstatement.

The basic requirements for reinstatement, which is generally processed with the assistance and recommendation of the DSO and involves an application to the USCIS, are:

(a) the status violation was caused by circumstances beyond the student’s control, or the student demonstrates that s/he would suffer extreme hardship if not reinstated when failure to maintain status was the result of something that would have been possible for the DSO to authorize;

(b) the student is pursuing, or intends to pursue, full time study;

(c) the student has not engaged in unauthorized off-campus employment;

(d) none of the grounds for removability (formerly known as “deportability”) apply to the student, other than the violation of status itself;

(e) the student has not been out of status for more than 5 months, or there were exceptional circumstances for being out of status longer and the application was filed as soon as possible; and

(f) the student does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of immigration regulations.

USCIS makes a case-by-case determination on the request for reinstatement, based upon a review of all the circumstances. It is important to document the case well to prove that all the requirements have been satisfied.

The Murthy Law Firm recommends that readers of MurthyDotCom consult with a qualified U.S. immigration law attorney to assist with paperwork, if the DSO is unable or unwilling to guide the foreign student in the reinstatement process. The consequences can often be harsh for students if reinstatement is denied by the USCIS.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.