If an F-1 student breaks an immigration rule, they may “lose their status” in the US. This means that their F-1 status in the US is no longer valid, and they have no legal immigration status in the US at all. The I-20 is also terminated, and is thus also no longer valid.
F-1 status can be lost most commonly from lack of full-time enrollment, allowing the I-20 to expire inappropriately, or working without proper authorization. Please monitor your immigration status carefully and read email reminders from IES to avoid losing your status!
Once F-1 status is lost, there are a few ways a student can try to regain status, if the offense for losing the status was not too severe.
Reinstatement by Application
A student may be eligible to apply for Reinstatement. This is an application compiled with the IES office and sent to USCIS, explaining the reason and extenuating circumstances for the loss of status, and requesting to have the status reactivated. The application costs $290, and takes on average between 4-5 months to be processed. The reinstatement application must be submitted within 6 months of the student losing their F-1 status.
Please note that during the time that Reinstatement is pending, the student is NOT eligible for F-1 benefits, such as work on campus or off campus through CPT or OPT.
Students seeking reinstatement should contact the IES office directly for individualized guidance.
Reinstatement by Travelling Abroad
A student who is out of status can also choose to work with the IES office for a new I-20, pay the new SEVIS fee, and travel abroad with the new I-20. This often requires an application for a new visa as well. Upon returning to the US with the new I-20, the student’s status is regained. Please note that this method is dangerous for certain kinds of offenses that do not allow return to the US, such as working without authorization or remaining in the US for a long time after losing status.
US Entrance Bars Based on Illegal Presence
US Immigration law states that individuals in the US for more than 180 days without a valid status are banned from returning to the US for at least 3 years.
Individuals in the US for more than 1 year without a valid status are banned from returning to the US for at least 10 years.
These bans are removed if the student is able to be reinstated within the US. The consequences to remaining in the US without a legal status are severe, so please always be mindful of your immigration status and let the IES office know if you have questions or concerns.