International students must maintain lawful F-1 status by complying with the immigration regulations outlined below. If an international student fails to follow these rules, they will lose their F-1 Status. In this case, a student must make a choice on how they will regain F-1 Status.
If you think you may be out of status, please contact ISSS immediately. The longer you wait to address the problem, the more difficult it can become to fix. Furthermore, only students in valid F-1 status are eligible for F-1 benefits from the USCIS (e.g. on-campus employment or OPT authorization).
Reinstatement vs Traveling to Regain F-1 Status
Travel and Reentry
$455 ($370 for the application fee, $85 for the biometric services fee) If you have been out of status for more than 5 months, you must also pay $350 for a new SEVIS/I-901 fee.
$350 for F-1 students (SEVIS fee), plus any expenses incurred for travel and visa applications if you need a new visa.
Future of OPT and CPT
While pending reinstatement, CPT is not possible. If you graduate while reinstatement is still pending, there is no guarantee that your OPT will be approved.
If you choose to travel and reenter to regain F-1 status, you are considered an initial status student. This is most important when considering eligibility for OPT or CPT. 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.
USCIS may take anywhere from 4 to 12 months to process your application, the processing time continually varies.
If you regain status by travel you regain status as soon as you are able to reenter the U.S.
If your application for reinstatement is denied, you will be required to depart the U.S. immediately and would need to apply for a new I-20 before re-entering the U.S.
If you decide to regain status by travel and are denied reentry at the border, you may be required to return home immediately from the port of entry.
Working on Campus
Once it is determined that you have violated your student status, you must stop working immediately while reinstatement is pending
Can work once successfully reentered the US in F-1 status
You will not risk being separated from your spouse/child if they are in the U.S. with you. If the reinstatement is approved, you would be reinstated "nunc pro tunc", as though you had never been out of status. You would immediately be able to apply for off-campus work permission [such as OPT], as long as you had completed at least one academic year prior to violating your status.
If you regain status by travel you are considered to be in F-1 status as soon as you are able to reenter the U.S.
An application for a reinstatement can take months. While you should attend classes, you will not be able to engage in ANY on (including assistantships) or off-campus employment. If the application is denied, you will not have any valid nonimmigrant status in the U.S. You will be required to leave the U. S. on very short notice, possibly causing an interruption in your program of study at an inconvenient or academically disadvantageous time.
You must take in consideration visa regulations if visiting a third party (for example, do I need a visa to go to Canada?) to regain F-1 Status. Also consider the risks of traveling during a pandemic.
Consequences of a Denial
INA § 222(g) (overstay and visa cancellation) and § 212(a)(9)B) (unlawful presence) are two penalty provisions that can be activated if a request for reinstatement is denied. Since reinstatement by definition consists of a finding by USCIS that there has been a status violation, the denial of a reinstatement application would in all likelihood be considered a "formal finding of a status violation.., resulting in the termination of the period of stay authorized by the Attorney General." Under the most recent guidance on the applicability of INA 222(g) and § 212(a)(9)(B), the reinstatement denial would have the following effects, as of the date of the denial: The visa that you used to enter the United States is automatically cancelled You are permanently limited to applying for nonimmigrant visas in the future only in your country of citizenship or permanent residence You will begin accumulating days of "unlawful presence." If you remain in the United States after the denial for over 180 days, you will be barred from returning to the U.S. for three years; if you remain after the denial for one year or more, you will be barred from returning to the US for ten years Please note that whether the application is approved or denied there is an official record of a violation of status in DHS files. Status violations can have future impact on eligibility for immigration benefits such as adjustment of status.
Traveling can be expensive, and if you cannot re-enter the US, you will be stuck outside of the country until your situation is rectified.