Violations of F-1 Status
Students in F-1 status are responsible for maintaining their status. Status maintenance includes (but is not limited to):
- Enrolling full-time each semester (unless you have prior authorization from ISSS to under-enroll);
- Updating your address, phone number, and legal name within 10 calendar days of any change;
- Not working without authorization;
- Requesting an extension of your I-20 before the end date of your I-20; and,
- Contacting your ISSS advisor prior to any leave of absence, withdrawal, or transfer.
Failure to maintain your F-1 status has serious consequences. If you violate your status, ISSS is required by federal regulation to inform the Department of Homeland Security. ISSS does this by terminating your SEVIS record.
Once your SEVIS record is terminated, you no longer have legal status to be in the U.S. Thus, you must take immediate action to regain your status.
Regaining Your F-1 Status after a Violation
If you are out of status, you generally have two options to regain it:
- Reinstatement: After receiving a reinstatement I-20 from your ISSS advisor, you file a reinstatement application to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). If approved, your F-1 status is reinstated.
- Advantages: Reinstatement allows you to stay in the U.S. while your application is being processed. If approved, you maintain your eligibility for CPT and OPT, since you keep the same SEVIS ID.
- Disadvantages: The processing time is long (sometimes over a year). During this time, you cannot travel outside the U.S. You are not eligible to work, on- or off-campus, while a reinstatement application is pending. If your reinstatement is denied, you must depart the U.S. immediately (no grace period). Certain status violations (such as unauthorized employment) are not eligible for reinstatement.
- Travel and Re-entry: You depart the U.S., receive a new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID, and re-enter the U.S. on the new I-20. If successful, your F-1 status starts over again.
- Advantages: In general, a faster process than reinstatement, especially if you do not need to apply for a new F-1 visa.
- Disadvantages: Requires getting a new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID, so you will need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again. Requires travel and, if your F-1 visa has expired, an appointment an an embassy outside the U.S. Once you are admitted to the U.S. on your new I-20, you must wait one full academic year before you are eligible for CPT or OPT.
If you have fallen out of status, talk with your ISSS advisor about your options to determine which one is better for you. Both options have advantages and disadvantages, and neither option comes with the guarantee of success. You will need to consider the risks of each one.