Reinstatement (F-1 Students)

When do I need to file an application for reinstatement to F-1 status?

You need to file for reinstatement if you violated the USCIS regulations with regard to maintaining your F-1 status.  Violations include, but are not limited to the following situations:

Do I need to meet with an ISSS adviser to apply for reinstatement?

Yes.  You should come to ISSS to meet with an advisor during walk-in advising hours.  Please also login to your iHawk account (click the blue login button) using your HawkID and password.  Go to "F-1 student Services" and complete the e-form "Reinstatement Request." 

How likely is it that I will be granted reinstatement to F-1 status?

It is impossible for the ISSS to predict what may happen.  The regulations are significantly more restrictive and unforgiving.  To be eligible:

  • A student cannot have been out of status for more than 5 months, unless he/she can demonstrate there were “exceptional circumstances” that prevented the student from filing during the 5-month period.
  • A student must be pursuing a full course of study or have ISSS authorization to be part-time
  • A student should not have engaged in unauthorized employment.
  • The violation of status must have resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control.  The USCIS specifically lists such examples as, “serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO.”
  • The USCIS holds YOU responsible for your status.  The USCIS will not grant reinstatement in “instances where a pattern of repeated violations or where a willful failure on the part of the student resulted in the need for reinstatement.”

Do I need to stop working if I am currently employed as a teaching assistant or hold an on-campus job, while my application is pending?

No.  You may continue working on campus while waiting for a decision on your reinstatement application, if you were already employed before you fell out of status.  If you were not employed before you were out of status, you should wait until your reinstatement is approved before beginning employment.  Please be advised that you are not eligible to apply for a social security number unless your SEVIS record is active.

Is it possible to be reinstated to F-1 status simply by re-entering the U.S.?

No.  However, you do have the option to depart the U.S. and re-enter with a new, initial I-20 rather than applying for reinstatement.  In order to do this, the ISSS must issue you a new, initial I-20 with a new SEVIS record and SEVIS ID.  You will have to pay the SEVIS fee again for that record.  You may also need to apply for a new visa, particularly if you have been out of status more than five months.  You should discuss this option in depth with an ISSS advisor before making any plans to travel.

Please be aware that there are risks in doing this.  You will not automatically be allowed to re-enter the U.S.  The port of entry officer will be evaluating your admissibility.  Additionally, your previous SEVIS record’s termination may show up in government databases and could cause you to be questioned during future travel such as when you are applying to renew a visa or are trying to re-enter the U.S. 

If you choose this option, you will not eligible for certain F-1 benefits such as Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training until you have been back in status for at least one academic year.  You also may not reenter the U.S. more than 30 days prior to your new program start date.

Will I be eligible for F-1 benefits such as Curricular and/or Optional Practical Training after my reinstatement application is approved?

Yes.  You will be eligible for F-1 benefits as long as you had maintained your F-1 status for at least one academic year before falling out of status.  But you cannot apply for CPT or OPT until the reinstatement is approved.

What documentation do I need to submit?

  • Application filing fee of $290, payable to the Department of Homeland Security
  • I-797 Receipt letter indicating payment of $200 SEVIS fee (only if out of status 5+ months, see next section for details)
  • Form I-539 (see instructions and example copy)
  • Your original Form I-94 (a small, white card stapled in your passport)
  • The original Form I-94 for any F-2 dependents you may have
  • A photocopy of the visa page from your passport
  • A photocopy of the page(s) from your passport showing your photo and identification information, and showing your passport expiration date
  • Photocopy of SEVIS I-20 issued to you by the University of Iowa and recommending reinstatement, and signed by you on page 1
  • Evidence of financial support (e.g., letter from your department regarding the terms of the assistantship you have been offered and/or a bank statement showing personal or family funds sufficient to meet the expenses listed on your I-20)
  • Photocopies of all previous I-20s issued to you by the UI or any other institution
  • An official and recent transcript from the Registrar's Office (basement of Jessup Hall)
  • A printout showing current or next semester class registration
  • A letter from an ISSS adviser recommending reinstatement
  • A detailed letter from you explaining:
  1. why you are out of status and why you fell out of status
  2. how being out of status was due to circumstances beyond your control
  3. that you have not been out of status for more than 5 months, or how being out of status more than five months was due to exceptional circumstances beyond your control and you filed for reinstatement as quickly as possible under these circumstances
  4. how failure to reinstate you could result in extreme hardship
  5. you are pursuing or intend to pursue a full course of study
  6. you have not been employed off campus without authorization
  7. you are not deportable or involved in removal proceedings
  • Optional – If you want to receive an email or text that the USCIS has received your application, include the Form G-1145, available here.  Be sure to attach this form to the first page of your application packet.

What is the SEVIS fee, and do I have to pay it?

The SEVIS fee is the charge, effective September 1, 2004, assessed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, whereby all F-1 visitors to the U.S. must pay a fee of $200 to supplement federal government expenses involved in the maintenance and administration of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

If you are applying for reinstatement and you have been out of statue for MORE THAN 5 MONTHS, you will be required to pay the SEVIS fee before you can mail in your reinstatement application.  There are two ways to pay this fee:

To Pay Online (highly recommended to pay this way instead of by mail)

  1. Find the Form I-901 at www.FMJfee.com.
  2. Complete the form online and supply the necessary Visa, MasterCard or American Express information.  Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 form.
  3. Print a copy of the online receipt.
  4. Be sure to make copies of your receipt, and keep it with your other important immigration documents.  You will need to submit a copy of this receipt along with your other reinstatement application material.

To Pay By Mail (this method is not recommended as it could delay your application by weeks)

  1. Obtain a Form I-901 “Fee Remittance for Certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrants” from www.FMJfee.com or request the form by phone at 1-800-870-3676 (inside the US)
  2. Complete the Form I-901. Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 form.
  3. Prepare a check, international money order or foreign draft (drawn on US banks only) in the amount of $200 US Dollars, made payable to “The Department of Homeland Security” (ISSS strongly suggests you use a personal check, since it is easy to trace these.)
  4. Mail the completed I-901 and payment to the address listed on the Form I-901.
  5. A Form I-797 receipt notice should be mailed within 3 days of processing the fee.  Be sure to make copies of your receipt, and keep it with your other important immigration documents.  You will need to submit a copy of this receipt along with your other reinstatement application material.

Remember, your reinstatement application cannot be mailed until the SEVIS fee is paid and you have a receipt proving payment.  Should your reinstatement application be denied, the SEVIS fee is not refundable. 

What is the fee that I need to enclose with my application?

The fee is $290.  Payment must be in the form of a money order, cashier's check, or personal check issued in the exact amount and payable to "Department of Homeland Security." If you choose to send a personal check, please be sure that your address and phone number are accurately noted on the check.

Where should I mail my application?

The ISSS must mail your reinstatement application for you via overnight express mail.  Once ALL of the above documentation, except the new SEVIS I-20, is ready, you will then meet with an ISSS adviser to get your new I-20 recommending you for reinstatement.  As soon as the new I-20 is created, we will immediately mail your documents via overnight mail to the USCIS.  Your new I-20 and complete application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the reinstatement request being made in SEVIS.

How long does it take for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to process my application?

The USCIS can take several months to process reinstatement applications. 

Can I travel outside of the U.S. while my reinstatement is pending?

No, until your reinstatement request is approved, you should not travel outside of the U.S.

How will I be notified that a decision has been made on my application?

USCIS will return your I-20 noting the approved reinstatement to F-1 status to the ISSS, along with your I-94 card (and that of any F-2 dependents) showing the reinstatement approval stamp.  The ISSS will notify you when these documents arrive.

What if I am denied reinstatement to F-1 status?

If your application cannot be approved, you will receive an explanation for the denial.  The ISSS may be able to answer questions about the denial, but the USCIS indicates denials may not be appealed.  In that situation, you should consult with an immigration lawyer or make plans to depart the United States as soon as possible.