Will ISSS always sponsor me for reinstatement?

No. ISSS reserves the right to decide whether or not we will sponsor a student for reinstatement. Reinstatement is meant for students who have lost status unexpectedly through no fault of their own. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which processes reinstatement applications, 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.” Immigration regulations do not require a school to sponsor a student for reinstatement, and that decision is left up to the discretion of the Designated School Officials (ISSS).

Some examples when SSS is unlikely to sponsor you for a reinstatement include if you let your I-20 expire, failed to enroll but stayed in the U.S., did not read email alerts or follow ISSS staff instructions, or did not leave the U.S. after being given a deadline following an academic or other form of dismissal. We will assess each situation individually to determine whether or not we will agree to sponsor you for reinstatement.

We will also take into account how much time passes if you receive an alert from us about being out of status until you submit a reinstatement request to us.

Starting in 2018, the U.S. government will take an even more restrictive view of students who fall out of status, and will begin to apply what is called "unlawful presence." This could result in U.S. authorities not granting entry visa for as few as 3, or as many as 10 years, or in some cases even permanently, following the unlawful presence. Therefore, it is more important than ever that you take steps to protect your legal status and not lose it in the first place. You can read more about unlawful presence here.

What are the most common reasons students fall out of status?

Below are the more common reasons students lose status. The majority of situations are considered to be within the control of a student, so it can be difficult to make a case that it was "beyond your control." Violations include, but are not limited to the following situations:

  • you did not report to ISSS for initial registration in SEVIS upon arrival
  • you did not report upon arrival or update your local address properly in MyUI within 10 days of moving
  • you were registered less than full-time during your first term or session and/or subsequently failed to maintain full-time registration during either a fall or spring semester without ISSS authorization
  • your I-20 expired while you were still engaged in study at the University of Iowa
  • you failed to apply for a change in education degree level in a timely manner
  • you failed to complete a school transfer procedure properly or on time
  • you were engaged in unauthorized employment
  • you reported to the University of Iowa as an F-1 student new to the United States, but your visa specifies another school

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?

Yes. During reinstatement a student must stop working on campus and all other work authorizations such as CPT are automatically terminated.

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

No. However, you may 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 will also need to apply for a new visa, since you will receive a new SEVIS number on your new I-20. You should discuss this option 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.

A special word about getting a new I-20 from ISSS.

We also have an institutional policy where we may both refuse to sponsor a student for reinstatement and may also refuse to immediately issue a new Initial I-20. This rule may be applied in cases where a student remained inside the U.S. after legal status ended. We may require the student to show proof that they have been outside the U.S. for the amount of time they should have been gone. For example, a student may be academically dismissed for one year. If not attending another U.S. school, the only other option is to leave the U.S. and then obtain a new Initial I-20 if given permission to return the following year. However, when ISSS identifies that a student stayed in the U.S. during that year in violation of F-1 status and our directive to depart by the deadline we provided, we may require the student to leave the U.S. for one year before we are willing to issue a new I-20 for return. This will be assessed on an individual basis.

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 - This now varies depending on whether you have any dependents included on your reinstatement application, and includes a new biometric services fee. Check the website here and consult with an ISSS advisor if it is not clear. You may write one check to cover all fees, including any application/biometrics fees for any dependents listed on the I-539A. Use a personal check payable to the Department of Homeland Security.
  • I-797 Receipt letter indicating payment of the SEVIS fee (only if out of status 5+ months, see the SEVIS section below for details)
  • Form I-539 (see this I-539 page to access the form and instructions on how to fill this out); pay close attention to these questions:
    • Part 1, question 4.a: Type "c/o ISSS Advisor, Univ. of Iowa"
    • Part 1, question 4.b: Type "1111 UCC"
    • Part 1, question 4.d: Type "Iowa City"
    • Part 1, question 4.e: Type "IA"
    • Part 1, question 4.f: Type "52242"
    • Part 1, question 15.a: F-1 student
    • Part 1, question 15.b: D/S (do not put a specific date here)
    • Part 1, question 16: Check the box to indicate you were granted "Duration of Status" D/S
    • Part 2, question 1: Check the box to indicate you are applying for reinstatement to student status
    • Part 3, question 1: Write "D/S" (do not put a specific date here)
    • Part 4, question 12: Since you are applying for reinstatement because you lost F-1 status, you must check "Yes"
    • Part 4, question 14:
      • If you answer "No," you must also go to Section 8 and indicate how you are being financially supported (personal funds, family funds, scholarships, etc.) and the amount
      • If you answer "Yes," you must also go to Section 8 and provide information on the name and address of employer, weekly income, and if you had legal authorization to engage in the employment
  • Your original Form I-94 (a small, white card stapled in your passport or printed electronically)
  • 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 UI Service Center, 2700 UCC
  • A printout showing current or next semester class registration
  • A letter from an ISSS advisor 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 $350 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.

  1. Find the Form I-901.
  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.

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.

Where should I mail my application?

The ISSS must mail your reinstatement application for you. 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 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.

What is the biometric services fee?

Once USCIS receives your reinstatement application, you will be contacted at some point to arrange an appointment to travel to a USCIS Application Support Center to have fingerprints taken and other biometric data gathered. The closest center to Iowa City is in Des Moines.

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 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. 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.