Options for Regaining Status

Once a student has violated their F-1 status it is in their best interest to have it restored as soon as possible. There are two options to regain F-1 status:

  1. Travel outside of the US, and
  2. Apply to be reinstated while in the US.

The student is also strongly encouraged to consult with an immigration attorney through The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

To be eligible for either option, the student is required to continue full time enrollment in their academic program, and have the financial means to pay for estimated expenses while in school. Both options involve benefits and risks, each student must decide which works best for their needs. As a reminder, all on-campus or authorized off-campus employment until F-1 status is restored.

Which is the best option?

It depends on your individual circumstances as to which approach to follow. Some of the factors to keep in mind are:

  • How close is your date of completion?
  • How soon you need to be back in F1 status? Because you have an assistantship or on-campus employment or because you are an athlete.
  • Do you have a valid visa stamp in your passport?
  • How strong is your case for reinstatement?

Regaining status through travel is usually faster, if you have a valid visa stamp. However, if you choose to travel to regain status, you will forfeit any time you have accrued toward practical training eligibility. You will need to be registered for one academic year in order to qualify for CPT or OPT.

The advantage of applying for reinstatement with USCIS is that, when approved, your SEVIS record is returned to active status, and there is no interruption of the time accrued towards eligibility for practical training. If denied, however, your visa is automatically cancelled; you are permanently limited to applying for non-immigrant visas in your country of citizenship or permanent residence; you will begin accumulating days of "unlawful presence" if you remain in the US after the denial.