F-1 Reinstatement

Reinstatement is a process that allows students who’ve lost their F-1 status through no fault of their own. Circumstances that can lead to loss of status without fault include severe illness or injury, natural disasters, closure of your school, and other exceptional circumstances beyond your control. When you request reinstatement, you must meet the established criteria:

  • You must not be out of status for more than five (5) months (unless the result of exceptional circumstances).
    • If you’ve been out of status longer than five months, you must demonstrate that circumstances beyond your control kept you from filing for reinstatement within that period and that you’ve filed for reinstatement as soon as possible, given those circumstances.
  • You don’t have a record of repeated or willful violations of F-1 regulations.
  • You’re pursuing (or will soon) a full course of study at the I-20-issuing institution (i.e., UMFK).
  • You haven’t worked without proper authorization.
  • There are no grounds, other than overstaying or failure to maintain F-1 status, to deport you from the United States.

The following information addresses frequently asked questions regarding the reinstatement process.

Will UMFK/my DSO always sponsor my reinstatement?

No. We reserve the right to decide whether to sponsor a student for reinstatement. Reinstatement is intended for individuals who have lost status unexpectedly through no circumstances beyond their control. 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.

Some examples of when ISS is unlikely to sponsor you for 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 ISS staff instructions, or did not leave the U.S. after being given a deadline following an academic (or another form of) dismissal. We will assess each situation individually to determine whether we will agree to sponsor you for reinstatement.

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

As of 2018, the U.S. government takes a more restrictive view of students who fall out of status and apply what is referred to as “unlawful presence.” This can result in U.S. authorities not granting entry visas for as few as three (3) years, as many as ten (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 learn more about unlawful presence from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

What are the most common reasons students lose their F-1 status?

As most circumstances are within a student’s control, it can be challenging to prove your loss of status was “beyond your control.” Below are some common reasons students lose F-1 status:

  • You didn’t report to your DSO to initially register in SEVIS upon arriving at UMFK.
  • Once arriving on campus, you didn’t provide or update your local address correctly within ten (10) days of moving.
  • You were not registered for a full-time course load during your first term and failed to maintain full-time registration during a fall or spring semester without a DSO’s authorization.
  • Your I-20 expired while you were still studying at UMFK.
  • You didn’t apply for a change in degree level in a timely manner.
  • You neglected to complete the school transfer process correctly or on time.
  • You worked without proper authorization.
  • You indicated you were coming to UMFK as an F-1 student new to the United States, but your visa states a different school name.

Do I need to meet with a DSO to apply for reinstatement?

Yes. You should schedule a meeting with a DSO to discuss reinstatement. Appointments can be scheduled online You will also need to log into the UMFK portal and complete the Reinstatement Request Form.

How likely is it that I will regain F-1 status?

We are unable to predict the outcome of the reinstatement process. To be eligible:

  • You must not be out of status for more than five (5) months (unless the result of exceptional circumstances).
  • You must be enrolled at UMFK full-time or have received authorization from a DSO for part-time enrollment.
  • You must not be working a job without proper authorization.
  • The circumstances that led to the loss of status must have been beyond your control. The USCIS provides, as examples, “serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO.”

As a student, you are responsible for maintaining your F-1 status. The USCIS will not grant reinstatement if you’ve demonstrated repeated or willful violations of F-1 regulations leading to your loss of F-1 status.

Do I need to stop working while my application is pending if I currently hold a job on campus?

Yes. During the reinstatement process, you must stop working in your on-campus position. Additionally, all other work authorizations, such as CPT, are automatically terminated.

Can I regain my F-1 status by simply re-entering the United States?

No, though you can leave the U.S. upon losing status and re-enter with a new I-20 instead of applying for reinstatement. Doing so requires UMFK to issue you a new I-20 and establish a new SEVIS record with a new SEVIS ID. You will need to pay the SEVIS fee to establish this new record, and you’ll also need to apply for a new visa due to the newly issued I-20 and SEVIS number.

Please note that this approach does not guarantee F-1 status being granted. You won’t be automatically allowed to re-enter the United States. Further, the termination of your prior SEVIS record may show up in government databases leading to questioning during future travel, renewing your visa, or trying to re-enter the United States at ports of entry.

If you opt for this process over reinstatement, you must maintain F-1 status for one academic year before being eligible for benefits such as Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training. You may also not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. until thirty (30) days before starting classes.

*Regarding Issuance of a New I-20:

In addition to refusing to sponsor a student’s reinstatement, UMFK may opt not to issue a new I-20 immediately in cases of a student remaining in the U.S. after the end of their legal status. We may ask you to provide evidence of having been out of the country for the time they should have been gone. For example, if a student has not attended UMFK for one year and hasn’t attended another school during that year, they must not have remained in the United States during that period. If a student wishes to re-enroll but is found to have remained in the United States in violation of F-1 regulations, we may require the student to leave the country for one year before we are willing to issue a new I-20.

Will I be eligible for F-1 benefits, such as Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training, if my reinstatement is approved?

Yes, you’d be eligible for F-1 benefits if you remained compliant for at least one academic year before losing F-1 status. But you cannot apply for these programs until reinstatement is approved.

What documentation must I submit when applying for reinstatement?

Please provide the following documentation:

  • Form I-539 (include supplemental Form I-539A for any dependents)
    • The application fee is $370, and an $85 biometric services fee (and a separate $85 biometric services fee for each dependent for whom you include a Form I-539A). Make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. NOTE: fee values are accurate as of March 30, 2023. Please visit the USCIS’s I-539 page to ensure you pay the appropriate amount at the time of filing your application.
  • If you’ve been out of status for five (5) or more months, a copy of I-797 showing payment of the SEVIS fee
  • Your original Form I-94
  • The original Form I-94 for each F-2 dependent
  • A copy of the visa page from your passport
  • A copy of the biographic page(s) of your passport that includes your photo, identification information, and passport expiration date
  • A copy of the I-20 issued by the University of Maine at Fort Kent recommending reinstatement and signed by you on the first page
  • Copies of all previous I-20s
  • Evidence of financial support (such as bank statements showing adequate funds to meet the expenses listed on your I-20)
  • An official, recent transcript from UMFK (see the Registrar’s Office section for requesting an official transcript)
  • A copy of your current or next semester class registration
  • A letter of support from a DSO recommending reinstatement (if supplied at the discretion of the DSO)
  • A letter from you detailing:
    • why you are out of status, and what led to losing F-1 status;
    • how the circumstances leading to the loss of F-1 status were beyond your control;
    • that you haven’t been out of status for longer than five (5) months (or if you’ve been out of status longer than five months, how circumstances beyond your control kept you from filing for reinstatement within that period and that you’ve filed for reinstatement as soon as possible, given those circumstances);
    • how denial of reinstatement could lead to extreme hardship;
    • that you are pursuing (or soon will) a full course of study at UMFK;
    • that you have not worked off-campus without proper authorization;
    • that you’re not deportable or involved with removal proceedings.
  • Optionally, if you wish to receive notification that USCIS has received your application, include Form G-1145, attached to the first page of your application packet.

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

The SEVIS fee, charged by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, that individuals visiting the country with F-1 status must pay to cover expenses involved in administrating and maintaining the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). As of March 30, 2023, the fee assessed is $370 (excluding the $85 per person biometric fee charged for yourself and any dependents).

You will only need to pay the SEVIS fee again if you’ve been out of status for more than five (5) months, in which case, you must pay the fee and provide proof of payment with your reinstatement application.

  • Visit the Student and Exchange Visitor (SEVP) I-901 SEVIS Fee Processing website to complete Form I-901 and pay your SEVIS fee by credit card. Make sure you enter your name exactly as it appears on your I-20.
  • When prompted for your school code, enter POM214F00108000.
  • When prompted for your SEVIS ID, enter the ID (which begins with the letter “N) at the top right section of your I-20.
  • Print your receipt as proof of payment.
  • Submit a copy of your receipt with your reinstatement application, and keep copies of your receipt with your other immigration documents.

Note: if your reinstatement is denied, the SEVIS fee is not refundable.

Where should I mail my application?

A DSO must mail your reinstatement application to the USCIS for you. Once you’ve prepared all the required documentation (other than the new I-20), you’ll meet with a DSO to get your new I-20 recommending your reinstatement. Once the new I-20 is created, we will submit your application packet to the USCIS. The USCIS must receive your new I-20 and application packet within thirty (30) days of submitting the reinstatement request in SEVIS.

What is the biometric services fee?

The biometric services fee covers the costs of collecting fingerprints and other biometric data. As of March 30, 2023, the fee assessed is $85 per person for yourself and any dependents. When the USCIS receives your reinstatement application, you will be contacted to set up an appointment to travel to a USCIS Application Support Center to collect the necessary biometric information.

How long does it take USCIS to process my application?

It can take several months for the USCIS to process reinstatement applications.

While my reinstatement is pending a decision, can I travel outside the U.S.?

No, you should not travel outside the United States until your reinstatement is approved.

How will I be notified of my reinstatement application decision?

The USCIS will return your I-20 to us, indicating whether reinstatement was approved. Your I-94 (and those of your dependents, if applicable) will also be returned showing a reinstatement approval stamp. You will be notified by a DSO when we receive these documents.

What happens if the USCIS denies my reinstatement request?

If your application for reinstatement is denied, you’ll receive an explanation for the denial. While our staff may be able to answer questions about your denial, USCIS denials cannot be appealed. In the case of a denial, you should contact an immigration lawyer to discuss your options or make plans to leave the United States as soon as possible.