You may travel out of the U.S. and re-enter with an "initial attendance" I-20. By doing this you are "starting over" with your F-1 visa status. Immigration Services recognizes this method as a valid way to correct your status. If your current visa in your passport is valid, you may not have to apply for a new visa. The penalty for this type of status correction is that you will not be eligible for any kind of off-campus work until after you have returned and maintained your F-1 status for another academic year. To pursue this option, please submit a new Certificate of Financial Responsibility with foreign address section completed, and an updated bank statement for one year of funding, with the prospect of more funding for future years.
If you do not wish to leave the U.S., or if it is important for you to be able to pursue F-1 off- campus employment benefits within the next academic year, you may also ask USCIS to pardon your status violation through a procedure called Reinstatement to Student Status.
F-1 Reinstatement in the U.S. Process
Step 1: Discuss with an OIPS Advisor the benefits and drawbacks of options A and B as discussed above.
Step 2: Download Form I-539 from USCIS.gov. Fill out the Form I-539, but leave blank any questions that you are unsure of.
Step 3: Submit a new Certificate of Financial Responsibility and Proof of Funding that shows that you can support yourself for the upcoming academic year. Submit a letter from your Academic Advisor detailing remaining requirements for your degree and expected graduation date. OIPS will issue your new I- 20 for F-1 Reinstatement once we receive your documents. Your Reinstatement I-20 should be ready in one week from the time you submit your documents to us.
Step 4: Order a copy of your transcripts and current course list from GMU through Patriot Web and for all other institutions attended as an F-1 student in the United States.
Step 5: Gather and make scanned copies of your valid passport, I-94 card, visa, and all of your previously issued I-20 forms.
Step 6: Write a letter to the USCIS Student Schools Officer explaining the following:
- The reason for the violation of F-1 status and why it was beyond your control;
- Along with the explanation, please submit any evidence that supports your explanation (letter from academic advisor, medical excuse, etc.);
- That you intend to maintain your F-1 status in the future;
- That you have not worked without authorization;
- If you have a complex situation, a timeline of events can also be helpful to clarify your situation.
F-1 Reinstatement in the U.S. Checklist
The following documents should be included in your F-1 Reinstatement in the U.S. application packet:
- Fee for $370.00 using check, money order or form G1450 credit card form to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Fee for $85 using check, money order or G1450 credit card form to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for fingerprinting requirement
- Proof of SEVIS fee payment (I-901). You can reprint it from fmjfee.com
- Completed and signed I-539. Write "Reinstatement" in red ink on top of the 1st page
- Letter from you requesting F-1 Reinstatement
- Letter from DSO Explaining Reason for Reinstatement (optional)
- Copy of New SEVIS I-20 for F-1 Reinstatement, p. 1 and p. 2
- Any other support letters (if applicable)
- Copy of I-94 front and back (white card) or printout from cbp.gov
- Copy of your visa in your passport
- Copy(ies) of picture and expiration pages of the passport
- Copy of all previously issued I-20 forms, pp. 1,3 prior to 6/26/15 or pp. 1,2 after that date
- Original transcripts from George Mason University and the transcript of each previously attended school in the U.S. while in F-1 status. A print out of the courses you are currently enrolled in should be included.
- Completed Certificate of Financial Responsibility and Proof of Funding, originals (with currency conversions if in a foreign currency)
Assemble your application and send it within five months of program completion or program termination to the following address:
USCIS Dallas Lockbox:
Using US Mail:
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
Using a courier (such as FedEx):
Attn: I-539 Reinstatement
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
After you have filed your Reinstatement Application, you will receive an I-797 Receipt Notice with your Case Number on it in about 2-3 weeks. You can check your case status online: https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do
IMPORTANT: Once you have received your notification that you have been “Reinstated to Student Status,” please see an OIPS Advisor for next steps. You may attend school while you are waiting for your case to be adjudicated, but you may not work on or off campus.