Regaining Status

F-1 students must comply with the immigration regulations to maintain valid F-1 status in the United States. If a student violates the terms of F-1 status, the student’s SEVIS record will be terminated, and the student will lose F-1 status.

If you have lost F-1 status, and you want to regain F-1 status, there are two options:

  1. Travel and re-entry into the U.S. on a new F-1 SEVIS record
  2. Apply for reinstatement of F-1 status

The process to regain F-1 status can be very challenging, and both of these options come with risks. If you are considering pursuing one of these options, please contact the Center for Global Health as soon as possible to request a meeting with a Designated School Official (DSO) to discuss your options.

In addition, if you are pursuing regaining your F-1 status, we highly recommend that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney. An attorney can advise you on the potential risks and legal consequences of pursuing either option.

Travel and Re-Entry

An F-1 student who has failed to maintain status may be able to depart from the United States and re-enter the U.S. on a new Form I-20 under a new SEVIS record. To pursue travel and re-entry, the student will be required to complete the new F-1 student sponsorship application process at MUSC in order to receive a new Form I-20 with a new SEVIS record. The student will be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee for the new SEVIS record. If the student needs to apply for a new F-1 visa, the student will be required to pay the visa application fee.

Re-entry into the U.S. on a new I-20 with a new SEVIS record is considered “initial attendance.” Because of this, the student will be subject to restrictions placed on new F-1 students, such as the academic year waiting period for eligibility for practical training.

Re-entry into the U.S. is not guaranteed and is at the full discretion of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In addition, issuance of a new F-1 visa is not guaranteed and is at the full discretion of the U.S. Department of State.


An F-1 student who has failed to maintain status may submit an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to be reinstated to lawful F-1 status. Reinstatement is only granted under in limited circumstances and at the full discretion of USCIS.

A student may consider filing for reinstatement if the student:

  • Has not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or demonstrates that the failure to file within the 5 month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that the student filed the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances);
  • Does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of DHS regulations;
  • Is currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the Form I-20 or successor form;
  • Has not engaged in unauthorized employment;
  • Is not deportable on any ground other than section 237(a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Act.

Students pursuing reinstatement must also provide detailed evidence to USCIS to establish one of the following conditions:

  1. The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student's control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO, but do not include instances where a pattern of repeated violations or where a willful failure on the part of the student resulted in the need for reinstatement; or
  2. The violation relates to a reduction in the student's course load that would have been within a DSO's power to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student.

Before the student can apply for reinstatement through USCIS, the DSO must recommend reinstatement in SEVIS and provide the student with a new Form I-20 (through the same SEVIS record) for the reinstatement request. Once the student has the new I-20 with the reinstatement recommendation, the student must complete and submit USCIS Form I-539. The student is responsible for paying the USCIS I-539 filing fee.

USCIS processing times for I-539 applications are highly variable and subject to change at any time. On average, the application can take between 6-10 months to be processed by USCIS. While the application is pending with USCIS, the student must be enrolled full time at the school, but the student is not eligible for any F-1 benefits (such as CPT or on campus employment). In addition, the student should not travel outside of the U.S. while the reinstatement application is pending, as this could result in the denial of the application based on abandonment.

Approval of the reinstatement application is at the full discretion of USCIS and is not guaranteed. If USCIS approves the reinstatement application, the student will receive an approval notice from USCIS. If USCIS denies the application, the student is expected to depart from the U.S. immediately, as the student will begin to accrue unlawful presence in the U.S.