F-1 students maintain lawful status if they are making normal progress toward completing their major of study and following immigration regulations such as the ones outlined on the “Maintaining Status” main page.

If a student fails to maintain status, they are ineligible for any benefits of F-1 student status. Some of the consequences include but are not limited to:

  1. Ineligibility to work on campus
  2. Ineligibility to apply for or pursue Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optical Practical Training (OPT)
  3. Ineligibility to apply for or pursue off-campus work permission
  4. Ineligibility to receive a transfer recommendation to attend a new school
  5. Ineligibility to apply for a change of visa status

If you have failed to maintain your F-1 student status, there are two ways to regain status:

  1. Apply for Reinstatement
  2. Depart the U.S. and seek a new admission to the U.S. in F-1 status (travel and re-entry)
Reinstatement Process

When requesting reinstatement, you must establish the following to the satisfaction of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you:

  • Have not been out of status more than five (5) months when you file a request for reinstatement. If you are unable to file for reinstatement in this time frame, you must also provide proof of exceptional circumstances that prevented you to file in that time frame and file that proof with your request for reinstatement as soon as possible.
  • Do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of immigration regulations
  • Are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school printed on your I-20
  • Have not engaged in unauthorized employment
  • Cannot be deported on any ground other than overstaying or failing to maintain status

You must also establish that:

The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control. Some examples of circumstances might include serious injury or illness, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO/PDSO, but do not include instances where a pattern of repeated violations or a willful failure on your part resulted in the need for reinstatement


The violation relates to a reduction in your course load that would have been within the PDSO/DSO’s authority to authorize and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to you.

If USCIS approves the reinstatement request, please immediately notify our office. If USCIS does not approve the reinstatement request, you may not appeal the decision and need to prepare to leave the U.S. immediately.

  1. Schedule an appointment with a DSO/PDSO in the Office of International Programs to review your eligibility for F-1 reinstatement and discuss the application process.
  2. Complete the reinstatement/reentry request form. Submit the form and any supporting documents discussed by your DSO/PDSO
  3. Prepare your reinstatement application following the list of documents below. Submit your reinstatement application to USCIS Lockbox. Mail the following documents to the USCIS Lockbox (see USCIS website for I-539 filing address).
    • Form I-539
    • Check or money order made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (see USCIS website for fee amount)
    • Photocopies of all previously-issued I-20s
    • Copy of I-94 obtained at cbp.gov/i94
    • Photocopy of new Reinstatement I-20 signed by a PDSO
    • Current, original evidence of source and amount of financial support
    • A letter requesting reinstatement to F-1 student status which explains your situation and truthfully states that failure to maintain status was due to any or all the reasons listed above
    • Supporting documentation of your situation
    • Current transcript and all transcripts from other U.S. schools previously attended
    • Photo copy of passport bio-page and a copy of F-1 visa.

Make sure to make a copy of your application for your records. It is recommended that you send your application by certified mail, return receipt requested to:

If you do not qualify for the above, your only other option would be to travel outside the U.S. with an initial Form I-20 and re-enter.

In some cases, it might be better to depart the U.S. and re-enter with a new I-20 rather than apply for reinstatement. You may do this by obtaining a new I-20 from our office if you plan to continue studies here at CCSF or obtaining an initial I-20 at the institution you wish to attend.

Note: Students who violated status are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation (by traveling to Mexico or Canada). A re-entry to the U.S. after a status violation is viewed by immigration as “initial attendance” in F-1 status. As such, you are bound by restrictions placed on new students, such as the academic year waiting period for eligibility for practical training.

Students seeking this option will need to:

  • Fill out a new international student application
  • Re-pay the international student application fee
  • Provide new financial support documents
  • Re-pay the SEVIS fee
  • Some students may require a new visa to re-enter

To pursue this option, please first talk with a DSO/PDSO in Cloud 212. A new initial Form I-20 will not automatically be issued and no course of action should be taken until after we discuss your options together. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Depending on the error, a reinstatement application may not be necessary. Please communicate with a DSO/PDSO in Cloud 212 before taking any action to see what possible remedies are available outside of reinstatement.

Students who are reinstated continue in their previous F-1 status. Students who choose travel and re-entry are considered initial status students. This is important when considering eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Students who re-enter using a new I-20 will be required to complete one academic year before becoming eligible to apply for off-campus employment.

For reinstatement with USCIS, please see the USCIS website for up-to-date fee information. Travel and re-entry costs $350 for F-1 students (SEVIS fee), plus any expenses incurred for travel and visa applications.

Each option has its risks. If your application for reinstatement is denied, you will be required to depart the U.S immediately. If you are denied re-entry at the border, you may be required to return to your home country from the port of entry.

Yes, you must continue to study and maintain full-time F-1 status for City College of San Francisco to support your application for reinstatement.

No. Once it is determined that you have violated your student status, you must stop working immediately. Failure to do so is in direct violation of federal law and may invalidate any reinstatement petition with USCIS.

Reinstatement applications take approximately 6-18 months to process. However, the time it takes for a reinstatement application to be adjudicated is completely up to USCIS. We have no control over processing times.

Any further questions in regards to reinstatement should be addressed to the DSO/PDSO that is currently assisting you with your petition and/or case. Feel free to reach out to our office directly if you have any other questions about this process.