Reinstatement of Immigration Status

What is Reinstatement?

Reinstatement is a process where you request USCIS to restore your immigration status after an action you have taken has resulted in a violation.

Some examples of immigration violations:

  • You did not maintain full-time enrollment.
  • You did not attend school.
  • You failed to attend the school shown on the I-20 document.
  • You did not notify the International Services of a change of address within 10 days of moving.
  • You did not extend your I-20 in a timely manner and have allowed it to expire.

Preconditions for Reinstatement

Reinstatement is not as easy to obtain as it used to be. With the reforms that were implemented on January 1, 2003 to strengthen America's immigration regulations after the 2001 terrorist attacks, it is much more difficult to obtain reinstatement. A student requesting reinstatement must meet these pre-conditions:

  1. Reinstatement may be considered if the student has not been out of status for more than five (5) months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement. If it has been longer than five (5) months, the student can still apply for reinstatement; however, the student must demonstrate to USCIS that the failure to file within the five (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.
  2. The student does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of immigration regulations.
  3. The student is currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the I-20 immigration document.
  4. The student has not engaged in unauthorized employment.
  5. The student is not deportable on any ground other than violation of status.
  6. Establishes to the satisfaction of USCIS by a detailed showing that either:

    1. The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student's control due to serious injury or illness; closure of the institution; natural disaster; or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO except for instances where a pattern of repeated violations or where a willful failure on the part of the student resulted in the need for reinstatement.


    1. The violation relates to a reduction in the student's course load that would have been within a
      DSO's power to authorize had the student sought to obtain approval to reduce their course load
      in advance and that failure by USCIS to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship
      to the student.

Methods of Reinstatement

There are two methods in which a student can seek to restore their immigration status:

  1. apply directly to USCIS and remain in the United States until a decision is made, or
  2. travel outside the United States with a new I-20 and re-enter the country provided your entry visa is still valid.

How to Apply for Reinstatement while Remaining in the United States

  1. Write a cover letter explaining why you are out of status and that you are eligible to apply for reinstatement based on the conditions outlined in these instructions.
  2. Complete Form I-539. The I-539 is the actual application used to request reinstatement from USCIS. Make sure to complete all sections of the application.
  3. Purchase a money order in the amount of $195.00 made payable to "U.S.C.I.S." Personal checks are not accepted. Money orders are available from your local bank or local grocery store.
  4. Obtain current financial documentation necessary for a new SEVIS I-20. If your finances are sufficient, a SEVIS I-20 marked "reinstatement" will be included with your application.
  5. Obtain an enrollment verification letter from the Office of the Registrar. You will need to include this letter showing USCIS that you are currently maintaining or intending to maintain full-time enrollment in the immediate future.
  6. Schedule an appointment with the International Studies Advisor and bring the following: cover letter; Form I-539; $140 money order; current financial documentation and enrollment verification letter; passport and visa; I-94 card; and any I-20 immigration documents in your possession.

Reinstatement by Travel and Re-entry

If you have decided to leave and re-enter the United States, it will be necessary for you to submit current financial documentation. When your new SEVIS I-20 is ready, you will receive either a telephone call or e-mail from the International Services. When you leave, you will need to take the new SEVIS I-20 with you. Please make sure you have taken the necessary steps to obtain a visa to the country you will be visiting. It is important that your new SEVIS I-20 is correctly processed by the port-of-entry officer when you re-enter the country. If your visa has expired, you will also need to obtain a new one when you are outside the United States. U.S. Visas cannot be renewed within the borders of the United States.

With travel and re-entry, there is always the risk that you can be denied re-entry into the United States.

What Happens after I Apply for Reinstatement by Remaining in the U.S.?

When USCIS receives your request, they will make a decision based on the information presented within your application and supporting materials. The adjudicator will have one of two choices to make: approve or reject. If your application is approved, the SEVIS I-20 is returned to you by USCIS. If your application is rejected, you will receive written notification from USCIS with a date by which to report for a deportation hearing before a Federal judge. After the hearing, the judge will determine if you may remain or if you will be deported. There is no appeal process should reinstatement be denied.