Reinstating F-1 Visa - What to Do Should the Student Visa Go Wrong!

The F-1 Visa is a non-immigrant Visa that permits petitioners to maintain legal status while studying in full-time academic study. The F-1 is appropriate as early as High School but is more commonly used for the secondary schooling. Either way, the High School or Secondary school/institution must be a participant in the Student Exchange Visitor Program (“SEVP”). A list of participating organizations can be found at A Petitioner who successfully applies for an F-1 Visa may travel with their spouse under an F-2 petition and their children under an F-3 petition.

F-1 visas are processed at U.S. embassies and consulates outside the United States and begin with the chosen institution issuing a form I-90. The institution in which the petitioner chooses to attend must be a participant in the SEVP. If the institution you wish to attend is not on the SEVP, then the institution must file a Form 1-17 with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), which is a one time process. Once the petitioner receives the I-90 from the chosen institution, they must take the I-90 along with other necessary supporting documents to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate to do an interview. There will be a burden on the petitioner to prove that they have the ability to support themselves and plan to leave the Unites States after graduating. Large institutions, such as large universities, will have an office designed to assist and manage the F-1 process. The university will assign the petitioner a DSO to service the F-1 process and an immigration attorney is not necessary.

There are circumstances where an F-1 Visa is revoked for reasons such as extended absence, failure to maintain full-time study, or even administrative issues. For example, there F-1 Visa can be revoked if the institution determines that the student does not have necessary pre-requisite testing or coursework completed upon arrival. The effect of the F-1 being terminated is that the petitioner must leave the United States in 15 days or will be considered to be present in the United States illegally.

If the termination of F-1 status was due to an absence, then the petitioner can used the same I-20 form they originally used for the F-1, as long as, the petitioner returns to the institution within 5 months. If the F-1 status was terminated for another reason, then the petitioner must pursue reinstatement which involves a new I-20 form. In addition to the I-20, a petitioner seeking reinstatement must file an I-539 Form and a letter from the petitioner’s DSO that states the following:

  1. The petitioner has not been out of status for more than 5 months

  2. The petitioner is not a repeat and/or willful violator of conditions necessary to maintain F-1 status and the institution's rules

  3. The petitioner is currently or intends to pursue full-time study.

  4. The petitioner has not participated in unauthorized employment.

  5. The petitioner is not deportable on any ground other than being out of status.

  6. The petitioner is in violation because of an occurrence outside of their control.

Showing that the petitioner is in violation because of an occurrence outside of their control can be a challenge. Appropriate explanations include serious injury/illness, natural disasters, or fault of the DSO or institution. An immigration attorney can be very helpful for helping the petitioner navigate communication with the DSO and to file the I-20 and I-539 for reinstatement. Do not hesitate to contact the Seward Law Firm if you would like a discussion to evaluate an F-1 reinstatement.