An Overview

If you have failed to maintain F-1 student status and wish to continue studying at (or transfer to) Penn you must regain valid status. There are two ways you can be reinstated:

  1. Apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for reinstatement. 
  2. Leave the US and reenter using a new I-20 with a new SEVIS number.

Either option should be discussed with an advisor at ISSS in detail. Those planning to transfer to another institution must apply for reinstatement through the new school using the I-20 from that school.


Reasons why a student may fall out of F-1 student status:

  • Failure to extend I-20 before the expiration deadline
  • Failure to complete the F-1 transfer procedure in a timely manner
  • Failure to take less than a full course of study without prior written authorization from ISSS for an excusable academic or medical reason under F-1 regulations
  • A student who has worked without authorization is also out of status, but is not eligible for reinstatement.

If you think you may be out of status, please visit ISSS immediately.

The longer you wait to address the problem, the more difficult it can become to fix. Furthermore, only students in valid F-1 status are eligible for F-1 benefits from the USCIS (e.g. on-campus employment or OPT authorization).

  • Eligibility
  • Under federal USCIS regulation 8 CFR 214.2(f)(16), an F-1 student is only eligible for reinstatement if all of the following conditions apply:

    • You have not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement
      • OR the failure to file within the 5 month period was result of exceptional circumstances and that you filed the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances
    • You do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of [USCIS] regulations
    • You are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the Form I-20
    • You have not engaged in unauthorized employment
    • You are not deportable on any ground other than section 237(a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Act
    • You establish, to the satisfaction of the [USCIS], in detail showing, either that:
      • 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 violations or where a willful failure on the part of the student resulted in the need for reinstatement
      • OR 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

    ISSS will assist you with a reinstatement petition only if all of the conditions above apply. If you do not meet the above eligibility requirements you will need to consult a US immigration attorney.

  • How to Apply for Reinstatement
  • Step 1

    Meet with an ISSS advisor to assess your eligibility for reinstatement.

    Step 2

    Prepare the following documents:

    • USCIS form I-539, available on the USCIS website.
      • In Part 2, question 1, check "C". 
      • In Part 3, question 1, write “D/S”
      • In part 4, question 3e, check “yes”.
    • I-539 Application Fee, payable to the US Department of Homeland Security
    • cover letter from you requesting reinstatement to F-1 status and explaining your circumstances. You should explain that the violation of F-1 status resulted from circumstances beyond your control and/or that the failure to be reinstated would result in extreme hardship. Attach any additional supporting documents.
    • new SEVIS I-20 issued by Penn for purposes of reinstatement (signed by you and an ISSS advisor)
    • A photocopy of your previous I-20 form(s)
    • A photocopy of your financial support documents to show evidence of continued funding—documents should be recent (no more than 12 months old)
    • A photocopy of your passport photo page—include any other pages that contain the expiration date, extensions, or any biographical information. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future.
    • A photocopy of your most recent US Entry Visa
    • Your original I-94 card (if issued paper I-94) or CBP entry/admission stamp (if issued electronic I-94)(be sure to copy front and back of paper I-94 clearly showing the red USCIS stamp for your records)
    • A photocopy of your transcript and course registration from Penn InTouch

    Step 3

    Meet with an ISSS Advisor to review final application for reinstatement.

  • Mailing Your Application
    • Photocopy your complete application for your personal records.
    • Send your completed application by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested or by express mail with tracking. For the mailing address and instructions, refer to the I-539 application.
    • Note: Be sure to address the envelope with a reference to F-1 Reinstatement. The USCIS National Customer Service Center telephone number (800) 375-5283 is needed if you will be sending your application by courier service.
    • Please consult ISSS prior to e-filing I-539 via the USCIS website or ELIS.
  • Final Considerations
    • A decision to reinstate an individual to F-1 student status is at the discretion of the USCIS.
    • Processing times at USCIS vary greatly.  Expect to wait 2-4 months before receiving a response.
    • You are NOT eligible for any F-1 student benefits, such as OPT authorization or working on campus, unless the USCIS reinstates you to F-1 student status.
    • You should not travel outside the US while a reinstatement application is pending. It may be considered an abandonment of the application. If you need to leave the US meet with an ISSS advisor prior to travel.
    • If approved, USCIS will endorse your new I-20 form and return it to the mailing address listed on the I-539. ISSS will contact you if we receive any updates on your behalf.  Please also contact ISSS when you receive information from USCIS.  (F-2 dependent status is automatically reinstated with the reinstatement of the F-1 student.)
    • If denied, you will begin to accrue days of unlawful presence in the US (accrual of more than 180 days of unlawful presence could subject a person to a 3-year or 10-year bar from reentering the US.). Students who are denied reinstatement have the option to file and appeal with the USCIS, but we strongly encourage these students to hire a competent immigration attorney.