All F-1 and J-1 students are responsible for maintaining their immigration status. Briefly, you must follow these regulations:
- Register for a full course of study each term (except summer term when attendance is optional). A student enrolled for three or more units per semester is considered a full-time student.
- Make normal progress towards completing the degree program as noted on your I-20. Normal progress at Puget Sound is defined as the successful completion of three (3.00) units per semester, and cumulative GPA of 2.00 or above (3.00 cumulative GPA for graduate students).
- Do not let your I-20 expire. Be aware of the program end date listed on your I-20/DS-2019. If you need additional time to complete your degree requirement, contact the International Student Advisor BEFORE your program end date. It is not possible to extend your I-20 after your program end date has passed.
- Accept on-campus employment only with permission from the Director of International Programs or the International Student & Scholar Advisor.
- Accept off-campus employment only if authorized to do so by USCIS (see the employment section for more information)
- Make certain that all information on your I-20/DS-2019 is current and complete. If anything changes (such as your major), or is incorrect, contact the International Student & Scholar Advisor immediately. Be sure you have a valid Travel Signature (less than one year old) if you plan to leave the US. (Please find a safe place for your passport and I-20/DS-2019, since these are your legal identification. Obtain a Washington State ID Card, so that you don't have to carry your passport and I-20/DS-2019 with you.)
- Report any change of address, email or phone number to the International Student & Scholar Advisor within 10 days of the change.
- Keep your passport valid at all times.
Out of Status Options (F-1 Students)
If you fail to maintain your F-1 status and your SEVIS immigration record is terminated, this means that you would be considered as out-of-status by the Department of Homeland Security and you would no longer eligible for on-campus employment, practical training, travel signatures for re-entry to the US, or any other benefits of F-1 status.
In order to correct your status, you have two options: Travel and Re-entry or Reinstatement. These options should be discussed with the International Student & Scholar Advisor in detail. After speaking with International Programs, you are also encouraged to consult with a qualified immigration attorney.
Options for F-1 Students to Regain Status
Option 1: Travel and Re-Entry
- Depart the U.S. as soon as you can after the violation of status has occurred.
- Obtain a new I-20 form with a new SEVIS ID.
- Work with International Programs to obtain a new Form I-20 with a new SEVIS ID at least 60 days prior to the term you intend to return
- Pay the SEVP I-901 fee.
- Check your F-1.
- If your visa is still valid and unexpired, you may be able to utilize the valid visa with your old SEVIS ID and the new I-20 form to enter the U.S. If your visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa with your new I-20 form.
- International Programs is unable to verify the validity of your visa. You are encouraged to consult with the U.S. embassy/consulate that issued your visa to you in order to ensure its validity prior to traveling.
- Re-enter the U.S. within 30 days of the program start date listed on your new I-20 form and enroll full time.
If you choose to travel, it is important you keep the following in mind:
- If you choose to travel to regain status, there is no guarantee that you will be issued a new visa or permitted to re-enter the U.S. The U.S. Department of State will review your visa application and decide if you are eligible for a student visa. The decision to admit you to the U.S. is made by the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry.
- If you are admitted to the U.S. with your new documentation, you will gain F-1 status. However, you will have a new SEVIS record, which means that you must be in status for 2 consecutive semesters with the new record to be eligible to apply for OPT or CPT.
Option 2: Apply for F-1 Visa Status Reinstatement through USCIS
The F-1 visa status reinstatement process is subjective and up to the discretion of USCIS. USCIS reviews the applicant’s I-539 application and supporting paper materials and makes the decision on whether or not to approve the F-1 status reinstatement.
Applicants for F-1 visa status reinstatement will be evaluated based upon the following criteria:
- Applicant has 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 the result of exceptional circumstances and that the applicant filed the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances). And the applicant remained inside the U.S. after the ending of the immigration record.
- Applicant does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of [USCIS] regulations.
- Applicant 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.
- Applicant has not engaged in unauthorized employment.
- Applicant is not deportable on any ground other than section 237(a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Act.
- Applicant establishes to the satisfaction of the [USCIS], in detail showing, either that:
- The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your 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 your part resulted in the need for reinstatement.
- The violation relates to a reduction in your 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.
Procedure to apply for F-1 Visa Status Reinstatement
- Speak with the International Student & Scholar Advisor to assess your eligibility for F-1 visa status reinstatement. The advisor will determine if you are a viable candidate for F-1 visa status reinstatement. If so, they will explain how to request the new I-20 form required for the reinstatement application.
- Prepare and gather the documentation required to submit I-539 application to USCIS. You are also encourage to review USCIS's instructions on how to file your I-539 form.
- USCIS form I-539, available on the USCIS web site: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/all-forms. If you have questions about how to prepare the I-539, we encourage you to consult with an immigration attorney regarding your case and application. International Programs is unable to provide any guidance or advise students how to complete the I-539 form.
- I-539 Application Fee (https://www.uscis.gov/forms/all-forms), payable to the US Department of Homeland Security.
- A 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.
- A new SEVIS I-20 issued by the University of Puget Sound for purposes of reinstatement (signed by you and the PDSO/DSO).
- A photocopy of your previous I-20 form(s).
- Financial support documents to show evidence of continued funding—documents should be recent (no more than 6 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 visa (stamp), used to enter the US.
- 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 USCIS stamp. Keep this copy for your records.)
- A photocopy of your University of Puget Sound transcript.
- The final step after preparing your materials is to mail your application to USCIS following USCIS filing instructions.
If you choose to file for reinstatement with USCIS, it is important you keep the following in mind:
- A decision to reinstate your F-1 student status is at the discretion of the USCIS.
- Processing times at USCIS vary greatly. Please review USCIS's processing times to see when you can expect a decision from USCIS on your reinstatement application.
- While the application is pending, you are not eligible for any F-1 student benefits, such as practical training employment authorization or on-campus employment. If you are reinstated into F-1 status, you must obtain proper authorization before working.
- While the application is pending, you are required to maintain full-time enrollment. You are not eligible for reduced course load requests while a reinstatement application is pending.
- Travel outside the U.S. while a reinstatement application is pending may be considered an abandonment of the application.
- If the application is approved, USCIS will endorse the new I-20 form and return it to the mailing address listed on the I-539 form. International Programs will contact you if we receive any updates on your behalf. Please also contact International Programs when you receive information from USCIS.
- If you have dependents in F-2 status, their status is automatically reinstated with your reinstatement.
- If your application is denied, you have the option to file an appeal with the USCIS, but we will strongly encourage you to hire a competent immigration attorney.
Option 3: Remaining Out of Status
Choosing to remain in the U.S. out of status is a high-risk decision that International Programs does not recommend. If you remain in the U.S. after your I-20 has been terminated or you have violated your status, you are not eligible to receive any benefits of your previous status, such as work authorization (on-campus work, CPT, or OPT).
Remaining in the U.S. after your SEVIS record has been terminated is a very serious offense of immigration regulations and may prevent you from returning to the U.S. in the future. If you are certain you would like to remain out of status for the course of your degree, to understand the full consequences, we encourage you to consult with a qualified immigration attorney.