What is F-1 Status?
When a foreign national individual has "F-1 Status," he or she is legally in the United States as a foreign student. The noncitizen will be allowed to remain in the United States for as long as he or she is registered as a full-time student and is making normal progress towards completing his or her degree. This status also provides for limited employment opportunities in the form of curricular practical training ("CPT"), which takes place during the school term, and optional practical training ("OPT"), which commences after graduation. A list of SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) approved schools can be found on the ICE website at http://www.ice.gov/sevis.
Losing F-1 Status
An individual can lose his or her F-1 status through a number of means. In general, if the noncitizen violates and thereafter loses status due to academic and/or disciplinary violations within his or her control, then it will likely be very difficult to get reinstated. In the other hand, if the noncitizen lost his or her student status due to reasons outside his or her control, then reinstatement may be more realistic.
Requirements for Reinstating F-1 Status
Any reinstatement of F-1 Status is granted at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. In light of this, even if a noncitizen meets all of the regulatory requirements below, reinstatement is still not guaranteed. It is for this reason that all noncitizens seeking reinstatement assemble and put forth the strongest possible package. In order to be eligible to apply, the applicant must demonstrate:
(1) That the student has not been out of status for more than five months;
(2) That the student not have a record or history of repeat violations;
(3) That the student is, or will be, pursuing a degree full-time;
(4) That the student has not engaged in unlawful employment;
(5) That the student not be deportable on any grounds aside from the loss of F-1 Status which was outside of his or her control.
How To Apply For Reinstatement
In order to apply for reinstatement, the applicant must contact his/her school, inform the DSO of his/her intentions, and of course, submit an application to USCIS. This application will require:
(1) Form I-539 (http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-539.pdf)
(2) A copy of the student's I-20
(3) A copy of the student's passport and visa
(4) A copy of the student's academic transcript
(5) The student's original I-94
(6) A personal letter or statement
(7) Proof of funds (to show that the student can pay for tuition, fees and living expenses for a year. These documents should be originals.)
(8) A check or money order made payable to the Department of Homeland Security to cover the filing fee (currently $290).
Writing the Personal Statement
The student's personal statement should explain in detail how and why F-1 Status was violated, especially the circumstances which were beyond the student's control. If hardship is a consideration, it should also discuss the impact a denial of the reinstatement will have on the student's life. Reinstatement is discretionary, so the personal letter is certainly one piece of the package that should not be neglected since it is one of the few opportunities where the applicant will be able to explain his/her side of the story. Moreover, if a supporting letter from the school's Designated School Official ("DSO") can be obtained, it may potentially tip the scales.
The Adjudication Process
Once the application is submitted, the applicant should receive an I-797 Notice of Action informing him or her that the application has been received. From there, it will likely take a few months before a decision is rendered. For the latest information on processing times, applicants should consult case processing times on the official USCIS.gov website.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the right. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.