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Regaining your Legal Status

You cannot regain your legal status without new documents from the Office of International Affairs and your financial sponsor. There are two ways to regain your legal status: reinstatement or reentry into the U.S. (under certain circumstances). Both methods are expensive, time-consuming and success cannot be guaranteed.


If you have fallen “out of status,” you must apply to the USCIS for reinstatement. Our international office will assist you in this process if it is your first time out of status, but you will be required to submit the application for reinstatement. The fee for this is $290.00 (subject to change) and the forms can be obtained from an international adviser or Greg Wymer. Students who have previously been reinstated and are out of status again will have a difficult time being granted reinstatement. The Office of International Affairs can provide an attorney referral list for students in this situation.

You may also be reinstated, if this is your first time out of status, by leaving the U.S. and returning on a new I-20, prepared by an international adviser. However, you should discuss your options with them because leaving the U.S. for reinstatement may jeopardize your eligibility for any practical training.

USCIS will consider reinstating a student to F-1 status if: 

  1. The student has not been out of status for more than 5 months;
  2. The student establishes, to the satisfaction of the USCIS, in a detailed letter that:
    1. The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control; circumstances might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, or a natural disaster; excuses of inadvertence, oversight, neglect or willful failure on the part of the student are not accepted;
    2. The violation relates to a reduction in course load that would have been within an international advisors power to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student;
  3. The student is pursuing or intending to pursue a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the I-20; and
  4. The student has not engaged in unauthorized employment.

A decision to reinstate an individual to F-1 student status is completely at the discretion of the USCIS. Neither SDSU nor the Office of International Affairs has any control over this matter. If you are denied reinstatement, you must stop attending classes and depart the U.S. within 30 days.

If you think you may be out of status, please contact Kirsten Linke or Greg Wymer as soon as possible!

F-1 reinstatement currently takes about 3-4 months to process and requires a letter from an international adviser or Greg Wymer to recommend reinstatement. Remember, while your reinstatement request is being processed, you cannot legally work in the United States. Further, any reinstatement may result in a greater risk that future visa applications may be denied.

Students in J-1 Status

  • If you are requiring reinstatement, meet with Greg Wymer to determine whether you are eligible for reinstatement. At that time, Greg will indicate what is needed to apply for reinstatement.