An international student who does not follow the guidelines for maintaining their legal F or J status can lose the benefits of that status and begin to accrue days of unlawful presence in the United States. (Update: On February 6, 2020, a permanent nationwide injunction invalidated the previous unlawful presence memorandum. ISS still recommends that you take steps to regain active visa status as soon as possible.)
Common violations of status include:
- Failure to extend I-20/DS-2019 program end date before it expires
- Unauthorized drop below full time enrollment
- Unauthorized off-campus employment
- Exceeding online credit limit
If you violate your F-1 or J-1 status, you immediately lose eligibility for immigration benefits such as employment, extension, transfer, or travel signatures. If you are out of status, you must take action to get back into lawful status in order to regain eligibility for immigration benefits.
As soon as you know you have lost status, come to ISS during walk-in advising hours to discuss your situation and evaluate your options to correct your status. You are advised to act quickly. When you visit, you will review and sign a Statement of Understanding with an ISS advisor.
How to Correct your Status
Steps 1-5 are the same for both options. Steps 6-8 differ according to the option you choose. Read through this section carefully.
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There are two options to correct F-1 status: (1) travel outside of the U.S., or (2) apply for reinstatement while in the US. To be eligible for either option, you must have approval to continue in your program and have adequate funds.
Both options have positive and negative aspects. You will need to decide which works best for your needs. Remember, you must stop all on-campus or authorized off-campus employment until you regain F-1 status.
Step 1: Meet with an ISS advisor.
As soon as you know you have lost status, come to ISS during walk-in advising hours to discuss your situation and evaluate your options to correct your status. You must act quickly. You will review and sign a Statement of Understanding with an ISS advisor.
Step 2: Decide which option is right for you.
You will need to consider the positive and negative sides of the two options to correct F-1 status as listed below:
Option 1: Travel & Re-enter U.S. with New I-20/DS-2019
Travel outside of the U.S., get an F-1 or J-1 visa, and reenter using the new I-20/DS-2019. If your current F-1 or J-1 visa is expired, you will need to apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate. This option would allow you to immediately regain F-1 or J-1 status when you reenter the U.S. You must have two semesters of academic work remaining after reentering the U.S. in your new F-1 status in order to again be eligible for off-campus work.
Option 2: Reinstatement within U.S.
Submit a reinstatement application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the U.S., and do not travel outside of the U.S. again until your reinstatement application has been approved. This option can take up to 12 months or more. In order for this option to work for you, you must continue to enroll full-time. You are not eligible for any on-campus or off-campus employment while the application is pending.
Step 3: Complete the Correction of Status Request form in Terra Dotta.
- Read all instructions in the Terra Dotta form.
- Your academic/faculty advisor or graduate coordinator must complete the electronic verification in Terra Dotta.
- You must submit adequate financial documentation. You can find funding requirements on the Estimated Expenses link in Terra Dotta. Since you are not eligible to work while you are out of status, including while your reinstatement application is pending with USCIS, you cannot submit graduate assistantship or other employment letters.
Step 4: Submit your complete Correction of Status Request form in Terra Dotta.
Processing time is around 15 business days but may vary. If you apply for a correction of status within the U.S., use this time to gather all USCIS-required application materials. Refer to the Reinstatement by USCIS Application Instructions in Terra Dotta.
Step 5: Receive your I-20/DS-2019 and review all USCIS application materials with an ISS advisor, if applicable.
You will receive an email when your I-20 or DS-2019 is available. If you apply for reinstatement within the U.S., you will review all application materials with an ISS advisor. ISS will copy all your application materials for your student file.
Step 6-8 If you apply by reentering the U.S.
Step 6: Pay the SEVIS fee.
Once you’ve received your I-20 or DS-2019, you will need to pay a SEVIS fee. In order to pay, complete the Form I-901 along with the payment via mail or the Internet (dependents in F-2 or J-2 status are not required to pay the fee). The SEVIS fee must be paid at least 3 business days prior to a visa interview.
Step 7: Leave the U.S. and reenter with a new I-94
This will allow you to start your F-1 status anew.
- If your F-1 violation occurred five or more months ago, you are advised to apply for a new F-1 visa. Contact the U.S. consulate in your home country for advice on how to apply.
- Your legal F-1 status begins when you enter the U.S. successfully with a new I-94 record. Because of this, you will NOT be eligible for off-campus work authorization right away. You must have two semesters of academic work remaining after reentering the U.S. in your new F-1 status in order to again be eligible for off-campus work. Discuss any concerns you have about employment with an ISS advisor before you request an I-20 for travel outside of the U.S.
Step 8: Present your documents to ISS.
Once you successfully re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1 student, come to ISS during our walk-in advising hours and bring your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, and I-94. We will review your documents and remind you of requirements you must fulfill as an international student in F-1 or J-1 status.
Step 6-8 If you apply for reinstatement in the U.S.
Step 6: If you have been without legal status for five months or more, pay the SEVIS fee.
Once you’ve received your I-20 or DS-2019, you will need to pay a SEVIS fee. In order to pay, complete the Form I-901 along with the payment via mail or the Internet (dependents in F-2 or J-2 status are not required to pay the fee).The SEVIS fee must be paid at least 3 business days prior to the filing of the change of status application in the U.S.
Step 7: Submit your reinstatement application to USCIS.
You should mail your application as soon as possible after meeting with an ISS advisor. Request a tracking number from U.S. Postal Services, UPS, FedEx, etc. when you mail your application packet to USCIS.
Step 8: Submit a copy of your USCIS I-797A receipt notice to ISS.
Once your application has been received by USCIS, you will receive a receipt notice to the address listed on your I-539. Once you receive your I-797A receipt notice, scan and email a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS, meet with an ISS advisor during walk-in advising or scan and email a copy to email@example.com immediately so that we may assist and advise appropriately.
Step 9: Notify ISS when your reinstatement is approved or denied.
Once you receive your application result from USCIS, come to our walk-in advising hours. Bring your passport, I-20/DS-2019, and the USCIS receipt.
If USCIS approves your reinstatement application, we will review your documents and remind you of requirements you must fulfill as an international student in F-1 or J-1 status. ISS will issue you a new I-20/DS-2019 reflecting the reinstatement approval.
J-1 students may apply to reinstate their legal status only if the violation occurred as a result of circumstances beyond their control. Application approval is not guaranteed.
To apply for reinstatement, submit the following to ISS:
- a written statement explaining the circumstances beyond your control that necessitates the request for reinstatement
- financial documentation
- copies of all previously issued forms DS-2019
- a check for $367 payable to “UW-Madison”
If we are in support of your application, we will write a letter explaining the violation and requesting your reinstatement and will mail off your application to the U.S. Department of State on your behalf. If the application is approved, we will then issue you a new DS-2019.
You may not work while out of status.