F-1 Reinstatement

Any F-1 student who fails to adhere to the terms and agreements pertaining to F-1 status is considered in violation of said F-1 status, a situation commonly referred to as being “out-of-status.” F-1 students who are determined by the Office of International Student Services & Study Abroad (OISS&SA) to be “out of status” will be reported to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and have their SEVIS Form I-20 terminated based on the violation that occurred.

If you have failed to maintain your F-1 status and wish to continue studying at Houston Community College (HCC), you must be reinstated to valid status. Once a student has been notified of a violation (or a student is found to be in violation during a review of their situation while reporting to OISS&SA), the student may seek F-1 reinstatement. There are two ways students can be reinstated:

  • Leave the U.S. and re-enter using a new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID number;
  • Apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for reinstatement

Reinstatement options should be reviewed with a Designated School Official (DSO) during a reinstatement information session. Students planning to transfer to another institution must apply for reinstatement through the new school using the I-20 received from that school.

Reinstatement Eligibility Requirements

Based on the following regulatory and internal provisions, OISS&SA may consider an application for reinstatement based on the following:       

  • Student has not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or demonstrates that the failure to file within the 5 month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that the student filed the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances); 214.2(f)(16)(i)(A).
  • Does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of Service regulations; 214.2(f)(16)(i)(B).
  • 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; 214.2(f)(16)(i)(C)
  • Has not engaged in unauthorized employment; 214.2(f)(16)(i)(D)
  • Is not deportable on any ground other than section 237(a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Act; and214.2(f)(16)(i)(E)
  • Establishes to the satisfaction of the USCIS, by a detailed showing, either that 214.2(f)(16)(i)(F):

(i) 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 repeated violations or where a willful failure on the part of the student resulted in the need for reinstatement; or 214.2(f)(16)(i)(F)(1)
(ii) 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. 214.2(f)(16)(i)(F)(2)

  • Is academically eligible to begin/continue study at HCC
  • Has submitted no prior F-1 reinstatement applications through HCC. This includes travel and re-entering. 
  • Does not fall below full-time enrollment while reinstatement application is pending. Students who fail to do so will be terminated even if approved for F-1 status. 

OISS&SA will assist with a reinstatement application only if all of the above conditions are met. Reinstatement is granted only under the limited conditions specified in DHS regulations and at the discretion of USCIS.

Further information on reinstatement to F-1 status may be found on the DHS website at https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/FR/HTML/FR/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-79324/0-0-0-85465/0-0-0-87514/0-0-0-87971.html

Option 1: Travel Reinstatement

In this option, students will obtain a new SEVIS Form I-20 from the Office of International Student Services & Study Abroad (OISS&SA), exit the U.S., and regain F-1 status through readmission to the U.S. Permission to re-enter and regain valid F-1 status will be determined by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the port of entry. Students can only process reinstatement through travel if they still have a valid F-1 visa that will be unexpired at the time of re-entry. 

Please note: If a student has less than one full academic year (fall + spring terms) remaining to graduate, processing a travel reinstatement will make them ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). If a student has one full academic year or more remaining until graduation, travel reinstatement will not affect their ability to apply for OPT in the future.

Step 1: Attend a Reinstatement Session

All upcoming Reinstatement Sessions can be found on the Events page here: www.hccs.edu/international/events.

Step 2: Prepare and submit application documents

Step 3: Pay the $75 Application Fee

Pay the non-refundable HCC application fee of $75 and save the receipt as a PDF.

How to pay the fee:

Online payments (preferred): You can pay the fee online using a credit card or funds transfer from your local bank. For online payments, refer to the International Payment Tutorial‌ for instructions.

Alternatively, you can pay the fee at any HCC campus and save the receipt.

 

Step 4: Submit confirmation of departure/return itinerary

Once a Designated School Official (DSO) has reviewed your documents and verified that you are eligible for a travel reinstatement, you must submit confirmation of your departure/return itinerary proving your travel outside U.S. and your return within 30 days of the program start date.

Step 5: Receive your new SEVIS Form I-20

You will receive your new SEVIS Form I-20 after your application has been reviewed by a DSO. You will receive notification via email when your new I-20 is ready.

Step 6: Pay the $200 SEVIS I-901 Fee

This fee is paid online at www.fmjfee.com. You must submit proof of payment to your DSO within 5 days after receiving your new I-20.

Step 7: Exit the U.S.

It is recommended that you return to your home country when attempting to gain reinstatement by travel.

Step 8: Re-enter the U.S.

You can re-enter the U.S. up to (but no earlier than) 30 days before the Program Start Date listed on your new I-20.

Step 9: Check-in with OISS&SA immediately upon your return

During check-in, you will be required to submit proof of payment of the $50 Orientation Fee and copies of your new I-94, passport, F-1 visa and most recent I-20 (and the same documents for any F-2 dependents).

Step 10: Enroll in full-time studies

Enroll in a minimum of 12 credit hours for fall and spring terms, or a minimum of 9 credit hours for summer.

Step 11: Attend next available Transfer/Reinstatement F-1 International Student Orientation

Information for the next available F-1 International Student Orientation can be found here: www.hccs.edu/district/students/international/orientation

 

Option 2: Reinstatement by Application (from within U.S.)

In this option, students will file for reinstatement to valid F-1 status through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Eligibility for reinstatement will be determined by USCIS. While a reinstatement application is pending, the student must maintain full-time studies and should not leave the U.S. The reinstatement process can take 4-5 months or more. While awaiting the USCIS decision, students are not eligible to transfer to another school or to receive any benefits such as on-campus employment, renewal of driver’s license or authorization for reduced course load, or be issued a good-standing letter.

Step 1: Attend a Reinstatement Session

All upcoming Reinstatement Sessions can be found on the Events page here: www.hccs.edu/international/events.

Step 2: Prepare and submit the application documents

Reinstatement By Application (within U.S.) Checklist

The following topics should be addressed in the personal statement along with all relevant information that addresses the reinstatement eligibility requirements:

    • Explain the reason for having fallen out of status (specify the violation and include dates);
    • Explain the reason for the status violation (include evidence and dates, if applicable)
    • It is strongly recommended to include the following information: provide a chronological and detailed explanation (include dates) of the events that led up to your failure to maintain status; what date did you realize that you are no longer in F-1 status and when you contacted the OISS&SA to resolve the issue; include reason(s) why you may consider the violation beyond your control; include a statement of how or why a denial of the reinstatement would cause extreme personal hardship to you.
    • Include a statement about currently pursuing or intending to pursue a full course of study. Include your career and educational plan and goals.
    • Include a statement attesting that you have not been engaged in any unauthorized employment.
  • Official transcripts from all U.S. colleges/universities attended since securing F-1 status. This includes your HCC official transcript showing full-time enrollment for the earliest available term. The transcript must be obtained at an HCC campus. OISS&SA cannot provide this for you. (*Obtain HCC transcripts after enrolling full-time for the next available semester.)
  • Financial Documentation 
  • Photocopies of passport, visa, I-94, and all previous SEVIS Form I-20s

Step 3: Pay the $75 Application Fee and $50 Orientation Fee to HCC

Pay the non-refundable application fee of $75 and the orientation fee of $50 and save the receipt as a PDF.

How to pay the fee:

Online payments (preferred): You can pay the fee online using a credit card or funds transfer from your local bank. For online payments, refer to the International Payment Tutorial for instructions.

Alternatively, you can pay the fee at any HCC campus and save the receipt.

Step 4: Enroll in full-time studies for the first available semester

Enroll in a minimum of 12 credit hours for fall and spring terms, or a minimum of 9 credit hours for summer.

Step 5: Receive your new I-20 and mail your I-539 Reinstatement Application to USCIS

After your DSO confirms that you have enrolled in full-time studies, you will be contacted to retrieve your new I-20 and mail your reinstatement application to USCIS.

Step 6: Submit a copy of the USCIS receipt to your DSO

After you have filed your application with USCIS, you will receive a Form I-797 Notice of Action (receipt) in the mail. You must submit a copy of this receipt to your DSO.

Step 7: Attend next available Transfer/Reinstatement F-1 International Student Orientation

Information for the next available F-1 International Student Orientation can be found here: www.hccs.edu/district/students/international/orientation

Step 8: Maintain full-time studies until your Application for Reinstatement is approved/denied

Even if your reinstatement application is approved, you will fall out of status again if you fail to maintain full-time enrollment in any semester after filing for reinstatement.