Maintaining F-1 status is very important. Recent changes in US immigration policy make it difficult to correct an immigration status violation.
F-1 Immigration Status Violations
Failing to maintain your immigration status will result in SEVIS termination. A terminated SEVIS record means that F-1 status has ended, your I-20 is no longer valid and you are not eligible for on-campus employment, practical training, travel signature or any other F-1 benefit. In most cases, the termination of your SEVIS record means that you must make plans to immediately depart the U.S. Failure to depart the U.S. after a status violation could result in arrest, detention or deportation. Two options to regain status are explained below.
We encourage all students to carefully read the maintaining status information so you can avoid a status violation.
It is also important to notify ISS if you plan to leave UB or take a break in studies before making your plans to do so. Review the Leaving UB page to ensure you are compliant.
SEVIS Termination Reasons
Failing to report arrival in the U.S.
ISS is required to verify that new or transfer students entered the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status. Failure to provide ISS with a copy of your I-94 and complete the ISS Check-in process may result in SEVIS termination.
Failure to enroll in classes
F-1 student status requires full-time enrollment.
Enrolling in too many online courses is also a status violation. (Exceptions permitted during COVID)
Unauthorized drop/resign below full course load without first receiving ISS approval
12 credit hours per semester is required. Except:
Graduate students who have an Assistantship may take 9 credits.
Graduate students nearing the end of their programs and working full-time on a doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis, project, portfolio, or comprehensive exam may be eligible to be certified full-time by the Graduate School while registered for fewer than 12 credits.
Reduced Course Loads are possible in limited situations but must be approved before the add/drop deadline or before resigning courses if the add/drop deadline has passed.
Unauthorized withdraw from all courses
It is important to discuss your situation with an ISS Advisor before filing paperwork to withdraw from courses. Filing for an Academic Withdrawal even after the semester ended will result in a status violation.
Failing to report/update local residential address
Enrolled students must report/update their local residential address in the HUB Student Center.
Students on OPT must report/update their local address on UB Global.
Addresses must be updated within 10 days of a change.
Expulsion (dismissal) or suspension
Failing to depart the U.S. or complete a SEVIS transfer (if eligible) after the university withdraws/suspends a student for misconduct or other violation is a status violation.
Failure to extend an I-20 before the Program End Date
Maintaining a valid I-20 is a part of maintaining F-1 status. If additional time is needed to complete degree requirements, an I-20 extension must be submitted and approved by ISS before the program end date on your current I-20.
Work authorization is required for any off-campus employment.
Failure to report employment while on OPT or exceeding unemployment allowance
SEVIS will automatically terminate for students on Post-Completion OPT after exceeding 90 days without employment
SEVIS will automatically terminate for students on the OPT STEM extension after exceeding 150 days without employment.
Regaining F-1 Status
A student who has failed to maintain F-1 student status and wishes to continue studying at the University at Buffalo has two options to regain valid status: Travel and Re-entry or Reinstatement. These options should be discussed with an International Student Advisor in detail.
F-1 students who have failed to maintain their immigration status may request reinstatement from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in certain situations. There are positives and negatives to filing a reinstatement application with the USCIS, so it is best to discuss your situation with both an immigration attorney and an International Student Advisor.
If an attorney advises a student to request reinstatement from the USCIS, an International Student Advisor (DSO) will provide a list of documents to prepare. After reviewing your documentation, a DSO will make a determination on your eligibility based on the circumstances of your case. If deemed eligible, the DSO will create a new I-20 requesting "reinstatement". A copy of this I-20 must be mailed to the USCIS, along with the other required materials. Additional information on how to file a reinstatement application will be provided after an International Student Advisor determines that reinstatement is possible.
The USCIS will evaluate F-1 reinstatement applicants on the following criteria:
The violation of status was due to circumstances beyond the student's control OR 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 the reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student.
Some examples of "circumstances beyond the student's control" 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 the student's part resulted in the need for reinstatement.
The applicant must not have a record of repeated or willful violations of USCIS regulations
The applicant is currently pursuing a full-time course of study
The applicant must not have engaged in unauthorized employment
The applicant has not been out-of-status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement.
Processing times at the USCIS vary greatly. 3-12 months (sometimes longer) is common. The cost of an I-539 reinstatement application is $390, plus $30 for biometrics.
After filing for reinstatement, students must maintain their F-1 status, which includes enrolling full-time.
While the application is pending, students may not travel outside the U.S. If they do, the USCIS will consider the application to be abandoned and the application will be denied.
Students with a pending reinstatement may not work on campus and are not eligible for any practical training.
If approved, the USCIS will send an approval notice to the mailing address on Form I-539.
If the applicant has F-2 dependents, their status is automatically reinstated if the reinstatement is approved.
If a reinstatement application is denied by the USCIS, the student will remain out of status and must leave the US immediately.
Travel and Reentry - Overview
In many cases it may be advisable to depart the U.S. and re-enter with a new I-20 to "regain" status, rather than applying for reinstatement. To accomplish this, you will need a new “initial” I-20. Once a new I-20 is issued, you must:
A re-entry to the U.S. after a status violation is viewed as an initial entry to the U.S. As such, you are bound by restrictions placed on new students, such as the requirement that you wait a full academic year (2 semesters) before you are eligible for practical training (CPT, OPT).
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for determining if you are eligible to re-enter the U.S. and the U.S. State Department is responsible for determining your eligibility for a new U.S. visa, if needed. ISS cannot guarantee a successful re-entry to the U.S. or the issuance of a new visa stamp.
To request a new I-20 for travel and reentry:
Schedule an appointment with an International Student Advisor to discuss your situation. Submit the required documentation to request an “initial” I-20:
New financial documents showing one full year of funding (or less if you will graduate in one semester).
Copy of your flight itinerary indicating your date of departure from the U.S.
Both Reinstatement and Travel and Re-entry involve risks. If your application for reinstatement is denied, you will be required to depart the U.S. immediately. However, students who are reinstated by the USCIS continue in their previous F-1 status. Reinstatement applications can also take a long time to receive a decision (3-12+ months) and on-campus employment is not possible while awaiting a decision.
If you choose travel and re-entry and are denied re-entry at the border, you may be required to return home. Students who choose travel and re-enter are also considered initial status students and must complete one academic year before they are eligible to apply for off-campus employment (Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training). However, travel and re-entry can be a quick process – depending on the availability of flights and availability of visa appointments.
We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to in these handouts and webcasts or any associated web sites. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel or tax professional. Neither the University at Buffalo nor the Office of International Student Services is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in these materials, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.