Vacation, Reduced Course Loads, Regaining F1 Status

Take a Vacation

  • You are eligible to take a quarter off IF you have enrolled full time for at least 3 consecutive quarters or 8-9 consecutive months.
  • To get approval from IE you need to:
    • Go to IE front desk and request to be registered for student health insurance for your intended vacation quarter;
    • Submit the Vacation Request in the International Student Portal;
    • Once you get approved, you will receive a confirmation email from the IE Office.
What You Can Do During Your Vacation Quarter:
  • Take NO classes and/or go home and relax;
  • Enroll in school part-time;
  • Take as many online classes as you wish, if you are in the College Credit program

Take Less Than Full Time (Reduced Course Load)

  • To complete a course of study during the current term.   An F-1 status student who needs fewer than 12 credits to complete their program of study is considered to be pursuing a full course of study if the student enrolls in the number of credit hours required to complete the program in the final term. A student must seek prior permission from an IE advisor to take less than 12 credits based on the last quarter.
  • Other valid academic reasons for enrolling less than full time.   A student with academic concerns should meet with an IE advisor to discuss permission to drop below 12 credits. A student must receive prior permission BEFORE dropping a class. The student is allowed a maximum of one quarter per an education level below 12 credits for an academic difficulty.

Medical Reduced Course Load

A student with a temporary illness or other medical condition that interrupts or reduces a full course of study is considered to be in status during this period. However, the student MUST get an approval from an IE advisor BEFORE they can reduce their course load for that specific quarter. A student is allowed a maximum of four quarters per an education level below 12 credits for medical reasons.  Once you’ve talked with your advisor you may submit a request form and required documentation in the International Student Portal.

Requesting to Regain F-1 Status

You are maintaining status if you are making adequate progress toward completing a course of study and complying with the immigration regulations outlined below. For more information on the benefits and restrictions of your F-1 student status, contact your IE advisor.

If you fail to maintain status, you are ineligible for any of the benefits of F-1 status (for example, employment authorization). There are two ways to regain status: apply for reinstatement or depart the U.S. and seek a new admission to the U.S. in F-1 status.

Option 1: Reinstatement

When requesting reinstatement, you must establish to the satisfaction of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you:

  • Have not been out of status more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or demonstrate that the failure to file within the 5-month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that you filed for reinstatement as soon as possible under these circumstances).
  • Do not have a record of repeated or willful violations of immigration regulations.
  • Are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the Form I-20.
  • Have not engaged in unauthorized employment.
  • Are not deportable on any ground other than overstaying or failing to maintain status.

You must also establish that:

  • The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of your IE advisor, but do not include instances where a pattern of repeated violations or a willful failure on your part resulted in the need for reinstatement. Or
  • The violation relates to a reduction in your course load that would have been within the IE advisor’s authority to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to you.

If USCIS approves the reinstatement request, the adjudicating officer will endorse your I-20 to indicate that you have been reinstated and will return the I-20 to you. If USCIS does not approve the reinstatement request, you may not appeal the decision and need to prepare to leave the U.S. immediately.

Reinstatement Application Procedure

  1. Schedule an appointment with your IE adviser. At the appointment your advisor will review your eligibility for F-1 reinstatement and will discuss the application process.
  2. Submit all documentation required (below) and any additional information that you or your advisor believe would be useful. Your adviser will create a new I-20 for your reinstatement application. Allow one week for I-20 processing.
  3. Prepare your reinstatement application following the list of documents below. Submit your reinstatement application to USCIS one of two ways:
    a. CURRENTTLY you cannot apply online through the USCIS ELIS (USCIS Electronic Immigration System).
    b. You Must Mail a paper application to the USCIS Lockbox facility.
  4. Mail the following documents to the USCIS Lockbox
  • Form I-539 (Paper application only; if you apply online, complete Form I-539 information online)
  • Check or money order made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” for $370 (Paper application only; if you apply online, you will pay the fee online)
  • Photocopies of all previously-issued I-20s
  • Original I-94 (the white card stapled inside your passport) or I-94 printout obtained at
  • Photocopy of new Reinstatement I-20 signed by IE Adviser
  • Evidence of source and amount of financial support
  • A letter requesting reinstatement to F-1 student status which explains your situation and truthfully states that failure to maintain status was due to any or all of the reasons listed above
  • Supporting documentation (for example, a letter of support from a faculty adviser familiar with the circumstances of your case)
  • Current transcript and transcripts from other U.S. schools previously attended
  • Photocopy of passport identification and visa pages; do not send your passport

Keep a copy of your entire application for your records. If you choose the paper application option, it is recommended that you send your application by certified mail, return receipt requested.

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266

Option 2: Travel and Reentry

In some cases it may be advisable to depart the U.S. and re-enter with a new I-20, rather than applying for reinstatement. You may do this by obtaining a new I-20 from the school you are currently attending or wish to attend, then departing the U.S., applying for a new visa if the F-1 visa stamp in your passport has expired, and returning to the U.S. Note that students who violated status are not eligible for automatic visa re-validation. A re-entry to the U.S. after a status violation is viewed by Immigration as “initial attendance” in F-1 status. As such, you are bound by restrictions placed on new students, such as the academic year waiting period for eligibility for practical training.

To request a new I-20 for travel and reentry prepare the required paperwork for a new I-20 and submit it to your IE advisor at least two weeks before the date when you plan to travel and re-enter.  You must meet with your international adviser to discuss your case prior to a new I-20 being issued.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the major difference between the two options?

Students who are reinstated continue in their previous F-1 status. Students who choose travel and reentry are considered initial status students. This is most important when considering eligibility for Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training. Students who reenter using a new I-20 will be required to complete one academic year before becoming eligible to apply for off-campus employment.

What are the costs associated with each option?

Reinstatement costs $370 (and potentially a $85 biometric appointment fee as well).

Reentry costs $350 for F-1 students (SEVIS fee), plus any expenses incurred for travel and visa applications.

Which option is the least risky?

Each option has its risks. If your application for reinstatement is denied, you will be required to depart the U.S. immediately. If you are denied re-entry at the border, you may be required to return home immediately from the port of entry.

May I continue to study while my application for reinstatement is pending?

Yes, you must continue to study in order to maintain your F-1 status.

May I continue to work on-campus while my application for reinstatement is pending?

No. Once it is determined that you have violated your student status, you must stop working immediately.

How long will the reinstatement process take?

Reinstatement applications take five months or more.

Can I reenter from Canada or must I return to and reenter from my home country?

You may attempt reentry from Canada.  However, you must already have a valid visa to enter Canada, if needed. The Canadian Consulate will not issue an entry visa to students with “initial attendance” I-20s. For more information, contact your IE Advisor.

Last Updated October 18, 2021