If you fail to follow the legal status guidelines, you and your dependents will lose legal status and all related benefits. This is very serious and you want to avoid this situation if at all possible. It means that you will not be eligible to enroll for classes for the following semester, apply for any employment — even on-campus jobs — and you will not be able to receive a reentry signature on your SEVIS I-20 for travel. Further, your SEVIS record (and those of your dependents) will be terminated and SEVIS will automatically notify the immigration services of your loss of legal status. You may be asked to appear at an immigration office and become subject to deportation from the U.S. If you lose your legal status, meet with someone in the International Education Program office immediately to discuss your options.
Regaining your legal status
Failure to maintain status can happen by either dropping under 12 credit hours, working off campus illegally, or not beginning classes by the date indicated on the SEVIS I-20. You cannot regain your legal status without new documents. There are two options to regain your legal status:
- Reentering the U.S. on an initial attendance document (under certain circumstances)
- Filing an application for reinstatement with USCIS
Unfortunately, both methods carry risks and success cannot be guaranteed.
Option I — Reinstatement by reentry into the US
This is done by departing the U.S. and re-entering with a new "Initial Attendance" I-20. You may also need to apply for a new entry visa before your return. You are at an increased risk for denial of your visa and reentry if embassy or immigration officials find you have violated your legal status. In addition, your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization is affected when you regain your status through reentry. You will also need to obtain a new "Evidence of Financial Support" form along with a new bank letter.
Option II — Reinstatement with the U.S.C.I.S inside the United States
This is done from within the U.S. by mailing an application with supporting documents to the immigration service. Remember, while your reinstatement request is being processed (in pending status), you cannot:
- Legally work on-campus or off-campus while in the U.S.
- Relocate to a new residency — mail from USCIS is not forwarded
Any reinstatement may result in a greater risk that future visa applications may be denied. Also, if you leave the United States while your application is pending, your application will be canceled. If you have been out-of-status for longer than 5 months, you are ineligible for reinstatement. CGCC is required to report to USCIS within 21 days when a student drops below 12 credits. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment with an International Support Specialist Sr. to discuss applying for USCIS reinstatement application.