In January 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided Tri-Valley University (TVU) in Pleasanton, California for issuing invalid form I-20s to hundreds of international students and without any notice that TVU was closed, rendering these unfortunate students out of status with no fault of theirs.
Till date, there have been no clear cut guidelines as to how these students should proceed. However, lately we have received unconfirmed news that 700 TVU students are in the process of reinstatement. Unfortunately this number has not been confirmed by the US government. Therefore, it is almost impossible for us to make a determination of the truthfulness of the information. However, some of our colleagues are confirming this news and the ‘behavior’ of ICE towards the students seems to indicate that they are willing to help. Thus, one ray of hope for the students of TVU is “reinstatement,” which will help them regain a valid status by remaining in the US. This article discusses the eligibility and procedure for filing a reinstatement application with USCIS.
A student, who has failed to maintain F-1 student status and wishes to transfer to another university or institution while staying in the USA, must regain valid status. One way to regain F-1 student status is to apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for reinstatement.
Under federal USCIS regulation 8 CFR 214.2(f)(16), an F-1 student is eligible for reinstatement if all of the following conditions are met by the student:
- » He or she must not be out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement. The failure to maintain status within 5 months may be excused if it was due to exceptional circumstances and the student filed for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances;
- » Does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of USCIS regulations;
- » 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;
- » Has not engaged in unauthorized employment (explain that the employment on CPT in case of TVU students is not unauthorized);
- » Is not deportable on any ground other than section 237(a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Hence, if such student is deportable because he is present in the USA in violation of law [section 237(a)(1)(B)] or has violated non-immigrant status because of failure to maintain it [section 237(a)(C)(i)]. Since most of the TVU students may be out of status due to failure to maintain it, it is very much likely that they will satisfy this prong of the eligibility;
- » The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control and/or denial of reinstatement would cause extreme hardship to the student. One of such expressly mentioned circumstances is the closure of the institution. Since, TVU was closed as a result of ICE investigation; the affected students of TVU meet this condition.
Application for reinstatement:
If all the above conditions are satisfied, the student needs to send the application for reinstatement with following supporting documents:
- » USCIS form I-539 along with a check in the amount of $290 towards I-539 Application Fee, payable to the US Department of Homeland Security
- » A cover letter requesting reinstatement to F-1 status and explaining the circumstances warranting application for reinstatement. In particular, it should be explained that the violation of F-1 status resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control and/or that the failure to be reinstated would result in extreme hardship. Attach any additional supporting documents explaining the exceptional circumstances and hardship in sufficient detail.
- » Original of new SEVIS I-20 issued by the new university or institution for purposes of reinstatement [signed by the student and Designated School Official (DSO) at the new institution].
- » A support letter from the DSO recommending the reinstatement would also be helpful.
- » A photocopy of previous I-20 form(s)
- » A photocopy of recent financial support documents that demonstrate the ability to pay for the studies and support yourself while you are in the United States. 3 months bank statements along with the letter from Bank official verifying sufficient account balance should suffice.
- » A photocopy of relevant passport pages including the page with Visa stamp.
- » Original current I-94 (front and back), showing legal entry into USA.
- » A photocopy of course registration from the new university.
We advise that the students whose reinstatement application is pending should avoid travel outside US because leaving the country may be considered as an abandonment of the application.
Finally, a decision to reinstate an individual to F-1 student status is at the discretion of USCIS. Processing times at USCIS vary greatly and the application may take 2-4 months to process. If the application is approved, USCIS will endorse the new I-20 form and return it to the mailing address listed on the I-539 form. However, if the application is denied, you will begin to accrue days of unlawful presence in the US (accrual of more than 180 days of unlawful presence could subject a person to a 3-year or 10-year bar from reentering the US.). Students who are denied reinstatement have the option to file and appeal with the USCIS, but we strongly encourage these students to hire a competent immigration attorney.
The process of filing for reinstatement is quite demanding and most schools are refusing to prepare the legal paperwork on the matter. As such our law firm has accepted to help the students for a nominal fee. For more details and further assistance call us on 510 742 5887 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Ketki Buddhisagar, Esq.