A Challenging F-1 Reinstatement For A PhD Student

Challenging F-1 Reinstatement For A PhD Student With Mental Illness

Full Video Transcript

This F-1 reinstatement case is even more difficult than the last one we just did. Over here, you can check that out. That was a case where we had one motion to open a second motion to open a third motion to open, but this case is even worse. The student filed the reinstatement; it got denied. She filed the motion to reopen; it got denied, and now we are filing the second motion to reopen, and we got it approved. But the basis of it was mental illness. It was so difficult. It was so, so, so difficult. I really didn’t think it was going to get approved. Let me walk you through everything that happened. Let’s get to it.

Hi, everyone. My name is Joseph. I’m the managing partner here at Tsang & Associates, where we solve legal problems with creative solutions. So the legal problem is we needed an F-1 reinstatement. Why do we need an F-1 reinstatement? It was because the student was here on a PhD program. It was a great school, she was studying hard, but she fell out of status, not of her own fault. She’s a PhD student, she knows so many things. So she filed her own reinstatement; USCIS denied her, and then she filed the motion to reopen that. She’s been doing this for the past two-three years.

Let me actually find all the dates for you. She started school in 2015. Then in December 2021, she was a student, but there’s something that got messed up with her I-20. So she fell out of status. In August of 2022, she filed her reinstatement. The case was denied in December 2022, within four months. But now this is already really scary, right? Because she fell out of status, it’s already over four months. After six months of unlawful presence, now there’s a three and three-year bar. So it’s getting really stressful. She’s telling her mom. Everybody’s freaking out. Then she filed her motion to reopen in January of 2023, within less than a month, around 20 days, less than a month. She filed the motion to reopen. Then her case was denied again within, like, a few months. So a few months after her motion to reopen was denied, after her reinstatement was denied, after falling out of status in like 2021.

We had to present this argument. And when we looked at the denial for the motion to reopen and the original reinstatement, basically USCIS just does not accept mental illness as a reason why it was beyond her control to study. And honestly, I feel like that’s not fair. Mental illness is a real thing. But when we looked at the documents she presented, it could have been done better. It’s still a hard case to prove because it’s so easy to say you have mental illness. Like, how do you document that, right? So here’s what we did right. We presented the affidavits. We got school counselors to write letters. We contacted the DSO; the DSO was willing to support her. We got her dissertation paperwork. We also got an official psychiatric diagnosis of her depression and anxiety disorder. We explained everything, we put everything together.  

Again, this case, everything was riding on it because she was getting her PhD. If this case is denied, she had to quit her PhD program from a really good school, and then she can’t complete her program. She’s barred from entering the U.S for probably 10 years. That will only cause her mental illness to get worse. 

We filed it in March 13th, 2023. April 12th of 2023, the motion to reopen was accepted.

That’s one huge case, because if the motion to reopen is accepted, and then later on denied, at least the unlawful presence is like stalled. So that was a huge breath of relief. One day later on the USCIS website, April 13th, we approved your 539. So, approved the original application she filed back in August of 2022. Like this past six, seven months was just a crazy ordeal for her, and for our team, because everything was writing on the line. We were just holding on to the hope that an officer would understand how serious mental illness was and why this little hiccup in her education process will cause such a severe consequence. We really leaned into her dissertation, leaned in on her school counselors, and we provided everything. 

The miracle doesn’t stop there. After the case was approved, she was studying and she was able to graduate. But she’s worried that she wouldn’t get her OPT status. Most of the time during reinstatements, you saved your education, you saved your unlawful presence, but you don’t get OPT. The school was kind enough to extend the OPT to her. So now, not only does she not have unlawful presence, everything was saved, now she can also continue to work in the U.S for at least a year on OPT status after she graduates. 

This was a double miracle. The client was so thankful, and I’m personally very, very thankful that mental illness is something that the officers understand. This is just a shout out to USCIS, thank you for understanding, and this will change this family’s life forever. 

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. We love working on these. We love helping students and we love making dreams come true. Take care, bye-bye.


This F-1 reinstatement for a PhD student who had fallen out of status due to mental illness. It’s a unique case and one that isn’t widely accepted by USCIS. On top of this, this student’s PhD program and degree were really on the line. If her F-1 visa was not reinstated, she wouldn’t be able to finish her PhD program, which made the case even more critical. We’ll get into the details of this F-1 reinstatement for a PhD student here.




This case goes back to December 2021 when our client was a student who fell out of status. She had been studying since 2015, but something happened with her I-20 and she fell out of status at the end of 2021. In August of 2022, she filed her own reinstatement. Unfortunately, the case was denied in December 2022, four months later. 


Less than a month later, in January, this client filed her own motion to reopen. Within a few months this was denied and we were contacted for assistance. 


We refiled the motion to reopen in March 2023 and it was accepted almost exactly one month later. Then within one day the originally submitted 529 was approved and the F-1 reinstatement for a PhD student was successful.


From the initial refiling in August 2022 to reinstatement in April 2023 this was a several month long process. Once the team at Tsang & Associates filed the motion to reopen this case was approved within one month and we were able to successfully assist with this F-1 reinstatement for this PhD student.




This PhD student had been studying in the US since 2015 and was currently in the midst of her PhD program at a great school. The original reason for her lapse in status was mental illness, a real cause that was just difficult to prove. The student had submitted her original reinstatement request which was denied. She then submitted her own motion to reopen, which was also denied. Then she came to Tsang & Associates for assistance.


What made this case more critical was the fact that by the time the student came to us she had already been out of status for around 4 months, which meant if her case was not approved, and she went 6 months out of status, she would also be subject to a 3 year bar from entering the US. This would impact her ability to complete her PhD program.




In this case proving mental illness as a reason out of your control for reinstatement was a challenge. This is something that could be easy to fake and therefore, isn’t commonly accepted by USCIS. Making the case for mental illness as the reason was the biggest challenge in this F-1 visa reinstatement case for a PhD student.


The secondary challenge was the pressure created by the timeline of this situation. If the motion to reopen and the case weren’t approved, the client could be subject to a 3 year bar from entering the US. This we derail her entire course of study and impact whether she was able to get the PhD she had been working so diligently toward.




Providing Documentation


Because mental illness is not a normally accepted reason, we had to present all the facts on this case, which required documentation. 


To prove the mental illness, we presented affidavits. We went to the school and got school counselors to write letters. We also contacted the DSO, who was willing to support this student. We also got an official psychiatric diagnosis of the student’s depression and anxiety disorder as another piece of evidence proving this was not a fake disorder. With all these documents, we were able to explain everything with documentation. This was one of the keys to success for this F-1 reinstatement for this PhD student.


Focusing On The Dissertation


Putting emphasis on this student’s dissertation allowed us to explain the serious disruption that would be caused if the F-1 was not reinstated. We focused on all the work she had done and how leaving the US would disrupt this work and her studies. This was another one of the keys to success in this case.




In the end we were thrilled when this F-1 reinstatement for a PhD student was approved. There had been extra stress on our client during the several months the case was pending, along with the stress of the PhD program, and finally this was all relieved. She now knew that she would be able to continue her studies, continue her dissertation, without interruption, and without the fear of a delay due to a three or ten year ban. 

In addition to this, there was a concern that this client would not get her OPT extension. But, after her case was resolved, she continued study and was also granted her OPT. A truly amazing result for this client.




A mental illness is not a commonly accepted reason for a break in study and we weren’t sure that USCIS would accept this case. We are thankful on behalf of our client that someone at USCIS understood the reason and was able to accept this case. 

If you need assistance with an F-1 reinstatement, you can learn more about our F-1 legal services or contact us with any questions. We would love to help.

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