Returning from a Leave of Absence

The process for returning to UB after your leave will differ depending on how long you were outside the U.S. 

Returning from a Leave of Absence

The process to return will differ depending on how long you were outside the U.S. Please review the information below to determine which process is most appropriate for your situation. We recommend that all students returning from a leave of absence submit a request to ISS 3-5 months if you are returning using an initial I-20 or 60 days before the start of classes if pursuing a SEVIS reactivation.

How do I begin?

To initiate your return from leave of absence, you must submit the Returning from a Leave of Absence e-form located in UB Global. Once your eform and all supporting documentation is submitted, ISS will review your situation to determine if you are eligible for a SEVIS re-activation or if an initial I-20 is required. 

Returning after an absence of more than 5 months: Initial I-20

If you are outside the U.S. for more than 5 months, or were not eligible for a SEVIS reactivation (see below) you will need an "initial I-20" to return to the U.S. Most students returning from a leave of absence will need an "initial" I-20.

An "initial I-20" creates a new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID, requires that you show new financial documents and pay the SEVIS Fee. It also resets the F-1 eligibility "clock" which means that you must complete one full year (two full academic semesters) before you are eligible for Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training.

If you have a valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport, you may be able to use that stamp to re-enter the United States. You are encouraged to contact the closest U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country to inquire as to whether or not you may use a visa stamp associated with your previous SEVIS record with a new document to enter the United States. Please note that Customs and Border Protection makes the final decision on your eligibility to enter the U.S. and can deny entry.

If it is recommend that you get a new stamp or if your current stamp is expired, you will need to make an appointment to apply for a new F-1 visa stamp before your return. Please make this appointment as early as possible.

We recommend submitting your request for an initial I-20 at least 3-5 months before you plan to return.

The latest date you may request an initial I-20 is August 1 if returning for Fall Semester, January 1 if returning for Spring semester and, if returning in summer, one month before your summer classes begin.

Returning for Spring 2021?

Current guidance requires that any F-1 student entering the U.S. with an initial I-20 must have an in-person course to be eligible for entry. For details on mode of instruction please refer to our FAQ page

Returning after less than 5 months: SEVIS Reactivation

A SEVIS reactivation will allow you to use your current I-20 to re-enter the U.S. and if approved, you will keep the same SEVIS ID number and same SEVIS record, with continuous F-1 status. Your OPT/CPT eligibility timeline will also not be impacted. If your F-1 visa stamp is valid you can use it for re-entry however if your F-1 visa stamp is expired you will need to apply for a new visa.

To be eligible for a SEVIS reactivation, an F-1 student must meet all of the following criteria:

  • SEVIS record must be terminated for "Authorized Early Withdrawal".
  • Must have maintained F-1 status, including full-time enrollment, prior to SEVIS termination
  • Must have departed the U.S. within 15 days of SEVIS termination
  • Will return to the U.S. within five months of departure**
  • Will begin courses within five months of last date of enrollment
  • Enrolled full-time for the semester of return, even if returning summer. Full-time enrollment for summer is defined as 6 credits during the same summer session.
  • Returning to resume the same program of study at the same degree level.

SEVIS reactivation requests are submitted to the Department of Homeland Security, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). 

**If you were outside the US for more than 5 months and could not return due to the COVID Pandemic, and would like to attempt a SEVIS reactivation for Fall 2021 semester, please note that DHS has not yet issued guidance addressing your eligibility for a SEVIS reactivation. ISS will attempt a SEVIS reactivation for you, however we cannot guarantee that it will be approved nor can we guarantee a decision in time to arrive in the US for Fall 2021. If you decide to pursue the SEVIS reactivation, we will ask for additional information in your eform. Note that we cannot make the request to DHS until at the earliest 60 days prior to the semester start. Instead of SEVIS reactivation, you may choose to receive an initial I-20 (see above). ISS can issue initial I-20s now for those who are returning in Fall 2021.

SEVP makes the final decision on SEVIS reactivation. ISS cannot guarantee that a SEVIS reactivation will be approved. If denied, you will need an "initial" I-20 to return (see description above).

The earliest we can request reactivation is 60 days before the start of your returning semester. If approved, the earliest you can re-enter the U.S. is 30 days before the start of classes. Do not attempt to re-enter the U.S. before receiving confirmation from ISS that your SEVIS reactivation was approved. If you attempt to enter without approval, you will be denied entry.

What should I do after I return to the U.S.?

  1. Check in with ISS within one week of your arrival.  
    • You will be provided instructions on how to upload copies of your U.S. visa stamp and admission stamp.  
    • If you were away from UB for one year or more, you will be required to attend an Immigration Session again and will have an IS Hold, which will prevent you from registering for classes until you attend the Immigration Session.  When you check in with ISS, you will be given dates of upcoming Immigration Sessions.
  2. Update your U.S. address in the HUB Student Center.  
    • This is very important!  Without your U.S. address in HUB, we cannot activate your SEVIS record.