How can I return from a leave of absence taken outside the U.S.?

Once you wish to return to the U.S. to resume your studies, you must contact the Office of Global Services (OGS) so that they can either:

  • Request a reactivation of your SEVIS record with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) or
  • Process a new Initial I-20 for you

Requesting reactivation of your SEVIS record

Students who have been outside of the U.S. for less than 5-months may be eligible to request the reactivation of their SEVIS record.

Approximately 70-days prior to the start date of the academic term in which you will resume classes, you may submit the OGS e-form Return from Non-Medical Leave of Absence less than 5 months so that OGS can request reactivation of your SEVIS record. OGS will approve your e-form once it has been reactivated. Please note, however, that reactivation is not guaranteed as it is up to the discretion of SEVP. If you are coming back from a Medical Leave of Absence taken outside the U.S., you will need to first acquire approval for re-entry from UHCS.* Also please note that SEVIS will need time to review your reactivation, which is the reason we ask that you submit your request 70 days prior to the start of the term.

After successful reactivation of your SEVIS record, you may return to the U.S. as early as 30 days prior to the term in which you will resume classes. You will be able to use your current I-20 and current visa (if it is still valid). If your current F-1 visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa once the current SEVIS record has been reactivated.


  • *If you are returning from an MLOA that was taken outside of the country, UHCS will not review your request for re-entry until 1-month prior to the start date of the academic term in which you intend to return. Please be sure to contact an OGS advisor to discuss your intent to return so we can establish an appropriate timeline.
    • To schedule an appointment with an OGS advisor, please call 617-373-2310 or visit our front desk on the Boston campus at 354 Richards Hall.
  • You must enroll in a full-time course load in the term for which you return, even if you return for the summer. You must enroll for the full summer or for both Summer 1 and Summer 2.

Obtaining a new initial I-20

Students who have been outside of the U.S. for more than 5-months must request a new Initial I-20.

In order to obtain a new initial I-20, you will need to complete the OGS e-form Request for SEVIS I-20/DS-2019 from a Non-Medical Leave of Absence of 5 Months or More

You will need to upload the following documents:

All financial documents must meet the criteria below:

  • Dated within the past 9 months
  • Reflect readily available liquid assets
  • List account holder’s name
  • Be translated into English
  • Currency clearly referenced and converted into USD (if possible)

Please see more information regarding financial requirements here.

Paying the SEVIS fee

If you will be receiving a new initial I-20, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee online. You may or may not need to apply for a new F-1 visa so that you can return to the U.S. to resume your program. NOTE: You still need to pay the SEVIS fee even if you do not need to obtain a new F-1 visa stamp. Paying the SEVIS fee is not required for SEVIS records that have been reactivated.

Obtaining a new visa (if needed)

Once you have received your new I-20 and paid the SEVIS fee, you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa stamp in the following circumstances:

  • If your current F-1 student visa has expired or if it will expire before you return to the U.S.
  • If your current visa bears the name of another educational institution in the U.S. rather than Northeastern University
  • If you have changed your name and if your visa stamp bears your former name

NOTE: OGS recommends that you check with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to you to confirm whether or not you should apply for a new visa. Contact or view the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you would apply for a visa for the most current information on procedures for obtaining an F-1 student visa.

Completing the OGS Online Immigration Clearance after arrival in the U.S.

Since you will be entering the U.S. on an initial I-20, even though you are not a new student, please note that you will need to complete Online Immigration Clearance with OGS. You will be able to do this by completing OGS Online Immigration Clearance. You will receive an email before classes begin directing you to the link to complete the online form. This is necessary to confirm your arrival to the U.S. for government purposes and so that our office can register your arrival in SEVIS.

Important Reminders

Entering the U.S. on a new initial I-20 may have impact on F-1 benefits such as Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

It is important that you realize that returning to the U.S. with an initial I-20 may have an impact upon your eligibility to do CPT or OPT. U.S. federal government regulations require that students must have completed at least one academic year (two semesters or three quarters) in order to be eligible for CPT or OPT. Please see the CPT and OPT sites for additions information on eligibility.

Key Resources

Return from Leave of Absence Less Than 5 Months »

This is to request a new I-20 to resume classes after a non-medical leave of absence of less than 5 months

Return from Leave of Absence of 5 Months or More »

This is to request a new I-20 to resume classes after leave of absence of 5 months or more taken outside of the U.S.