Leave of Absence, Suspension, & Reinstatement

Leave of Absence & Withdrawal

Immigration regulations require that students maintain continuous full-time enrollment during required terms in order to maintain F-1 or J-1 student status.

If in consultation with International Student & Scholar Services, you take a leave of absence from The University of Alabama, and thus are not a registered student, your SEVIS record will be terminated for “authorized early withdrawal” and your F-1/J-1 status will end. Unless you apply for a change-of-status or transfer to another institution, you cannot remain in the U.S. beyond 15 days of filing the leave of absence paperwork (except if authorized for a medical leave of absence).

In order to take an authorized leave of absence, you must:

• Meet with an International Student & Scholar Services advisor to discuss your plans.
• Complete a leave of absence with the Registrar – https://catalog.ua.edu/undergraduate/about/academic-regulations/policies/withdrawal/.
• Additionally, submit a copy of your completed Leave of Absence/Withdrawal Notification to Int. (NOTE: Failure to submit a Leave of Absence/Withdrawal Notification is considered to be unauthorized withdrawal, which can have a negative impact on your immigration record)

Once Your Leave of Absence is Authorized by the University, International Student & Scholar Services will terminate your SEVIS record for “authorized early withdrawal,” and you will have 15 days to depart the U.S.
To Resume Studies at UA:

• If your absence from UA is longer than 2 semesters, you will need to apply for readmission. For those who are absent for only 1 semester, no readmission application is necessary. Please follow the readmission instruction found below in order to be readmitted into your academic program.
• Once International Student and Scholar Services receives notification that you have been readmitted, you will receive a new initial I-20 or DS-2019 for entry to the U.S.
• You will have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again since you will receive a new SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019.
• Current Department of State and Homeland Security guidance, states that if your F-1 or J-1 student visa stamp in your passport has not been cancelled or has not expired, you may use it to enter the U.S. on a new SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019.

Impact of Taking a Leave of Absence on F-1 Practical Training Eligibility
Since students returning from a leave of absence enter the U.S. on a new initial I-20, they are required to complete another full academic year in F-1 status in order to be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or  Optional Practical Training (OPT). If you plan to apply for practical training, you should be enrolled as a full-time student for at least 2 semesters prior to your anticipated CPT/OPT start date.

Re-Admision & Return to UA

If you are returning to UA after a Leave of Absence or Suspension of longer than 2 semester, in addition to being approved for readmission by your academic department, you may need additional approval if you have one or more of the following holds or issues:

• Student Receivables hold
• Medical hold (must have letter from Medical Doctor certifying ability to continue studies)
• Student Conduct hold (must have letter from Office of Student Conduct certifying eligibility to continue studies)
• Academic Probation or Suspension (clearance from the Academic Dean’s Office)

Please follow the instructions below to apply for readmission and obtain a new immigration document.

Step 1 – If you have been absent from UA for more than 2 semesters, you should complete an application for readmission (NOTE: if you have only been absent for 1 semester, you will likely only need to submit a new I-20/DS-2019 Request Form with required proof of funding to International Student and Scholar Services). For undergraduate readmission, instructions for applying for readmission can be found on http://apply.ua.edu/. For graduate students seeking readmission, please see the Graduate Catalog section on readmission and contact your academic department and the graduate school about readmission. If you are eligible for readmission to the university, the Undergraduate Admissions/Graduate Admissions office will enter your readmission into the University’s computer system and notify you of their decision.

Step 2 – When applying for readmission, you will need to submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form with required proof of funding to the admissions office handling your application (e.g. International Undergraduate Admissions, the Graduate School, or the Law School). As a reminder, you must study in the United States in F-1 status for one academic year again to be eligible for Practical Training (Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training).

Step 3 – When you are notified of your readmission, please send an e-mail to international@ua.edu with a subject, “Readmission”.

Step 4 – After confirmation of your readmission and receipt of the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form and financial support information from the admissions office handling your readmission application, International Student & Scholar Services will send you a new I-20 or DS-2019. We can send the new I-20 or DS-2019 to you by regular mail, which will take 4 – 6 weeks to reach you, or you may wish to have the new I-20 sent via express mail. In that case, International Student & Scholar Services uses an express mail service that will allow you to receive your I-20 or DS-2019 through DHL, UPS, or FedEx in 3-5 days. For instructions on processing the shipment of your documents, please see this page: Document Shipping Options.

Step 5 – Upon return to the U.S. you must attend International Student Check-in and Orientation so ISSS can verify your information for SEVIS and update your records.

Probation, Suspension, and Dismissal

Probation
If you are placed on academic probation, there is no action taken on your SEVIS record. However, you should be aware that if you are unable to complete your degree due to probation, International Student and Scholar Services will not be able to extend your F-1 or J-1 status on the basis of:

  1. the need to repeat of course(s) due to unsatisfactory grade;
  2. additional time needed to complete an “incomplete” course(s); or
  3. delay caused by academic probation or suspension.

Furthermore, poor academic performance may have an impact on future visa renewals at U.S. Consulates and Embassies abroad.  Please remember that most U.S. Consulates and Embassies do require you to submit your transcript when applying for a new student visa stamp.

Suspension

1. If you are suspended from The University of Alabama, your SEVIS record will be terminated and you must leave the United States immediately after the suspension takes effect. Most students facing suspension will receive notification of a pending suspension at the end of the semester. If you are an academic student and have been informed that you will be suspended in the following semester, you may have time to either take additional courses during an interim session (e.g. intersession or summer) to raise your GPA or you may be able to transfer your SEVIS record to another school in the United States prior to the effective date of your suspension.

2. Please contact an International Student and Scholar Services advisor as soon as you learn that you have been suspended from UA to avoid violating immigration regulations.

Dismissal

1. If you are dismissed from The University of Alabama, your SEVIS record will be terminated and you must leave the United States immediately after the dismissal takes effect. Most students facing suspension for conduct issues may face immediate dismissal, which does not allow for any time to take action to transfer a SEVIS record. However, if you have been informed that you will be dismissed with a future effective date, you may be able to transfer your SEVIS record to another school in the United States prior to the effective date of your dismissal.

2. Please contact an International Student and Scholar Services advisor as soon as you learn that you are facing dismissal from UA to avoid violating immigration regulations

F-1 Reinstatement

Overview of Reinstatement
A student who has failed to maintain F-1 student status and wishes to continue studying at (or transfer to) the University of Alabama must regain valid status. One way to regain F-1 student status is to apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for reinstatement. Alternatively, students may leave the US and reenter using a new I-20 with a new SEVIS number. Traveling abroad and reentering the U.S. on a new I-20 is often the fastest and best option for getting back in-status since I-539 reinstatement applications can take months to process at USCIS (Note: travel abroad to regain status may be the only option if a student has been out-of-status for more than 5 months). Either option to regain status should be discussed with an advisor at International Student and Scholar Services in detail. (Those planning to transfer to another institution must apply for reinstatement through the new school using the I-20 from that school.)

Reasons why a student may fall out of F-1 student status:

1. Failure to extend I-20 before the expiration deadline
2. Failure to complete the F-1 transfer procedure in a timely manner
3. Failure to receive prior written authorization from ISSS to take less than a full course of study for an excusable academic or medical reason under USCIS regulations

Note: A student who works without authorization is also out of status, but is not eligible for reinstatement.

If you think that you may be out of status, please visit ISSS immediately. The longer you wait to address the problem, the more difficult it can become. Furthermore, only students in valid F-1 status are eligible for F-1 benefits from the USCIS (e.g. authorization to work on-campus, practical training work authorization).

Eligibility for Reinstatement
Under federal USCIS regulation 8 CFR 214.2(f)(16), an F-1 student is only eligible for reinstatement if all of the following conditions apply to the student:

1. Has not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or the failure to file within the 5 month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that the student filed the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances)

2. Does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of [USCIS] regulations

3. 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

4. Has not engaged in unauthorized employment

5. Is not deportable on any ground other than section 237(a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Act

6. Establishes to the satisfaction of the [USCIS], in detail showing, either that:

a. The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO, but do not include instances where a pattern of violations or where a willful failure on the part of the student resulted in the need for reinstatement, or

b. The violation relates to a reduction in the student’s course load that would have been within a DSO’s power to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student

ISSS will assist students with a reinstatement petition only if all of the conditions above apply. Students who do not meet the above eligibility requirements will need to consult with a US immigration attorney.

Procedure for Reinstatement of F-1 Student Status

IMPORTANT NOTE: Once the I-539 reinstatement petition is submitted to USCIS, you cannot leave the United States for any reason.  If you leave the U.S. (even for a Caribbean Cruise), your I-539 petition will be considered “abandoned,” and the case will be cancelled.  Only once the I-539 reinstatement petition has been approved will you be able to travel internationally.  Also, please be aware that the I-539 petition approval is not a visa stamp; so, if your F-1 visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate the next time you travel beyond North America (see Student Travel Requirements page).

Step One — Meet with an ISSS advisor to assess your eligibility for reinstatement. Complete and submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form with required proof of funding.

Step Two — Prepare the following documents:

1. USCIS form I-539, available on the USCIS web site at: http://www.uscis.gov/i-539/.

2. I-539 Application Fee (http://www.uscis.gov/i-539/), payable to the US Department of Homeland Security

3. A cover letter from you requesting reinstatement to F-1 status and explaining your circumstances. Provide a clear and detailed timeline which explains when you violated your status, which date you notified International Student and Scholar Services, and what steps you took to get back in status. You should explain that the violation of F-1 status resulted from circumstances beyond your control and/or that the failure to be reinstated would result in extreme hardship. Attach any additional supporting documents.

4. A new SEVIS I-20 issued by The University of Alabama International Student and Scholar Services for purposes of reinstatement (signed by you and a ISSS advisor)

5. A photocopy of your previous I-20 form(s)

6. A photocopy of your financial support documents to show evidence of continued funding—documents should be recent (no more than 12 months old)

7. A photocopy of your passport photo page—include any other pages that contain the expiration date, extensions, or any biographical information. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future.

8. A photocopy of your most recent visa (stamp), used to enter the US

9. A copy of your I-94 Record, available from: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home

10. An original transcript and printout of your course registration/confirmation of full-time status from MyBama

Step Three — Meet with ISSS advisor to review final application for reinstatement

Step Four — Mail the Petition to USCIS

Mailing Your Application
Photocopy your complete application for your personal records. We advise that you send your completed application by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested or by express mail with tracking. For the mailing address and instructions, refer to the I-539 application at http://www.uscis.gov/i-539/.

Note: Be sure to address the envelope with a reference to F-1 Reinstatement. The USCIS National Customer Service Center telephone number (800) 375-5283 is needed if you will be sending your application by courier service.

Final Considerations

• A decision to reinstate an individual to F-1 student status is at the discretion of the USCIS.

• Processing times at USCIS vary greatly. Expect to wait 3-7 months or longer before receiving a decision.

• You are NOT eligible for any F-1 student benefits, such as practical training employment authorization or working on campus, unless the USCIS reinstates you to F-1 student status.

• Travel outside the US while a reinstatement application is pending may be considered an abandonment of the application. If you need to leave the US while your application is pending, you must meet with a ISSS advisor prior to travel.

• 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. ISSS will contact you if we receive any updates on your behalf. Please also contact ISSS when you receive information from USCIS. (F-2 dependent status is automatically reinstated with the reinstatement of the F-1 student.)

• 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.

J-1 Reinstatement

Reinstatement to valid program status becomes necessary when 1) an exchange visitor’s participation in his or her program has somehow interrupted or ended; or 2) the participant remains in the United States beyond the program end date indicated on the current Form DS-2019. Regulatory violations requiring reinstatement of the visitor’s status are classified as: minor or technical infractions, which are considered to be a “correction of the record,” and which the responsible officer may adjust without prior authorization of the Department of State; substantive, which require the authorization of the Department of State prior to adjustment; and non-reinstatable.

Minor or Technical Infractions
These include, but are not limited to, failure to 1) extend a participant’s program before the end date on the Form DS-2019; 2) process a program transfer prior to the end date on the Form DS-2019; or 3) receive approval and an amended Form DS-2019 prior to accepting an honorarium or other type of payment for an allowable activity.

The Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer may correct the participant’s record within 120 days of the stated end date of the participant’s program by issuing a new Form DS-2019 that (1) shows continued authorized stay without interruption; (2) indicates the appropriate purpose code and the additional notation “correct the record”; and (3) is dated as of the date the adjusted Form DS-2019 is executed.

Substantive Infractions
These include, but are not limited to, (1) failure to maintain valid program status for more than 120 calendar days after the program end date indicated on the Form DS-2019 and (2) if the participant is a student, failure to maintain a full course of study without prior consultation with (and approval of) the Responsible Officer or the Alternate Responsible Officer of the sponsor and with the student’s academic advisor.

The Responsible Officer must apply to the Department of State for reinstatement on behalf of the participant. The petition should include (1) all copies of the participant’s Forms DS-2019 issued to date; (2) a new, completed Form DS-2019, showing the new program end date; a (3) copy of the receipt showing that the SEVIS fee has been paid; and (4) a written statement with supporting documentation justifying the request. The statement should (1) declare that the exchange visitor is pursuing at all times the activity for which s/he entered the United States, (2) confirm that the participant’s failure to maintain valid program status was due to circumstances beyond his or her control or to administrative delay or oversight; and (3) demonstrate it would be an unusual hardship to the participant if the Department of State does not grant the reinstatement to valid program status.

A nonrefundable fee of $198 is payable to the US Department of State. Program regulations provide additional information on the application process for reinstatement petitions due to substantive infractions.

Non-Reinstatable Infractions
The following infractions preclude reinstatement. Applications for reinstatement submitted to the Department of State showing any of these infractions will be denied: (1) willful and knowing failure to comply with program insurance requirements; (2) unauthorized employment; (3) involuntary suspension or termination from the most recent exchange visitor program; (4) failure to maintain valid program status for more than 270 calendar days; (5) receipt of a favorable recommendation from the Department of State on an application for waiver of section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 USC 1182(e); and (6) failure to pay the SEVIS fee.