Returning Students

General Information

If you are a student returning to the University of Washington after an absence to complete the degree program in which you were last enrolled, you must follow certain procedures. When considering a return to the UW, allow enough time to receive a new I-20 or DS-2019 and apply for a new visa, if required.

Travel

The new I-20 or DS-2019 will be an "initial entry" document; this means that you can enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start date printed on the I-20 or DS-2019. Make your travel plans accordingly.

Eligibility for Benefits

You will regain eligibility for benfits such as Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) only after completing three fulltime quarters after your return with the new SEVIS record. 

Full-Time Registration

You must register full-time in your first quarter back, even if you return summer quarter. For undergraduates, "full-time" is defined as 12 credits. Graduates: please consult your DSO to discuss full-time requirements. Usually "full-time" is defined as 10 credits, with some exceptions.

Undergraduate Students

If you were not enrolled for two consecutive academic quarters or more, excluding summer, and wish to return to the University of Washington, you must follow the procedures below.

  1. Review the Returning Student Reenrollment Policies of the Office of the Registrar, and comply with the listed requirements. Note their application deadlines.
  2. Complete the Returning Former Student Reenrollment Application and submit it to the Registration Office. Be sure to update your mailing address through your MyUW account.
  3. Complete and submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form for Returning Students to International Student Services (ISS) approximately three months before your intended return (or at the same time you submit the Returning Former Student Reenrollment Application to the Registration Office, if applicable). Include photocopies of your passport identification page, most recent I-20 or DS-2019 (do not send your originals), and financial support documentation. Documents can be submitted by mail, fax, or email to your primary ISS adviser.
  4. Your new I-20 or DS-2019 will be issued only after your Returning Former Student Reenrollment Application is processed by the Registration Office, if applicable, and your I-20/DS-2019 Request Form for Returning Students is received by ISS. Your new I-20 or DS-2019 will be mailed to the address listed on the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form. See below for mailing options.
  5. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee after you receive your new I-20 or DS-2019 ($200 for F-1 students, $180 for J-1 students). This is required when a new SEVIS record is created. Carry the receipt to your visa interview, if applicable, and when you travel to the U.S.
  6. After you return to Seattle, bring photocopies (not originals) of the following documents to the ISS office:
    • I-20  or DS-2019
      Make the photocopy after you have signed the I-20/DS-2019.
    • I-94 card (front and back)
      If you do not have a white I-94 card stapled to your passport, you can obtain your electronic I-94 number on: cbp.gov/I94
    • F-1 visa or J-1 visa
    • Passport biographical page
    • Passport expiration date page (if different from biographical page)

Graduate Students

Graduate students returning after maintaining "on-leave" status may automatically register for the return quarter during the prescribed registration period. Follow procedures outlined below:

  1. Review the Returning Student Reenrollment Policies of the Office of the Registrar, and comply with the listed requirements. If you are a graduate student who did not apply for on-leave status but wish to resume studies within the same degree program, you must file a request for reinstatement to the Graduate School. For complete details regarding reinstatement policies and procedures, refer to http://grad.washington.edu/policies/general/reinstatement.shtml
  2. Complete and submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form for Returning Students to International Student Services (ISS) approximately three months before your intended return. Include photocopies of your passport identification page, most recent I-20 or DS-2019 (do not send your originals), and financial support documentation. Documents can be submitted by mail, fax, or email to your primary ISS adviser.
  3. The new I-20 or DS-2019 will be mailed to the address listed on the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form. See below for mailing options.
  4. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee after you receive your new I-20 or DS-2019 ($200 for F-1 students, $180 for J-1 students). This is required when a new SEVIS record is created. Carry the receipt to your visa interview, if applicable, and when you travel to the U.S.
  5. After you return to Seattle, bring photocopies (not originals) of the following documents to the ISS office:
    • I-20  or DS-2019
      Make the photocopy after you have signed the I-20/DS-2019.
    • I-94 card (front and back)
      If you do not have a white I-94 card stapled to your passport, you can obtain your electronic I-94 number on: cbp.gov/I94
    • F-1 visa or J-1 visa
    • Passport biographical page
    • Passport expiration date page (if different from biographical page)

Mailing Options for the I-20 or DS-2019

International Student Services is able to pay for standard airmail only. If you would like your new I-20 or DS-2019 sent by express mail, you have the following options:

  1. Coordinate and pay for express mailing through eShipGlobal:

  2. Arrange for a friend to pick up the document from ISS on your behalf. You must email your primary ISS adviser with the full legal name of your friend so he/she can be authorized to pick up the document. Your friend is then responsible for mailing the new document to you.

  3. (Graduate students) Contact your academic department to see if they are willing to pick up the document from ISS and express mail it to you.

Visas

If you have been out of the U.S. for more than five months your F-1 visa is considered invalid, even if it has not expired. You will need to apply for a new visa after receiving your new I-20. This does not apply to J-1 visa holders.

Apply for the visa in your home country, unless circumstances or travel plans make this impossible, and anticipate delays in visa issuance due to enhanced security reviews. U.S. consulates require in-person interviews for most visa applicants. You are encouraged to schedule the visa interview appointment as early as possible. The U.S. Department of State maintains an excellent website on the visa application process, and it should be studied carefully. You can also find information about how long it will take to get your visa.

Frequently Asked Questions

Undergraduates

Do I need to complete a Returning Former Student Reenrollment Application if I am outside the U.S. summer and fall quarters only?

No, but you do need to request a new I-20 or DS-2019 by completing the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form for Returning Students. F-1 students who are outside of the U.S. for five or more months and not registered full-time are required to obtain a new visa and I-20 prior to returning to the U.S.

What happens if I am gone winter and spring quarters?

Students gone for two or more quarters, summer quarter excluded, are required to apply for a new I-20 from the ISS Office and to submit a Returning Former Student Reenrollment Application to the Registration Office.

To make things easier, can I simply send all of my application materials to ISS?

No. You must send the Returning Former Student Reenrollment Application form and required fee to the Registration Office. Mail only the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form for Returning Students and supporting documentation to ISS.

Graduate Students

What is the difference between "on-leave" and "annual vacation quarter?"

"On-Leave" is a Graduate School policy pertaining to students who are not registered for one or more quarters (excluding summer). Graduate students may apply to go on-leave for one quarter, one year, or longer. When planning to go on-leave, F-1 and J-1 students must also consider the effect on their F-1 or J-1 status.

"Annual vacation quarter" is an immigration concept. Students are eligible for a vacation quarter after having completed three consecutive fulltime quarters and if they intend to register fulltime the quarter following the vacation.

While it is possible to go on-leave for an extended period of time, you may only remain in the U.S. during the on-leave period if you also fit one of the exceptions to the fulltime registration rule for F-1 and J-1 students.

Can I go on-leave for three quarters?

Yes, but you may only remain in the U.S. during that time if you also fit one of the exceptions to the fulltime registration rule for F-1 and J-1 students. Otherwise you must plan to stay outside the U.S. during your on-leave period and apply for a new SEVIS record and I-20 when you want to return. 

I am planning to do research outside of the U.S. for more than five months. During that time I will be paid as an RA and registered for ten credits each quarter. Do I need to apply for on-leave status?

No, as long as you are registered you do not need to apply for on-leave status. In addition, because your SEVIS record will remain active, you do not need to request a new I-20 or DS-2019 prior to your return.

I have been out of the U.S. and on-leave for the past year. I will come back next month to defend my dissertation. Do I need a new I-20 or DS-2019?

Yes, it is advised that you enter the U.S. in student status, even if just to defend your dissertation. To request a new I-20 or DS-2019, complete and submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form for Returning Students to your primary ISS adviser with all required supporting documentation.