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Termination of an I-20

This page outlines the consequences and available options for students with a terminated I-20. You are encouraged to meet with a designated school official (DSO) to discuss any questions you may have. Download a copy of this information.

Consequences of a terminated I-20

  • Upon termination, you will need to decide what option to pursue. Depending on your choice, you may need to leave the country within 15 days of your termination.
  • You will not be able to reenter the United States with a terminated I-20.
  • All working privileges are terminated. Any type of employment after the stated termination date is considered illegal. Employers may be subject to severe consequences for employing an illegal worker.
  • All dependents will lose their F-2 status.

Available options after the termination of an I-20

  1. Return to your home country within 15 days of the termination date
  2. Return to your home country within 15 days of the termination and apply for a new program of study. This will require applying for a new student visa (paying I-901 fee, sitting through a visa interview, obtaining a new I-20 from a new program, etc.)
  3. Work with an MSU DSO to apply for reinstatement*
    1. This option is not available for students who have been suspended, dismissed or expelled.
  4. Transfer to a new program and work with your new program’s DSO through the reinstatement process*
    1. Programs are not required to accept students into their program(s) who are currently in a terminated status.
*Please Note: The reinstatement process is not guaranteed. The final approval/denial is made by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) main office.

What leads to the termination of an I-20?

Failure to maintain status, which includes:
  • Unauthorized drop below minimum course load; 12 for undergraduates, 9 for graduates.
  • Unauthorized employment
  • Suspension / Dismissal from program of study
  • Criminal conviction
  • Failure to check-in within 30 days of your arrival
  • Unauthorized withdrawal (UW)
  • Absent from the United States for longer than five months


What is required for reinstatement?

Please note: reinstatement is not guaranteed.

  • Until USCIS has received your application for reinstatement, you are considered out-of-status and illegally present in the United States.
  • Reinstatement requests must be made within five months of the termination date listed on the top of this document.
  • Requests for reinstatements are decided by USCIS. An I-539 application needs to be prepared and sent to the appropriate USCIS location. (Instructions for completing the I-539 can be found on the USCIS website.


What do I need to do while my reinstatement request is pending?

Maintain a full course load and abide by all other requirements for maintaining active status. If your request is not approved by USCIS, you are still expected to cover the incurred costs of your program.

Can I leave the United States while my application for reinstatement is pending?

No, leaving the United States is considered an abandonment of your application.

What happens if I do not leave the country immediately?

Extended stays after your termination may impact your ability to receive a US visa for later travel. All notes regarding your termination are recorded in SEVIS, and that information is used by immigration officials when you sit for a new visa.


What is the Five-Month Rule?

The five month rule refers to the termination of a student’s record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) based on the student being away from classes or not in status for five months. This rule applies to the following students:

  • Students who have had their student record terminated (i.e., been out of status) for more than five months; and 
  • Students who have spent more than five months outside of the United States during an absence from school, excluding those participating in authorized study abroad programs

If your student record is terminated, you fall under the five-month rule and you wish to return to the United States as a student, you will need to obtain a new/initial Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status," with a new SEVIS ID and pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee again. Only if your current student visa is no longer valid, do you possibly also need to apply for and receive a new student visa.

For more information on student visas, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website. To determine whether the five-month rule applies to you, contact your designated school official or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you would renew your visa.