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As an international student at Lehigh University, you must maintain your immigration status and stay in good academic standing.

Follow these guidelines to maintain your immigration status, and remember your academic standing—your cumulative and current grade point averages—can affect your status as well.

If you fall out of status and wish to remain in the United States, you must apply to reinstate your visa status.

Report to the school you committed to attend. Reporting at Lehigh begins when you check in at International Orientation.

Attend the school you are authorized for. Some international students apply to many U.S. schools and receive I-20’s or DS-2019’s from several of those schools. However, you must attend the school that issued the I-20 or DS-2019 that you used to enter the United States. If you arrive at Lehigh and then decide to attend another school, you must follow the transfer process.

Enroll in classes full-time.

  • Undergraduate Students: Full-time enrollment is a minimum of 12 credit hours each semester, fall and spring.
  • Graduate Students: Full-time enrollment is a minimum of nine credit hours each semester, fall and spring.
  • You must take all classes at Lehigh’s campus, unless OISS authorizes you to take classes at another local college.
  • In your last semester of study, you may take fewer credits only if authorized by an OISS advisor.
  • F-1 students may only take one online or distance course per semester. If you are in your final semester or term and you only need one course to finish your program, it cannot be an online or distance course. You must be physically present for your last course.
  • International students do not need to enroll in the summer unless they are in a program with a summer start date or that requires summer study, like the 1-MBA program, or if they are graduating at the end of the summer.

Get health insurance for you and your family. All J-1 students and their dependents are required to have health insurance while they are in the U.S. Lehigh University requires that all undergraduate students and graduate students on an F-1 visa have health insurance. Learn more.

Make normal progress. “Normal progress” means that you are moving closer to finishing your program by the date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019. If you cannot finish on time, please consult an OISS advisor about extending your program.

Do not work without authorization. You may work up to 20 hours a week during school and full-time during breaks. Do not work off campus unless you receive an authorization from OISS first. Learn more.

Keep your I-20 or DS-2019 current. If you change your program, degree level or major, you must update your I-20 or DS-2019 with OISS. Learn more.

Maintain a valid passport. You need to have a passport that is valid for at least six months. If your passport will expire within six months, contact your home country’s embassy in the U.S. and request a new passport, ideally nine months before the expiration date.

Update your address. If your address changes, you must update it within 10 days. Current students can update their address in Banner. Students in OPT or Academic Training can do so in iHome.

Respect the grace period. After you complete your program at Lehigh University, there is a brief grace period.

  • F-1 students have 60 days to leave the U.S. or to:
    • Apply for a change of visa status
    • Apply for Optional Practical Training
    • Apply and be accepted to a new program of study. If the new program is at Lehigh, you will need a new I-20 showing your new program start date before the end of the 60-day grace period. If your new program is at another institution, you will need to transfer your SEVIS record.
  • J-1 students have 30 days to leave the U.S. or to:

Meet the home residency requirement, if required. Some J-1 students must return to their home country for two years after finishing their program.

Reinstating Your Visa Status

If you violate your immigration status, you must apply for reinstatement with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

F-1 Students

You can apply for reinstatement if:

  • You were out of status for fewer than five months—you are more likely to be reinstated if you file quickly.
  • You have enrolled or will enroll in a full course of study.
  • You did not work without authorization.

If you worked without authorization, you are not likely to be approved for reinstatement. It is best to travel and re-enter instead.

If you have a history of violating immigration rules, you will not be eligible for a reinstatement to F-1 status.

F-1 students can also regain status by leaving the United States and re-entering with a new I-20. However, this option is costly. You must pay airfare, the SEVIS fee and the visa fees at the embassy or consulate in your home country. An OISS advisor will need to create a new I-20 record, which means you will need to wait one year to qualify for employment authorization or OPT. Consult with an OISS advisor to choose the best option.

Application Process

To apply for reinstatement, you will need the following documents:

  • File Form I-539 online or on paper.  See the USCIS website for application instructions.
  • A one-page statement explaining why you fell out of status and the impact if you do not get reinstated
  • Pay the appropriate filing fee either with a credit card (if applying online) of via check or money order if applying by mail.
  • Financial documents not older than six months that show funds for one year of tuition, fees and living expenses
  • Original transcripts from all schools attended in the U.S.
  • If you were out of status for more than five months, proof that you paid the SEVIS fee online
  • Copies of your Form I-94, passport photo page and current visa page
  • Any other evidence that might help explain the violation

J-1 Students

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) must approve your reinstatement. The DOS will not consider your case if you:

  • Did not maintain the required health insurance during your entire stay in the U.S.
  • Worked without authorization from OISS
  • Were suspended from your program of study
  • Did not pay the required SEVIS fee
  • Enrolled less than full-time without authorization from OISS
  • Remained out of status for more than 270 days
Application Process

Pay the State Department’s J-1 exchange program reinstatement fee on

Make an appointment with OISS and bring the following documents:

  • Receipt for payment of reinstatement fee
  • Copies of all previous DS-2019 forms
  • Receipt for payment of SEVIS I-901 fee

If you were out of status for 120-270 days, bring documentation that the violation was beyond your control.

OISS will send your application for reinstatement to DOS. A decision may take up to 45 days. You do not need to leave the U.S. before the decision. If approved, OISS will notify you when your new DS-2019 is ready. If denied, you will have to leave the U.S. immediately.