Information for Students Requesting a Leave of Absence
Information on this page has not been impacted by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance for schools. The standard regulatory requirements apply to the leave of absence process for F-1 and J-1 students. J-1 students who have been approved for a leave of absence should contact ISSS directly for additional information.
- I have been approved by my school for a leave of absence. What will happen to my I-20 and my SEVIS record?
- Students who have been approved for a leave of absence will not be able to maintain an active SEVIS record, unless the leave is based on a medical reason. In the case of personal or military leaves of absence, ISSS will need to close out a student’s SEVIS record. By regulation, students will have 15 days from the date their SEVIS record has been closed out to make a departure from the U.S.
- My current F-1 visa stamp is good beyond 2021. Will I need to apply for a new visa stamp or can I use the existing visa stamp when I am ready to return?
- If your absence from the U.S. will be less than five months and your SEVIS record can be reactivated, you will be able to use your existing visa stamp to reenter the U.S.
- If your absence will be longer than five months, or if the request to reactivate your SEVIS record is not successful, you will need to apply for a new I-20 (this will create a new SEVIS ID and SEVIS record). In this situation, entry on the previous, unexpired visa that shows your previous SEVIS ID is at the discretion of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
- What will I need to do regarding my I-20 when I am ready to return?
- Students should complete the Return from LOA application in the ISSS portal two to three months prior to their planned return to campus. You will need to provide proof of clearance to return to your school or program when you submit this application.
- Will I still be eligible for summer CPT when I come back from my leave?
- If your absence was less than five months and ISSS was able to have your SEVIS record reactivated, your previous time in F-1 status will be preserved, including eligibility for off-campus employment.
- If your absence was more than five months or reactivation of your SEVIS record was not successful, you will be issued a new initial attendance I-20. In this scenario, a student will need to re-establish eligibility for off-campus employment authorization (an academic year in full-time status).
- Will I still be eligible for OPT when I graduate?
- Students who have at least an academic year remaining to complete their program at the time of their return to campus will be eligible to apply for post-completion OPT.
- Students who have one semester remaining to complete at the time of their return to campus may not be eligible to apply for OPT. Preservation of OPT eligibility will depend on the length of your absence and whether reactivation of your SEVIS record is possible and successful.
- If I am currently in the U.S. and I am approved by my school to take a leave of absence, when do I have to leave the country?
- By regulation, the SEVIS record for students who have been approved for a leave of absence will need to be closed out for Authorized Early Withdrawal. Once this is done, a student has fifteen calendar days to make their departure from the U.S.
- What if I am unable to get home right away because of travel restrictions?
- Students who are experiencing difficulty arranging travel back to their home country should contact ISSS directly for more information. Options are limited for maintaining legal presence in the U.S. once your SEVIS record has been closed out.