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Taking a Leave of Absence

Sometimes, a situation may arise that will require a student to leave school for a while. Below are a list of four options that a student could choose when facing a situation that may require them to take a break from school.

These are in no way intended to be recommendations. Students will need to weigh all factors to decide the option is ultimately best for them.

The options below are listed in the order which separate students the least from their current educational objective.

  • Remain in school. We recommend that the student go to the Counseling Center to meet with a professional trained to help people through emotional crises. Students can also always come visit our office if they need support or guidance (although please note that ISAP staff are not trained counseling professionals). Remember: we are here to help!

If you need to take a reduced course load (RCL), please fill out the RCL form in your ISAP Portal account, in the Request & Document Center section. Remember that Instructor/Academic Advisor/Department Head or medical documentation is REQUIRED in order to authorize reduced course load requests.

  • Take a short trip home. For this, a student will need to have their I-20 signed by a DSO for travel and to receive permission to miss classes/lab work, etc. from each of their professors. Depending on the severity of the situation, the Dean of Students Office can facilitate these requests. If a student has work which can be kept up online, this may be a very viable option.
  • Take a leave of absence from F-1 status. The advantage of this option is that a student’s current SEVIS record is only temporarily closed, and they will not need to pay the I-901 (SEVIS) fee again. For this option, the student must leave the U.S., will need to return the next available term, and can be outside the U.S. for no more than 5 months. (For requests following the summer vacation term, there is an exception to the 5-month rule.) To take a leave of absence, the student will need to do the following:
    • Submit a copy of their flight confirmation documenting departure from the U.S. and request a leave of absence for the remainder of the semester.
    • Withdraw from classes.
    • Plan their return to the U.S. for no more than 30 days before the next semester will begin.
    • About 4 to 5 weeks before the planned return date, send a copy of the return flight confirmation. This is because the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) of the Department of Homeland Security may request evidence of the return date, and they will only allow 4 business days for response.
    • Register for classes per the instructions from their academic advisor.
    • Wait for confirmation that their SEVIS record has been reactivated by SEVP.
  • Request a leave of absence for more than 5 months (from F-1 visa status), not including summer break. With this option, the student will:
    • Provide flight confirmation for their current SEVIS record to be closed out permanently.
    • Withdraw from classes. Once the student is ready to return, they will follow the university’s procedures for returning. (If less than a year, an academic advisor should be able to guide the student. If longer than a year, contact the Office of the Registrar.)
    • 4 to 6 months before the anticipated return date, the student must provide I-20 documentation per the posted requirements so we can issue a new I-20.
    • Pay the I-901 (SEVIS) fee for the new SEVIS number.
    • If their F-1 (student) visa has expired, the student must apply for a new visa.
    • Report to the Office of International Student Admissions & Programs as soon as you can upon arrival to complete ISAP’s required check-in process.

Last updated: 1/31/2024