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Leave of Absence

Leave of Absence

Students are not able to remain in the US in F-1 status if they are not enrolled. Students that need to take a semester off should plan to leave the US until ready to return to their studies. 

Exceptions (which allow the student to remain in the U.S.) when a student has a documented medical reason.

During a LOA your SEVIS record is terminated until you are ready to return.  When you are ready to return your record is “reactivated” and you will be back in status.

Students are advised to not take a LOA longer than one semester.  For visa purposes, F1 students that take a LOA for more than 5 months of academic time will need to apply for a new I-20.  

If your leave of absence is for more than 5 months, you will not be eligible for CPT or OPT based on your previous time as an F1 student. You will need to complete another academic year before you would be eligible for CPT or OPT.

How to apply for a Leave of Absence:

Returning from a Leave of Absence
F-1 students returning from a leave of fewer than 5 months:
  • If the leave will be less than five months, ISS can usually request that your F-1 status to be reactivated by SEVP. This process allows you to maintain your OPT/CPT eligibility and use the same I-20 and visa (if not expired).  
2 Months Before You Return: 
Ensure that you do not have and holds or a balance on your student account. If you have not taken care of this, we will not be able to process your reactivation.
Email your request to

The process can take 1 to 4 weeks, so it is important that you start this process well ahead of your return. Our office will notify you once your record has been reactivated.  Failing to reactive your record before your travel will result in you being refused entry into the US.

Important things to Remember:
You can only return to the US within 30 days of the start of the next semester.
Check that you have a valid travel signature on page 2 of your I-20. If not, you can request an updated signature from ISS.

F-1 students returning from a leave of more than 5 months:
If your leave will be longer than five-month, you will require a new F-1 status and a new ‘Initial’ I-20.  This will be a completely new F-1 record.  It will be like coming to the US all over again. If your leave is for more than five months, you must contact our office with your intent to return.

Once you receive your new I-20 you will need to:
  • Wait until within 30 days of your program start date to return to the US
  • Pay a new SEVIS fee
  • Apply for a new visa
  • Complete one academic year to be eligible for CPT or OPT
  • Check in with ISS once you arrive in the US