Leave of Absence
The following information is related to your immigration status only. For your academic status you will need to speak with the appropriate parties:
- Undergraduate students: Susan Walker or academic advisor
- Graduate students: Graduate School or graduate coordinator
First, please see this direct guidance from SEVP for your own personal records about taking a leave of absence.
You need to be aware that there is not a way to take a “Leave of Absence” for your immigration status and SEVIS record. Due to this, you need to take the time to carefully read over the following information before making a decision.
Immigration Process for Reactivation
This immigration process is for students that are trying to request reactivation and plan to return to their studies within 5 months:
- ISS will terminate your SEVIS record/immigration status for authorized early withdrawal. We will make a note in your record that you plan to return for the following academic semester.
- You need to email firstname.lastname@example.org with a formal request for a leave of absence at some point after the current semester ends but before the academic semester of your leave begins. This allows us to process the termination as late as possible in terms of regulations. The date that you email us is the termination date that you would base your 5 months off for when you need to return.
- Please be aware that you should not email us for a leave of absence request after the semester has already begun as this is a huge risk for denial of your SEVIS record reactivation.
- The 5-month rule is how long your SEVIS record can be terminated before you would need to reapply for a new I-20. Before the 5th month, ISS can request SEVP to reactivate your record. After the 5th month, you would have to request a new initial I-20 and repay the I-901 SEVIS fee.
- For example, if ISS terminates your record on August 16th, you would have to be back in the U.S. by January 16th. You would need to let us know at least one month before your planned return so that we can contact SEVP to request that your SEVIS record is reactivated.
- The request for reactivation carries a risk since it is up to the government to approve reactivation of your record. There is history of both approval and denials and we cannot predict which requests will be approved or denied by SEVP so you need to be aware of the risk that the request could be denied..
- You need to make sure that you will be enrolled in classes for the academic semester for which you will return in order to maintain your immigration status. Guidelines state “the student will be able to resume his or her studies in less than 5 months” [which is considered a "temporary absence"]. For undergraduate students, you must enroll in at least 12 credit hours and for graduate students, in 9 credit hours.
- You must be enrolled in the upcoming academic semester before we request reactivation of your SEVIS record. If we cannot show the government that you will be enrolled upon your return, it is a risk for denial of reactivation.
- If you are able to enroll in the next academic semester and your SEVIS record is reactivated then you can travel back into the United States with your current record and valid visa.
Immigration Process for a New SEVIS Record
Due to the risk of your SEVIS record reactivation request being denied, you need to know what might happen if you are either unable to return within the 5 months or if the reactivation request is denied. The immigration process is as follows:
- Apply for an initial I-20. A new SEVS/immigration record will be created for you. This process includes checking to make sure you are academically qualified to return and you sending your proof of financial support for one academic year.
- Once you have a new I-20/SEVIS record, you will need to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee again. However, if you hold a valid visa, you do not need to redo the visa interview as direct guidance from SEVP has stated that as long as your visa is valid, you can travel with that visa and a new I-20.