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Leave of Absence from Academic Program

Students must inform the International student advisor at least 3 weeks in advance of requesting a leave of absence. Discuss with the academic advisor the issues prompting the need for a leave of absence. While on leave of absence F-1 students may not remain in the U.S. as it is a violation of status, and the only exception to this rule is due to medical conditions, which must be documented by a U.S. medical doctor.

Students requesting a leave of absence from academic studies must obtain and complete the Departure from University Form.

  1. Fill in the appropriate start and return dates on the leave of absence form. This will determine whether you will need a new SEVIS record or not. Review the below 5-month rule.
  2. Meet with the ISA to discuss legal status, return date, travel signature and visa.

The Five-Month Rule:

Leave of absence from academic program for less than five months:

Students that have been on a leave of absences for less than 5 months may re-enter the U.S. with the same I-20 and are not required to pay the SEVIS fee. Re-enter with the following documents:

  1. I-20 with a current travel signature on page 3
  2. Valid F-1visa in your passport
  3. Valid passport

Leave of absence from academic program for more than five months:

  • Student will be required to obtain a new SEVIS I-20 with a new SEVIS number when the leave of absence exceeds five months.
  • Leave of absences beginning in the spring with an anticipated return to St. Thomas the following fall semester, will be out of the country for a period of more than five months. In this case the current SEVIS record will be terminated and a new SEVIS I-20 must be issued. Always retain your SEVIS I-20 for record keeping.

Returning to the US

Contact the ISS office when you plan to return to the U.S. and request a new SEVIS I-20. The new form will identify you as being in initial attendance at St. Thomas with a new program start date. You will have a new SEVIS I-20 number, and record. This means that your F-1 status starts again.

  • You will not be eligible to apply for off-campus employment until you have completed/maintained 9 months of full time study.
  • Your previous F-1 status may not be considered.

You must schedule an appointment with the ISA when you return. Bring the following documents with you:

  1. I-94 form (accessible online)
  2. Passport
  3. Proof of registration for classes