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.
- 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.
- 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:
- I-20 with a current travel signature on page 3
- Valid F-1visa in your passport
- 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:
- I-94 form (accessible online)
- Proof of registration for classes