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Leave of Absence

Sometimes students need to take a break from their studies, for any number of personal, family, or academic reasons. The International Services Office (ISO) will help you determine the most appropriate reporting for your F-1 or J-1 record, based on the arrangements you make with your specific school, division, or program at the University.

Begin by discussing plans in detail with an ISO advisor as early as possible.

In most cases, the Leave of Absence (LOA) requires a termination of your current F-1 or J-1 record. This triggers a limited grace period to leave the US or request permission to stay here in another status. You may only remain in the US under a student category during a LOA when you have a documented medical condition and are authorized for a reduced course load (PDF). Otherwise, please use the Temporary Leave of Absence form (PDF) to report the effective date of your leave.

When you are prepared to return to your studies, please follow instructions below depending on how long your leave is in total.

Short-Term LOA (Fewer than 5 Months)

If you take a leave of absence, leave the US, and return to your studies within five months, it may be possible to reactivate your current F-1 or J-1 record before you return. This five-month limit does NOT include eligible vacation terms. Therefore, if you were not enrolled during summer vacation and take a LOA for fall, this would still be considered a short-term leave for immigration purposes.

When you are prepared to return, please use the Temporary Leave of Absence form (PDF) to confirm that arrangements are made with the appropriate school (or division, program, etc.) and that the date you are expected to enroll. ISO will submit a correction request that your SEVIS record be changed back to active status up to 30 days before you resume your studies. As a result:

  • You will be able to use your current I-20 or DS-2019
  • Your unexpired visa will remain valid
  • You will not have to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee again

Please notify the ISO of your travel plans, in case you need a travel letter to explain your situation while the correction is pending.

Extended LOA (Longer than 5 Months)

Immigration rules will not allow you to return using the same SEVIS record after an extended absence. If your leave is longer than one academic term (excluding any eligible vacation term), you need to request a new SEVIS record and will be treated as a new student for immigration purposes.

When you are prepared to return to the University of Rochester, use the New Student Request form (PDF) to begin the process for a new I-20 or DS-2019. Please submit this form and supporting documents to your academic department at least three months in advance to allow time for processing.

You will be required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee again and may need to renew your visa stamp before traveling. As a returning student under a new SEVIS record, you will not be eligible for certain immigration benefits right away. For more information, see our continuing studies page.