Student Immigration Definitions

Obtaining F-1 Student Status at Columbia

Important Information for Students Fully Funded
by Columbia University

Transfer of F-1 Supervision

Change of Status to F-1

Message for Canadian Students

Potential Delays in Visa Issuance


Student Tax Information

Maintaining F-1 Status

Academic Certification for Travel

F-1 Travel Information

Govt Q & A for F-1 Travel

DHS Information on Arrival Problems

F-1 Extension of Stay (Current Program)

F-1 Extension of Stay to Begin New Program

F-1 Reinstatement

F-1 Work Opportunities

F-1 Practical Training (PT) Overview

F-1 Curricular Practical Training

F-1 Optional PT Before Degree Completion

F-1 Optional PT After Degree Completion

NEW STEM 24-month extension

F-1 Internship with an International Organization

F-1 Leave of Absence, Suspension or Withdrawal

Student Departure Information

F-1 Reduced Course Load Request

Inviting Relatives/Friends to Visit You

Address Change Form

Applying for a Social Security Number

Leave of Absence (LOA), Suspension, or Withdrawal from Columbia University by Students in F-1 Status

While in the United States, students in F-1 non-immigrant status must be continuously enrolled full time during the academic year until the completion of their programs of study. If you take a non-medical leave of absence, withdraw voluntarily, or are suspended or required to withdraw from the University, you are required to leave the United States within 15 days of this action.The only exception to these rules is a medical leave of absence.

If you take a leave of absence, withdraw from your program, or are given a suspension, you must contact the ISSO immediately to discuss your immediate plans and any plans you may have to return.

Medical Leave of Absence

The only LOA (leave of absence) that allows you to remain in the United States as an F-1 student is an approved medical leave of absence while you receiving medical treatment in the U.S. The medical leave must be approved by your school. The ISSO requires confirmation from your school and a letter from your medical provider (licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist) stating 1) your medical condition, and 2) advising the ISSO that you are unable to be enrolled during the semester the leave is granted. You are expected to enroll fulltime in the following term unless another medical leave of absence is approved for the following term. Under immigration regulations, no more than twelve months of medical leave are allowed per degree level. Medical leaves of absence must be approved by the ISSO in semester increments only.

Returning from a Leave of Absence

Please apply for a new I-20 at least 2 -3 months in advance, and allow extra time if you need to apply for a new entry visa because your current one is expired.

Step 1. Email the following documents as one PDF file to issodocs@columbia.edu with the subject line Return from LOA

  1. Evidence that your school is expecting you back and when you are expected to complete your program (can be an email from your school to you)
  2. Financial documentation such as a recent bank statement or scholarship letter that shows that you have adequate resources to meet the tuition, fees, and living expenses for at least the first year of your return (unless you only have one semester left). Documents cannot be more than 3 months old at the time of application. Please check the link to your school of enrollment on the chart to see the estimated cost for your program for 2016-2017.

Step 2. Pay for your courier delivery of your I-20 from University Express Mail Services (UEMS). We cannot ship your I-20 until this is complete. Review these instructions to create your UEMS account and pay for your shipment.

Step 3. Pay a new SEVIS fee.

Do this after you receive the new I-20 with the new SEVIS ID number.

Step 4. Apply for a new F-1/J-1 entry visa (if necessary).

Only do this if your current visa has expired.

Step 5. Enter the U.S. using your new I-20 and submit the online SEVIS arrival form.

Your I-20 will be generated in a new SEVIS record. The earliest you may enter the U.S. in F-1 status is 30 days before the program start date on the I-20.

Within 7 days after your arrival, submit the online SEVIS Report Form for New F-1 and J-1 Arrivals. This is necessary to activate your new SEVIS record.

Important Considerations:

  • If you have not registered during the academic year for any reason other than a sanctioned medical leave of absence, you will not be eligible for practical training until you have completed one academic year in F-1 status.

  • If you wish to make short-term, temporary visits to the U.S. during the period that you are on leave, suspended or withdrawn from the University, you should not enter in F-1 status but rather on a different visa, such as a B-2 visitor's visa. You may enter in Student Status only if you are returning for the purpose of resuming your studies.

  • If you have taken a medical leave in the United States, you are not permitted to engage in any student-based employment in the U.S., whether on-campus or off-campus, until you have been cleared to return to your studies. If you wish to take a leave of absence to pursue employment or any other activities in the U.S., you will have to change your immigration status accordingly and should speak with an ISSO adviser about your plans.

Last reviewed: 12 April 2016 Last modified: 12 April 2016
Columbia University International Students and Scholars Office