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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Return from LOA
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.
Last reviewed: 12 April 2016 Last modified: 12 April 2016