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

STEM 17-month OPT 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, 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 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.

Withdrawal, Voluntary Leave of Absence, Dismissal, Suspension

For all the above categories, F-1 students are required to depart the United States. Your current F-1 status is "terminated" in the SEVIS database and you will need to request a new initial I-20 to return to the U.S. Apply for your new I-20 certificate of eligibility online at http://isso.columbia.edu Be sure to follow all the instructions on the web site. You will also need to pay a new SEVIS fee and have a valid F-1 entry visa to return.

When you return to the U.S. using your new initial I-20, you must report your arrival to the ISSO so that your new SEVIS is update to Active status. Submit the online SEVIS Report Form for New F-1 and J-1 Arrivals within the first week of your return to the U.S. This is very important as you will lose your F-1 status if SEVIS is not updated in a timely manner.

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: 28 January 2015 Last modified: 28 January 2015
Columbia University International Students and Scholars Office