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

I-20 Recertification

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 Last Term Authorization

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 exception that allows you to stay in the United States without transferring to another school or changing to another non-immigrant status is a medical leave of absence. Once your school has approved a medical leave of absence, you must also receive approval from the International Students and Scholars Office. The ISSO requires a letter from your school approving the medical leave and a letter from your physician stating 1) your medical condition, and 2) advising the ISSO that you are unable to register as a student at the time the leave is granted. If the doctor's letter meets immigration regulations, you are allowed to stay in the United States during the semester as long as you register for the following semester. Under immigration regulations, only one year of medical leave is allowed per degree level and may be authorized in semester increments only.

If you are on a medical leave and depart the United States, you may return using your current documents (valid passport, valid F-1 entry visa and recertified I-20).

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 in person to the ISSO so that your return to Columbia can be reported to SEVIS. Bring the new I-20, your passport and I-94 card within the first week of your entry 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: 6 August 2012 Last modified: 6 August 2012
Columbia University International Students and Scholars Office