Student Immigration Definitions

Obtaining J-1 Exchange Visitor
Student Category Status at Columbia

Transfer of J-1 Supervision

Change of Status to F-1

Potential Delays in Visa Issuance


Student Tax Information

Message for Canadian Students

Maintaining J-1 Status

DS-2019 Recertification

Health Insurance Overview for J-1 Students

J-1 Travel Information

DHS Information on Arrival Problems

J-1 Extension of Stay (Current Program)

J-1 Extension of Stay to Begin New Program


J-1 Work Opportunities

J-1 On-Campus Work Request

J-1 Academic Training

Employment Authorization for J-2

J-1 Leave of Absence, Suspension or Withdrawal

Student Departure Information

Home Country Residency Requirement

Reduced Course Load Request

Address Change Form

Leave of Absence, Suspension, or Withdrawal by Students in J-1 Status from Columbia University

While in the United States, students in J-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 leave of absence, withdraw voluntarily, or are suspended or required to withdraw from the University, you are required to leave the United States, transfer to another F-1 or J-1 program, or obtain a change of non-immigrant status You are given 15 days to leave the country, transfer to another school or change your non-immigrant status, unless you are suspended or required to withdraw. If you are suspended or required to withdraw, you have no grace period and are required to leave the United States immediately. The only exception to these rules is a medical leave of absence.

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 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 note meets immigration regulations, you are allowed to stay in the United States during the semester but are required to register the following semester. Under immigration regulations, only one year of medical leave is allowed and may be authorized in semester increments only.

Outside The United States Less Than 5 Months

If you leave the United States and stay abroad for less than 5 months, you may use your current DS-2019 to return, provided you return, register and resume a full course of study. The DS-2019 must have a completion date in the future and be recertified within the last year. You are not required to pay a SEVIS fee to enter the United States. To return to the U.S., you will need a valid passport and a valid visa stamp together with the DS-2019.

Outside The United States More Than 5 Months

If you have been out of the U.S. for more than 5 months, your record in SEVIS is "terminated" and you are required to obtain a new DS-2019. You should make your request by sending a fax to 212-851-1235. The fax should include the following:

  • Letter from your school stating that you are allowed to return to your studies.
  • Funding documentation to cover one year of tuition, fees and living expenses.
  • Address where the new form should be mailed to.

Please note that you will need to pay the SEVIS fee in order to return to the United States. You can do so at the SEVIS I-901 Fee website. You also need a valid passport and a valid visa to return to the United States. If your F-1 entry visa has expired, you will need to renew it at a U.S. embassy abroad.

Important Considerations:

  • 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 J-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.

  • While on leave or withdrawal from studies, you are not permitted to engage in any student-based employment in the U.S., whether on-campus or off-campus. If you wish to take a leave of absence to pursue employment in the U.S., you will have to change your immigration status accordingly.



Last reviewed:22 February 2011 Last modified: 22 February 2011
International Students and Scholars Office
Columbia University