Leave of Absence

Whether you are considering taking a personal leave, a medical leave, withdraw from your program or are being asked by your program to take a leave, you must consult your HIO advisor to discuss the immigration impact of the leave before taking the leave.

Personal/Voluntary Leave and Involuntary Leave

If you choose to take a leave for personal reasons or if you are asked by your school to take a leave, you are not permitted to remain in the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 student status during your leave. HIO is required by federal regulations to terminate your F-1 or J-1 status in SEVIS within 15 days of your official leave.  The Form I-20 or DS-2019 you currently hold will no longer be valid. You are not permitted to use your F-1 or J-1 visa for reentries to the U.S. For brief visits to the U.S. during your leave (e.g., meeting with faculty or visiting friends), you must use a B1/B2 Visitors Visa or the Visa Waiver if applicable.

Returning from your leave

To return from a leave, you must request a new I-20 or DS-2019 as your SEVIS record would have been terminated due to your leave. To request a new I-20 or DS-2019, follow the instructions below:

  • Work with the appropriate office at your school to go through the process of financial recertification and they will work with the HIO to issue a new visa document.
  • Make arrangements with your school to have the new I-20 or DS-2019 mailed to you.
  • Once you get the I-20 or DS-2019, you must pay the SEVIS fee. F-2 or J-2 dependents (when applicable) are not required to pay the SEVIS fee.
  • Apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate if your current F-1 or J-1 visa will have expired at the time of your reentry to the U.S. unless you are a Canadian citizen in which case you do not need to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa.
  • Register with the HIO once you arrive on campus (no more than 30 days prior to the start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019)
  • Please note, upon your return from leave of absence you will be issued a new, initial SEVIS record. Current governmental guidance will only allow you to enter the U.S. with an initial record if classes have resumed on campus or hybrid. If you wish to return from a leave during a fully online semester, you will need to plan to study remotely from your home country.

Attention F-1 students:
In order to be eligible to apply to work off-campus employment authorization such as CPT or OPT, you must be a full-time student in F-1 status for at least one academic year after you return from your leave of absence.

Medical Leave

As an international student in F-1 or J-1 status, if you receive permission from HIO for a Reduced Course Load (RCL) or Leave of Absence (LOA) due to medical reasons, you are permitted to keep your F-1 or J-1 status active and remain legally in the U.S.

For F-1 students, only twelve months of medical leave or reduced course load is allowed by the F-1 regulation, and HIO can only authorize this type of leave for one semester at a time. There is no specific time limit for J-1 students. To get permission for a medical leave or reduced course load in order to remain in the U.S, you must:

  1. Contact the appropriate office at your school directly to request the leave.
  2. Submit the request to your HIO advisor with a letter from your physician meeting the following requirements:
  • on medical office letterhead and dated
  • states your name and your date of birth
  • states that either reduced course load or zero course load is recommended for you for a specific semester due to a temporary illness or medical condition
  • signed by a licensed medical doctor, or licensed clinical psychologist

3. Receive your updated I-20 or DS-2019 (Once your request is approved, you will get a new I-20 or DS-2019 from HIO)

Please note:

  • If you will need more time to finish your degree because of your leave of absence or reduced course load, you will also need to apply for an extension before your I-20 or DS-2019 expires.
  • If you need to extend your medical leave of absence or reduced course load for another semester, you must submit a new permission request along with new supporting documents to your HIO advisor by the beginning of the next semester.
  • If you no longer need Medical RCL permission after you have been approved, then you must contact your HIO advisor immediately so that we may update your record to reflect your continued eligibility for the appropriate amount of Medical RCL at your degree level.
  • If you choose to spend your medical leave outside the U.S., you may not need to request RCL. Please contact your HIO advisor for guidance and advice.