Leave of Absence

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 OISS immediately to discuss your immediate plans and any plans you may have to return. Please complete the Leave of Absence form and bring it with you to your appointment.


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. You must depart the U.S. within 15 days of your termination. 

If you are taking a leave of absence for less than five months (one quarter), you may return to the U.S. using your current SEVIS record. You must contact OISS no later than one month prior to your re-entry so that we can request that your F-1 record be reactivated. Please make sure before you travel that you have a valid travel signature on your current I-20, as well as a valid F-1 visa.

If you are taking a leave for more than five months, you will need to request a new initial I-20 to return to the U.S. 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 OISS so that your return to UCSB 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. 

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. OISS requires a letter from your physician stating 1) your medical condition, and 2) advising the OISS that you are unable to register as a student. We do not accept letters from Chiropractic Clinics or acupuncturists. If the doctor's letter meets immigration regulations, you are allowed to stay in the United States during the quarter as long as you register for the following quarter. Under immigration regulations, only one year of medical leave is allowed per degree level and may be authorized in quarterly 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).

Important Considerations:

  • For all undergraduate students in the College of Letters & Science: You must apply for readmission/reinstatement by the applicable quarter deadline.
  • 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.