Leave of Absence (LOA) or Withdrawal from UF
Immigration regulations allow F-1 students to take a temporary Leave of Absence (LOA) of less than 5 months. All departing international students are required to notify ISS prior to a period of extended absence from the University of Florida.
Taking a LOA has a direct impact on your legal status and the ability to apply for off-campus work permission. There are four basic categories for the LOA process and they are explained in detail below.
LOA for less than 5 months
The LOA less than 5 months is appropriate for students who will be absent for only one semester and will either not register at all or will register less than full time during the absence. In most cases, the student wants to take a temporary leave for personal reasons. Other instances include students conducting research abroad with no registration or students participating in an internship abroad. When taking a LOA for less than 5 months the student will need to take the following steps:
- Apply for the LOA:
To apply for the LOA, please complete the LOA form (linked below). It is important to discuss your plan with your academic unit to ensure that you are aware of all departmental policies and any possible impact on your student status within your department. Once you have completed the LOA form, contact your International Student Advisor (ISA) to get the LOA approved. You will receive an updated I-20 that will be used for re-entry once you are ready to return to the U.S. to resume studies.
- Depart the U.S. in a timely manner: The SEVIS/I-20 record will be in terminated status for the duration of the LOA. You must depart the U.S. within 15 days from the day the LOA is approved and remain outside the U.S. for the duration of the LOA (for the entire semester). You may not return to the U.S. prior to the last day of classes for the semester of the leave.
- Initiate the SEVIS reactivation process: If you will return to resume studies in the semester immediately following your leave, be sure to contact your ISA 60 days prior to the start of the semester in which you plan to return. Your ISA will then submit a reactivation request to SEVP to have your SEVIS/I-20 record returned to Active status. While the reactivation request is in process, clear all of your registration holds and register because SEVP may request confirmation from the ISA that you are enrolled for the upcoming semester.
Since UFIC may only submit a reactivation request up to 60 days before the start of classes for the semester the student will return, it is advisable to schedule the return trip after the reactivation occurs. However, if you have already scheduled your return flight, please send your ISA a copy of the flight itinerary. With it we can request that SEVP expedite the reactivation. We cannot guarantee that the expedite request will be successful. If the reactivation is not done by the time of the flight, you will need to postpone your travel date.
- Return to the U.S. to resume studies: It is critical that you only return to the United States upon receiving confirmation that the SEVIS/I-20 record has been reactivated. Attempting to re-enter with a SEVIS/I-20 record that is still in terminated status will lead to a long delay and secondary inspection at the port of entry or possibly being denied entry to the U.S. Since you will be returning under the same SEVIS/I-20 record, you are not required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee again. Once you arrive in Gainesville, please check-in with UFIC. For your re-entry to the U.S., be sure to have the following documentation in hand:
- Valid I-20 with a current travel signature on page 3 (travel signature should be less than one year old)
- Valid F-1 visa in passport (may be expired upon exit, but must be renewed prior to re-entry)
- Valid passport (should be valid for at least 6 months from date of re-entry)
LOA for 5 months or more for personal reasons
A leave of absence for five months or more will cause your current I-20 and visa to become invalid, regardless of the expiration date listed on the document. Returning to the United States to resume studies will involve readmission to the University of Florida, receipt of a new I-20, and a new visa application. When taking a LOA for more than 5 months the student will need to take the following steps:
- Apply for the LOA: To apply for the LOA, please complete the LOA form (linked below). It is important to discuss your plan with your academic unit to get complete information about the readmission process. When absent from the University of Florida for two consecutive semesters, a student will need to apply for readmission to be able to re-enroll in the program. Once you have completed the LOA form, contact your International Student Advisor (ISA) to get the LOA approved.
- Depart the U.S. in a timely manner: The SEVIS/I-20 record will be in terminated status when the LOA is approved. You will need to depart the U.S. within 15 days from the day the LOA is approved.
- Initiate readmission, I-20, and visa application process upon deciding to return: The first step will be to contact the academic department about re-enrolling in the program. A readmission application (with applicable fee) needs to be submitted to the University of Florida Admissions Office. Each departmental unit may also require additional documentation from the student. Once your readmission application has been approved, the academic department should notify UFIC by emailing your ISA to confirm the semester in which you will return and when you are expected to graduate. Your ISA will then work with you to issue the Form I-20 you will need for the visa application process. The next step is to obtain the new I-20. Your ISA will provide detailed information about what is needed for the I-20 process; be prepared to provide proof of financial support for up to one year. The Form I-20 issued to you will indicate "Initial Attendance" at the University of Florida, with a new program start date and a new SEVIS number. This means that you will need to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee for the new I-20. Finally, arrange for your visa appointment at the U.S. embassy or consulate near you. Similar to previous times, you will need to complete a visa application (with applicable fee) and submit proof of the I-901 SEVIS fee payment along with any other documentation the embassy or consulate requires to process the visa application.
- Return to the U.S. to resume studies: Once your visa is approved, you will be able to re-enter the United States up to 30 days prior to your program start date listed on the I-20. And once you arrive in Gainesville, please check-in with UFIC as we will need to review your entry documents to ensure you entered in proper F1 status. For your re-entry to the U.S., be sure to have the following documentation in hand:
- Form I-20 indicating "Initial Attendance" at the University of Florida
- Proof of payment of the I-901 SEVIS Fee (receipt)
- Letter of readmission from the department
- Proof of financial support
- Valid F-1 visa in passport
- Valid passport (should be valid for at least 6 months from date of re-entry)
Additional matters to consider about previous I-20s and practical training eligibility:
Even though you are returning with a new SEVIS/I-20 record, please keep all previous I-20s for your records as they may be needed for future immigration applications. Upon returning to the program, if you want to apply for off-campus work permission (CPT/OPT), you must first maintain full-time student status for one academic year (fall and spring semesters) in the United States prior to being able to do CPT/OPT. Note that time spent studying before the LOA in this instance will NOT be counted towards the full academic year requirement.
LOA for 5 months or more for research abroad (no registration)
In the instance the student has been authorized to conduct research abroad for a period of 5 months or more but will not be required to maintain registration, the LOA process is the same as that of a leave for more than 5 months for personal reasons. Please refer to section above for full details (LOA for 5 months or more for personal reasons).
LOA for 5 months or more for research abroad (with registration)
In the instance the student has been authorized to conduct research abroad for a period of 5 months or more and will register for research credits while abroad, the student will maintain an Active SEVIS/I-20 record. Since the student will return with the same SEVIS/I-20 record, it is not necessary to pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee again.
The student needs to complete the LOA form (linked below) and submit it to the International Student Advisor (ISA). The ISA will issue an updated I-20 with a notation about the authorized research abroad and an updated travel signature.
Upon re-entry, please have the following documentation available:
- Valid I-20 with a current travel signature (on page 3) that is less than one year old
- Valid F-1 visa (may be expired upon exit, but must be renewed prior to reentry)
- Valid passport, for at least 6 months from date of re-entry into the United States
Applicable to all LOA instances
If you are returning to the University of Florida after a temporary absence, you MUST "check-in" at UFIC upon arriving in Gainesville. If you fail to do so, your enrollment status will not be reported in SEVIS and you will be considered out of status. To complete the check-in, please bring your I-20, passport, and visa.
If you intend to withdraw from the University of Florida permanently, please inform your academic department as well as your International Student Advisor (ISA). Complete the LOA form (linked below) and submit it to your ISA. Your SEVIS/I-20 record will then be terminated. You must depart the U.S. within 15 days of the termination. If in the future you would like to return to study, you will need to apply for admission again.