If you are considering a leave of absence or withdrawing from the college, please review important information and FAQs from the Dean of Students’ office website.
Leave of Absence
In addition to the LOA processes at the college, there are additional considerations for international students taking a LOA. When an international student on an F-1 visa takes a leave of absence, there are implications for their student visa and SEVIS records. International student visas are based on full-time enrollment, so when you take a LOA, and are no longer enrolled at the college, your SEVIS record and visa are no longer valid.
Alternatives to Taking a LOA
Before deciding to take a LOA, we encourage you to be aware that there are several alternative options to taking a leave of absence. Read more about these options here.
Additionally, international students with documentable medical reasons can request a reduced course load instead of taking a LOA from the college. This would allow you to take one or two courses instead of requiring that you are registered for three units.
F-1 Status and LOAs and Withdrawals
When you pursue a LOA from the college, this results in the termination of your SEVIS record/visa. The SEVIS record is terminated with the reason “Authorized Early Withdrawal”. This designation does not adversely affect your immigration record. The SEVIS record is terminated as of the LOA effective date. Once the SEVIS record is terminated, you have a 15-day grace period in which you must depart the U.S. You should not exceed this 15-day grace period, and if you do, there could be adverse implications for your immigration status or benefits in the future.
If you wish to return to the U.S. at any point during your leave from the college, while you are not enrolled, you must return on another type of visa, like a tourist visa, or a student visa for another college. You cannot re-enter on your F-1 visa through Reed College.
Medical Leave of Absence
Taking a Medical Leave of Absence from the college is an option, and you can read more about that process here. The same implications discussed above apply if you are taking a Medical Leave of Absence from the college. You must be approved for a return from your MLOA, however, and the timing may impact your return to Reed. Read below for more information about returning to Reed, and note that ISS cannot request reactivation of your SEVIS record or issue an initial I-20 until you have been approved to return to the college.
As you remain an enrolled student while on an emergency absence from the college, there are no impacts on your visa and SEVIS record. If your Emergency Absence will culminate in a leave of absence, consult the sections on information you should know about a LOA.
Returning from a LOA/MLOA
Returning to Reed after a leave of fewer than 5 months
Please review the college processes for returning from a LOA/MLOA here. Read below for information about your visa and SEVIS record when returning from a LOA/MLOA.
If the gap in your enrollment will be fewer than five months, ISS can usually request that your F-1 status is 'reactivated' by USCIS. Reactivation allows you to maintain your OPT eligibility and use the same I-20 and visa (if not expired). Note that ISS can only request that your record is reactivated. USCIS approves the actual reactivation and often requires additional documentation from the school and the student to make the change. If your leave is for fewer than five months, you must:
Contact ISS by email at least one month before you plan to return to Reed. This will give ISS time to request that your record is reactivated with USCIS. After the request is made, ISS will confirm once your record has been turned back to 'active'. Processing times vary and can take from a minimum of 1 to up to 4 weeks, so it is important to contact ISS well in advance. If you have additional considerations, like a visa appointment scheduled, flight already booked, we may be able to request that your SEVIS record is activated more quickly. This escalation requires documentation and approval from USCIS. Please contact ISS for more information.
Confirm you have a valid travel signature on page 3 of your I-20. If not, you can request an updated signature from ISS. Please consider that it will take some time to for this to be mailed to you, and international mailing rates may vary.
Check your email regularly. SEVIS often requires additional information to reactivate your status (such as a transcript copy, proof of travel, or other documents). If additional documents are required, ISS will contact you via your Reed email. SEVIS allows a very short response time, so you must submit required documents to us within 1-2 days. Once your request has been approved, ISS will notify you via email.
Re-enter the U.S. with all required travel documents, including a valid F-1 visa after your record is set back to 'active'. Note that reactivation times vary. ISS cannot guarantee when your record will be turned back to 'active'. Because you will not be able to enter the U.S. unless your record is 'active', you may want to wait until your request is approved before purchasing airfare.
Returning to Reed after a leave of five months or longer
If there will be more than a five month gap in your enrollment, you will require a new, F-1 status and new 'Initial' I-20. This will be a completely new F-1 record. If your leave is for more than five months, you must:
- Contact ISS 2-3 months before you plan to return to Reed. This will allow time for the creation and receipt of your new SEVIS record/I-20.
- Complete the International Student Certification of Finances with supporting documentation that you are able to cover one year of your Reed costs.
- Receive your new Form I-20 or DS-2019 from ISS.
- Pay the $350 SEVIS I-901 fee.
- You may also need to apply for a new F-1 visa. You should contact the consulate or embassy well in advance of your return, and begin the visa application process if required.
Please note that you cannot travel to the U.S. more than 30 days before the start date listed on your new I-20.
Important Considerations and Reminders
If your record is terminated, you cannot remain in the U.S. during your leave. You must leave the U.S.
If you take a leave of absence for more than 5 months, you will not be eligible for OPT until you have completed one academic year of full-time enrollment after your return from your leave. This regulation is especially important to note if you are considering a LOA of over five months in your final year of studies at Reed.
You cannot remain in the U.S. with a terminated record. If you are terminated for another reason, such as academic or disciplinary suspension, you do not have a grace period to leave and you must depart immediately.
Transferring to Another College
You can take classes at another college while on a LOA from Reed. If you know at the time of deciding to leave Reed that you have been accepted to and plan to attend another institution in the U.S. directly after Reed, it is possible to transfer your SEVIS record to another college. If you intend to pursue studies at another institution immediately, you can transfer your F-1 program before your LOA is effective and your SEVIS record is terminated. The following information will be required:
- Confirmation of acceptance by another school with an F-1 visa program (ie: acceptance email or letter)
- Name and SEVIS school code for the “transfer-in” school
- Desired SEVIS record transfer release date