Leave of Absence

What is a Leave of Absence?

A Leave of Absence is when a student needs to take a break from their academic or immigration records but plans to return after a set period of time.

There are two different types of leaves of absence:

  • An Academic Leave of Absence
  • An Immigration Leave of Absence

Academic Leave of Absence

An Academic Leave of Absence is when a student takes a break from studying at Mason.

Students need to work with their academic department to apply for an Academic Leave of Absence.

If an international student on an F-1 student visa will not maintain a full course of study at an SEVP-certified school, and is not approved for a reduced course load, the student will need to apply for an Immigration Leave of Absence and leave the United States.

 

Immigration Leave of Absence

An Immigration Leave of Absence is when a student takes a break from studying in the United States.

Students should work with OIPS to apply for an Immigration Leave of Absence.

International students may take courses online from outside of the United States while on an Immigration Leave of Absence.

COVID-19 UPDATE:

Continuing international students who are taking a full course of study while in their home country and maintaining valid F-1 status are eligible to return to the U.S. using the same I-20 and SEVIS record they have.  They do not need to take a leave of absence and do not need their record reactivated.

If you are a continuing international student (meaning Fall 2020 was not your first semester) who is taking a full course load from their home country for Fall 2020, you can return to the U.S. using the following documents:

  • Your I-20 with a valid Travel Signature on page 2,
  • Your Passport, valid 6 months into the future,
  • Your valid F-1 visa

Visa Status

What happens to your visa status?

OIPS will terminate your SEVIS record for Authorized Early Withdrawal if you submit the OIPS Withdrawal form before you stop attending classes. You must leave the U.S. within 15 days of your SEVIS termination date.

Visit the OIPS Self Service Center to find the OIPS Withdrawal Form.

If you do not plan to continue studies at George Mason, you do not need to take further action .

If you do plan to continue studies at George Mason, what happens to your F-1 Visa Status depends on when you will continue studies.  Use the Days Between Dates calculator here to find out how many months there are between the day you last attended class and the first day of class for your return semester.  Then see the below information based on the calculation to determine which situation will apply to you:

  1. Enter the date you last attended classes at George Mason in the First Date.
  2. Enter the date of the first day of class for your return semester in the Second Date.
  3. Click Go.
  4. See if the Difference Between Dates is more or less than 5 months.
  5. Read the information below based on how many months will be between dates.
    • If less than 5 months, read the information in the blue boxes.
    • If more than 5 months, read the information in the grey boxes.

Less than 5 months: SEVIS Reactivation

If less than 5 months pass between the last day you attend classes and the day you continue classes, you can request for OIPS to reactivate your I-20/SEVIS record before you return to the U.S.  This maintains your current SEVIS record and you can keep any time accrued for CPT and OPT eligibility.

More than 5 months: New Immigration Record

If more than 5 months pass between the last day you attend classes and the day you continue classes, you must request a new I-20 and return to the U.S. in initial status.  You will start a new SEVIS record lose any time earned towards CPT and OPT eligibility.

Applying for an Immigration Leave of Absence

To leave the U.S., apply for an Immigration Leave of Absence with OIPS by completing the following steps:

  1. Talk to your Academic Advisor.
    • If you are also taking an Academic Leave of Absence, ask about your eligibility to return and find out the required steps for re-enrollment.
  2. Talk to Student Accounts to make sure you do not owe money to the university.
  3. UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS: Complete the Office of the Registrar’s Leave of Absence form.
    • Get the required signatures and return the form to the Office of the Registrar.
  4. Complete the OIPS Withdrawal form found in the OIPS Self Service Center and submit it to oipsregs@gmu.edu.
  5. Drop all your classes after submitting the OIPS Withdrawal form.
  6. Leave the U.S. no more than 15 days after OIPS terminates your record for Authorized Early Withdrawal.

 

To return to the U.S., apply to Return from a Leave of Absence with OIPS by completing the following steps:

Less than 5 months: SEVIS Reactivation

If less than 5 months pass between the last day you attend classes and the day you continue classes, request OIPS to reactivate your I-20/SEVIS record by completing the following steps:

  1. Talk to your Academic Department to make sure you are eligible to return find out the required steps for re-enrollment.
  2. Complete the Return from Temporary Leave of Absence form found at the OIPS Self Service Center and submit it with required documents at least 45 days before your planned return.
  3. Have a valid passport, visa, and travel signature upon your return.

Note: It is important for you to confirm with OIPS that your SEVIS record has been reactivated before you return to the U.S. to avoid problems at the U.S. Port of Entry.

More than 5 months: New Immigration Record

If more than 5 months pass between the last day you attend classes and the day you continue classes, request OIPS to issue your a new initial I-20 by completing the following steps:

  1. Talk to your Academic Department to make sure you are eligible to return find out the required steps for re-enrollment.
  2. Complete the Return from Temporary Leave of Absence form found at the OIPS Self Service Center and submit it with the required documents listed on the form.
  3. Pay the SEVIS fee on your new SEVIS number at fmjfee.com.
  4. Contact the consulate in your home country to find out if you need to apply for a new visa.
  5. Return no more than 30 days before classes start.
  6. After returning to the U.S. complete International Student Check-In.

Note: You will lose any time earned towards CPT and OPT eligibility if you get an initial I-20.