U.S. laws require F-1 students to enroll full-time at their sponsoring university every quarter unless they are eligible for a vacation quarter or authorized reduced courseload. If a student is not eligible for a vacation quarter or reduced courseload, they may ask if there is a way to temporarily stop studying. Common reasons include home country mandatory military service, family emergency, or work opportunity out of the U.S.
Students use different terms to refer to this situation. Some we hear are:
- Gap a quarter
- Take a quarter off
- Take a break
Leave of Absence
ISS calls this a "leave of absence." During a leave of absence, a student will not enroll in a quarter or will withdraw from all their classes for the quarter, and leave the U.S.
If you decide to take a leave of absence it will affect your F-1 status. You must notify ISS as soon as possible.
ISS will notify the U.S. government on your behalf that you are taking a leave of absence. This is a U.S. immigration-only process; many students will need to separately complete academic department/graduate school/university processes to withdraw or apply for on-leave. We strongly recommend that you also consult with your academic department to discuss the effect of your absence on course sequences and length of your program.
If you fail to separately notify ISS about your complete withdrawal or approved leave (even after approval from your department/academic program) your immigration record will be terminated for "Failure to Enroll" and this could have serious consequences if you want to visit, study or work in the U.S. in the future.
How to Notify ISS
1. Schedule a 30-minute appointment to discuss your situation: call the ISS front desk at 221.7857 between 10am and 4 pm, Monday through Friday, to schedule the appointment. This is a complex situation, and drop-in advising will not be enough time to discuss your situation.
If you are outside the U.S. when you decide you are unable to return for the upcoming quarter, review the ISS additional leave of absence information.