International Student Services

On-Leave Status for International Graduate Students


International graduate students must consider how On-Leave status may affect their immigration status, as UW policies and immigration regulations sometimes conflict. F-1 and J-1 students should check with International Student Services (ISS) before applying to go On-Leave. The following guidelines highlight how the two policies intersect.

Full-Time Requirement

International graduate students must maintain full-time registration. This is generally 10 credits per quarter. Students registered for thesis or dissertation credits may be considered full-time when registered for 2 credits although departments may have higher minimums. Students should verify individual department requirements.


Medical Condition: ISS may approve part-time study or a break from studies due to a student’s documented medical condition. If a student must apply to be On-Leave for medical reasons, that student should coordinate pre-approval with ISS. Documentation from a physician will be required. Reduced study for medical reasons is allowed for a maximum of 12 months per degree level for students in F-1 status.

Immigration Vacation Quarter: This is a quarter spent in the U.S. during which a student is registered part-time or not at all. A student who has completed three consecutive full-time quarters and intends to register for the following quarter may take an immigration vacation quarter. This is not limited to summer, though that is the most common vacation quarter. If a student applies for On-Leave status and takes a vacation quarter in a term other than summer, that student must be full-time during summer and notify his or her primary ISS adviser since only one vacation quarter per year is permitted.

U.S. Immigration regulations do not apply outside of the U.S. If a student is not eligible to be registered less than full-time under the exception categories described above, the student must leave the U.S. in order to avoid violating student immigration status. A graduate student may apply for On-Leave status for the maximum duration allowed by the Graduate School if this period is spent outside the U.S.

Returning to the U.S. After Extended On-Leave Status

Students who are On-Leave and outside the U.S. for more than one quarter must request new immigration documents and a new visa before returning to the U.S. Their "immigration clock" also starts over, which may affect eligibility for employment benefits. Please read the returning student information for details on returning to the U.S. after an extended absence.