Requesting an Annual Vacation

Annual Vacation Quarter: Definition

F-1 and J-1 regulations permit one vacation quarter each year. This is an annual exception to the full-time enrollment requirement.

During your annual vacation quarter, you can:

  • Enroll part-time or not at all (graduate students: consult your graduate program coordinator about enrollment requirements if you have an RA or TA position)
  • Work on campus more than 20 hours per week
  • Stay in the U.S. or travel internationally, or a combination of both
  • Study at other schools in the U.S., take online classes, etc.

After your vacation quarter, you will be eligible for another annual vacation after 3 consecutive full-time quarters.

Note: unused vacation quarters do not accumulate or “roll over.” For example, if you enroll full-time for six consecutive quarters, you cannot take two vacation quarters in one academic year.  A vacation quarter is an optional, “use it or lose it” benefit.


You are eligible for the annual vacation quarter if you:

  • Completed three consecutive full-time quarters prior to the vacation quarter
  • Intend to register full-time following the vacation quarter for three consecutive quarters again (unless you qualify for a different part-time exception, such as for medical reasons, final quarter, etc.)
  • Did not work on campus more than 20 hours per week during the three consecutive full-time quarters prior to the vacation quarter
  • Are not in the first quarter of a new degree program
  • Are not in your final quarter; for part-time enrollment permission in your final quarter, apply for the “Final Quarter Reduced Course Load” which is a separate exception to the full-time rule.
  • If you begin your UW program in winter or spring quarter, you will be eligible for your first summer vacation.  For new transfer students, your “academic year,” required for vacation quarter eligibility, may include time spent at your previous school. However, you must be full-time during your first quarter at the UW.

How to Apply?

Most students register full-time autumn/winter/spring quarters, and take summer as the annual vacation quarter.

If summer is your vacation quarter, you do not need to request special permission.

If you are eligible for your annual vacation in summer, you can ignore the message on your MyUW page (the system does not know if a student is eligible for a vacation quarter, so it always shows this warning if a student is not registered full-time).

Sometimes students follow a different enrollment pattern. Students might register full-time in summer and request an “alternative vacation quarter” for either autumn, winter, or spring quarter.

This requires special permission; complete the ISS webform below. 

“On-Leave” Status and Vacation for Graduate Students

“On-Leave” and “Annual Vacation” are two different policies. On-leave status is a UW academic policy only. As an international student, you must also consider immigration policies. To have On-Leave status and remain in the U.S., you must also be eligible for an annual vacation for that particular quarter.

You must request On-Leave status if you plan to take your annual vacation in a quarter other than summer. This maintains your continuous enrollment at the UW. Please review the Graduate School’s On-Leave policy and application instructions.

If you are a J-1 graduate student who plans to request On-Leave status and travel outside of the U.S., consult your ISS adviser.

Student Services and Benefits

Note: Vacation quarter approval is only a notification from ISS to the U.S. government. A vacation quarter might affect eligibility for other UW services and benefits, unrelated to F-1 status, such as:

  • On-campus housing
  • Hall Health Center services
  • Husky Card services
  • U-Pass transportation
  • Building access
  • On-campus employment
  • Health Insurance (see below)

Please contact the offices managing the service or benefit to learn if you lose access if you take a vacation quarter.

Health Insurance

If you have not purchased 12 months of ISHIP, please make sure you purchase health insurance that will cover your vacation quarter. Accidents and illness can happen at anytime without any warning. Contact the International Student Health Insurance Counselor for help with your insurance options.