International Student Services

Leave of Absence


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 outside the U.S.

Students use different terms to refer to this situation. Some we hear are:

  • Gap 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 first notify ISS before dropping classes.

ISS will then notify the U.S. government on your behalf that you are taking a leave of absence (“Authorized Early Withdrawal”). This is a U.S. immigration-only process; many students will need to separately complete academic department/university processes to withdraw and/or apply for graduate school 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 academic department), your immigration record will be terminated for “Failure to Enroll” and this could have serious consequences on future study, work, or travel in the U.S.

How to Notify ISS

1. Consult an ISS adviser, and review the ISS additional leave of absence information.

Complete the Have a Question form on the navigation bar to the right. An adviser will invite you to schedule an appointment within 2 business days. You will be able to choose whether it is in-person or by phone.

2. Print and complete the Leave of Absence Request Form. Scan and upload the form below:

Submit Leave of Absence Form

3. Drop / withdraw from all classes for your leave of absence quarter. Based on the academic calendar, this may require that ISS sign an Official Withdrawal Form for the Office of the University Registrar.