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F-1 Leave of Absence Process

As an F-1 international student, your immigration status is tied to your enrollment status at MassArt.  As a result, it is important that you plan ahead for taking a leave from the college.  There are many reasons students will decide to take leave; from needing a break from study to needing some time to care for family members, among many other reasons. 

When international students take a leave, they normally return to their home country.  Sometimes they will take a leave to practice their English and in those cases, they can transfer their SEVIS record to an English language school of their choice in the United States and are then able to stay in the US for the duration of their leave. We outline the 2 leave processes below as they are slightly different.

We recommend that you consider leave decisions carefully and spend some time talking to your faculty advisor, an academic advisor, or counseling and wellness in order to carefully weigh your options and make the best decision.


Process for Taking a Leave of Absence to Return to Your Home Country
  1. Contact Elizabeth Smith-Freedman in the ARC and your international student advisor (ISA) Maggie Shirland to request leave.

  2. Upon receipt of your request, your ISA will terminate your SEVIS immigration record for "authorized early withdrawal" 

    • If you are currently in the United States when your immigration record is terminated, you have 15 days to leave the US 

    • If you plan to visit the United States while you are on leave, you will need to enter as a visitor/tourist or other status.

    • You will not be able to use your F-1 visa for entry during your leave.

  3. Your massart.edu email address will remain active during your leave.  

    • You should plan to check it regularly so you can register for courses during the semester prior to your return. See Academic Calendar for more info about the course registration timeline 

  4. Return from Leave Process: Contact your ISA 2-3 months prior to when you plan to return to MassArt (around the same time that you will register for courses). 

    • Complete the F-1 Return from Leave of Absence I-20 Request

      • you will need to apply for a new I-20 by submitting new financial documents

      • After receiving your new I-20 you need to pay another SEVIS fee (since we will be creating a new SEVIS record). 

      • depending on your F-1 visa validity and details, you may need to apply for a new F-1 visa

      • you will not be eligible for OPT or CPT until you have been back in the United States for 2 consecutive semesters after your return.  


Process for Taking a Leave of Absence to Study at another US institution temporarily
  1. Contact Elizabeth Smith-Freedman in the ARC and Maggie Shirland, your international student advisor (ISA) to request leave.

    • make sure you state your intention to remain inside the US during your leave

    • Include a copy of your acceptance letter from the language study program with your request

  2. Upon receipt of your request, your ISA will transfer your SEVIS immigration record to the new institution

    • The new institution will issue a new I-20 to you to use for the duration of your leave

    • You can continue to use your F-1 visa for entry during your leave of absence from MassArt (as long as the visa is still valid)

  3. Your massart.edu email address will remain active during your leave.  

    • You should plan to check it regularly so you can register for courses during the semester prior to your return. See Academic Calendar for more info about the course registration timeline 

  4. Return from Leave Process: Contact your ISA 2-3 months prior to when you plan to return to MassArt (around the same time that you will register for courses). 

    • Complete the F-1 Return from Leave of Absence I-20 Request

      • you will need submitting new financial documents for the new I-20

      • You will need to have your current US institution (or language school) transfer your SEVIS record back to MassArt

      • you will not be eligible for OPT or CPT until you have been back in the United States for 2 consecutive semesters after your return. 

      • Your ISA will send you your new I-20 from MassArt 

      • Be sure to communicate any plans to travel outside the US with your ISA