International Student: Taking a Leave of Absence

There are many reasons that students take a Leave of Absence during their academic program – to take advantage of an internship outside the U.S., to attend to a family situation, to attend another program in the U.S. for a term or two, or to just take a break in their home country to reassess career goals – to name a few.

If you decide to not enroll at Pomona College for a semester, your departure will be processed by the college as a Leave of Absence (LOA). When you are not attending Pomona College, ISS is not able to certify that you are maintaining status. Therefore, it is imperative that you notify of the details of your decision in advance so appropriate action can be taken on your SEVIS record in a timely manner.

Leave of Absence Outside the U.S.

Most of the time, taking an LOA requires that you exit the U.S. during an entire semester. Indeed, as an F-1 student, you are not permitted to remain in the U.S. during a regular semester period and not be enrolled. (Please note that as an F-1 student, you are not able to remain in the U.S. without attending school even if your family resides here.)

During your time outside the country, your SEVIS record will be terminated for Authorized Early Withdrawal (AEW). Don’t be alarmed by the use of the word “withdrawal.” AEW is SEVIS terminology and is not intended to imply that you are withdrawing from your degree program. It means you are choosing to discontinue your F-1 status for a period of time.

To return to the US after an LOA will require that you have an active SEVIS record. There are some circumstances where the ISA can reactivate your previous SEVIS record – bring it back to life so to speak. In other circumstances, it is not possible to reactivate the record and a new SEVIS record would have to be generated for you to return. Getting a new SEVIS record restarts your enrollment clock for eligibility to have an internship (CPT) and can make you ineligible for OPT. These are serious matters and require discussion with the ISA before deciding to take an LOA.

Please note that leaving the country due to a Reduced Course Load for medical reasons does not have the same impact on your status as choosing to take a Leave of Absence for personal reasons. In particular, the rules for returning to the U.S. after a Leave of Absence at home are very different.

Leave of Absence Inside the U.S.

A Leave of Absence inside the U.S. occurs when you decide to enroll full-time at another school in the U.S. that is not one of the schools with which Pomona College has an exchange agreement. Examples might be enrolling for a semester of study at UCLA or USC, or going all the way to New York or Boston to attend Columbia University, NYU or Harvard.

Pomona College will also process this action as a Leave of Action. For your SEVIS record, The Pomona College ISA would not be able to maintain your SEVIS record since you would not be enrolled at Pomona College even though you are still in the U.S. and attending school. In these cases, your SEVIS record must be released to the International student services office at the school you will attend. They will issue you an I-20 for the period you are going to study there. Upon your return to Pomona College, your SEVIS record will be returned to Pomona College and you will get a new I-20. Your eligibility for CPT and/or OPT will not be negatively affected.