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Leave of Absence

 J-1 visa holders should contact the Bechtel International Center or your visa sponsor (e.g., Fulbright, LASPAU, etc.) regarding your Leave of Absence.

DHS regulations require an F-1 student to leave the U.S. during the academic year while taking a leave of absence from the school that issued the I-20.

Exceptions (which allow the student to remain in the U.S.) include 

  • when a student has a documented medical reason.
    • Note: Students must request prior approval of the medical leave from the Office of Accessible Education (OAE) before submitting the leave of absence form to the I-Center. Students must apply on a quarter-by-quarter basis. Approval can be given for no more than a total of 12 months during a student’s academic program.
  • If you are enrolled full-time for three consecutive quarters prior to the Leave.
  •  If you temporarily transferred to another U.S. school with the intention to return to complete the program at Stanford.

if you do not meet any of these conditions for a leave of absence, you will violate your visa status if you remain in the U.S. on an F-1 visa without enrolling.

Students on post-OPT for one conferred degree, while on a leave of absence from another degree program, may remain in the U.S. Please ensure that the effective quarter of the leave of absence post-dates your degree conferral date. When returning to complete your program, you must request a new I­-20 to reflect your new program two weeks prior to the start date of the quarter.

Requesting a Leave of Absence

To request a leave of absence please submit a leave of absence petition (found on the Registrar's Office website). Please obtain all the other required signatures prior to submitting it to Bechtel International Center.

An International Student Advisor will sign and fax the form to the Registrar’s Office.

Once a Leave of Absence petition is submitted and approved by the Registrar’s Office, you must depart the U.S. within 15 days to comply with federal regulations.

Download forms from the Registrar's Office.

Returning from a Leave of Absence of Less Than 5 Months

  • If you are on a Leave of Absence for less than 5 months, you may re-enter the U.S. using your current I-20/DS-2019 with a valid travel signature. If you do not have a valid travel signature, send your I-20/DS-2019 to Bechtel to get the document signed.
    • Please mail your document to:  Bechtel International Center, Attn: International Student Advisor, 584 Capistrano Way, Stanford, CA 94305. Make sure to include your return address, and allow enough time for Bechtel to mail the I-20/DS-2019 back to you.  We will return all documents by regular airmail unless you request courier mail. To request courier mail, please follow the instructions (PDF).
  • If you are an F-1 student on a Leave of Absence for less than 5 months, you must submit a request to Bechtel International Center to reactivate your SEVIS record. We can request SEVIS to reactivate a student's record up to 60 days prior to the start date of the quarter.
  • Ensure that the student visa in your passport (with the exception of Canadians) is still valid for re-entry to the U.S.

There is always a risk that it may take a long time for the SEVIS record to be activated.

Do not try to return to the U.S. until you have been notified that your SEVIS record is active or you may be denied re-entry. 

Returning from a Leave of Absence of 5 Months or More

  • If you are on a Leave of Absence and will be out of the U.S. for 5 months or more, you are required to apply for a new I-20/DS-2019. You may not use your last I-20/DS-2019 for re-entry, as it will no longer be valid.
  • You will be required to pay the SEVIS fee again. (Use the SEVIS number on the newly issued I-20/DS-2019 when paying the SEVIS fee.)
  • You may enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days prior to the start date of the quarter for which you will re-enroll. The start date on the new I-20/DS-2019's reflects the start of the quarter.
  • You are required to enroll full-time in the first quarter back from the leave of absence. This includes summer quarter if it happens to be the quarter you return.
  • F-1 students, please note that you will have to be in F-1 status for three consecutive quarters before you will be eligible for CPT and OPT.

Applying for a new I-20/DS-2019

To apply for a new I-20/DS-2019, please submit a completed request form along with evidence of sufficient funding to Bechtel International Center at least 2-3 months before the start of the quarter for which you will be enrolling.

The completed form along with all supporting documentation, can be emailed to Bechtel International Center at internationalstudents@stanford.edu.

Removing Your Enrollment Hold

If you have been on a leave of absence,  a registration hold has been placed on your record until your physical presence at Stanford can be verified.

Once your hold is removed, you must enroll full-time. Any reduced course load approval must be approved by the Office of Accessible Education (OAE) as well as Bechtel International Center.

Extending a Leave of Absence

If you need to extend your leave of absence, you must file another leave of absence petition before the current leave of absence ends.