Leave of Absence and Returning from Leave of Absence Information

Leave of Absence

ISS considers a Leave of Absence to be a time in which you will be absent from the U.S. We require our students to report their Leave of Absence when they are taking a leave during a required term (spring, fall, first or last semesters). We define a Leave of Absence to be any of the following situations:

  • Enrolling online in UW-Madison courses from outside of the US
  • Enrolling in a UW-Madison Study Abroad Program
  • Enrolling in UW-Madison courses and conducting thesis/dissertation abroad
  • Not enrolling in UW-Madison courses and taking a gap term/year
  • Not enrolling in UW-Madison and returning home for military service
  • Not enrolling in UW-Madison and taking a Non-UW Program

Any continuing students who have decided to remain outside the U.S. during a required term must report to ISS by completing the F-1 Student Out of Country form. From this form our office will take proper action on your immigration record.

Requesting a Leave of Absence (Out of Country form)

Taking a leave of absence requires planning.

  • Consult with your support network (Friends, family, etc.)
  • Consult with your academic/major advisor to discuss next steps for your academics.
  • Withdraw from all courses if you plan on not enrolling in any courses at UW-Madison
  • Make arrangements with housing and storing your belongings
  • Meet/contact your ISS Advisor to talk about your immigration record

Remember to report to ISS about your time away from the U.S. ISS will notify you when they have taken action on your immigration record.

Returning from a Leave of Absence

After you have taken time away from UW-Madison, you are usually able to return to the U.S. to continue your studies. The steps to return vary based on your situation. This document provides you an overview of the process.

If you have not enrolled for one or more semesters, you should apply for reentry admission.

Getting your new I-20 to return to UW Madison:

  • If you do not need to be re-admitted, Complete the Return from Leave of Absence form in Terra Dotta.
  • If you do need to be re-admitted, contact your admitting unit and apply for reentry admission. Once your admission has been accepted, apply for the New F-1 Student request on Terra Dotta.
  • Please allow at least 3 weeks for our office to process your new I-20.

All returnees should do the following:

  • Contact your academic department to discuss your academic plans. It is important to know how close you are to graduation and what courses you need to take.
  • Travel to the U.S. on your NEW immigration document (this will either be your new initial document or a reactivated immigration document). ISS will notify you of your new immigration record when your application (Return from Leave of Absence of New F-1 Student Request) has been processed.
  • Complete International Student Orientation and Check-in on Terra Dotta when you have reentered the US.

Common Questions about Leave of Absences

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If I fill out the reporting form in Terra Dotta, am I done?

No. At UW-Madison, different colleges and departments require you to notify them if you are taking a leave of absence. Usually, it is very important for Graduate Students to work directly with their departments when they are planning a leave of absence.

Will I need to apply for a new visa before my return?

This depends. If you have an expired visa, you will need a new visa to return to the U.S. If you are out of the U.S. for an extended period of time, you also may need a new visa. We recommend that you refer to the U.S. Embassy for more information.

Please read our page on travel for more guidance.

Can I return to the U.S. with my old I-20/DS-2019?

No. You will want to have a valid I-20 for reentry to the United States. This will help you as you go through Customs and Border Protection.

Remember to consult with ISS about your immigration documents before you go and leading up to your return. You must have a valid travel signature.

Will I stay eligible for CPT/OPT?

It depends.

All eligibility requirements for CPT and OPT must be met before you can be authorized for work permission. One requirement is that you must be in valid F-1 status for 1 academic year.

If you enter the U.S. with a reactivation I-20, your earlier semesters will count toward the 1 academic year requirement.

When you enter the U.S. on a new Initial Attendance I-20, you have begun a new F-1 visa life and therefore must be enrolled for 2 semesters before you are eligible for off-campus work permission.