Leave of Absence

Leave of Absence

Students who are taking a gap semester or year should apply for a leave of absence based general leave of absence guidance below.

Any continuing student who decides to remain outside the U.S. but is maintaining full-time enrollment status online must report to ISS by completing the F-1 Student Out of Country form.

General Leave of Absence Guidelines

A leave of absence refers to the time a student may take away from the University of Wisconsin-Madison during their academic career. It requires students to leave the U.S. and ISS must take action on their immigration records.

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

Please refer to the COVID-19 Updates page for your student flowchart. Each flowchart will provide you with next steps if you are taking a leave beginning the spring or fall term.

ISS will notify you when they have taken action on your immigration record. If your SEVIS record has been terminated due to your gap term/year you must depart the U.S. within 15 days of your termination.

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 2 weeks for our office to process your new I-20.

All returnees should do the following:

  • Contact your academic/major advisor to discuss your academic plans. It is important to know how close you are to graduation.
  • Travel to the U.S. on your NEW immigration document (this will either be your new initial document or a reactivated immigration document).
  • Complete International Student Orientation and Check-in on Terra Dotta.

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.