F-1 students may find that they need to take a leave of absence (LOA) from school for a variety of reasons, including personal or family leaves, medical leaves, or temporary withdrawals from study to participate in non-academic study or work abroad experiences. A leave of absence is not the same as a suspension or expulsion, in which you are required to stop studying temporarily or permanently due to reasons such as required academic withdrawals or conduct violations. Leaves are generally voluntary and do not remove your eligibility to return to school at a later time.
If you are planning to take a leave, you must notify the International Center BEFORE withdrawing or stopping studies. In most cases, going on a LOA requires you to leave the US. Depending on the type and the length of the leave, different immigration procedures may be required.
Consult with your Academic Dean (undergraduate students) or program (graduate students)
Inform your International Center advisor of your intentions so that you can get guidance on immigration procedures and requirements
The required procedures will vary depending on the type and reason for the leave, and the expected duration of the leave. In particular, note these general rules:
If a leave of absence is requested while you are outside the US, you are generally not eligible to return to the US as an F-1 student once the leave goes into effect
If you are inside the US when requesting a leave, you are generally give 15 days following the approval of the leave to depart the US, but you must notify the International Center of the leave of absence before you are actually withdrawn from classes
If you are on a leave of absence and outside of the US for more than five months, you may need to obtain a new I-20 in order to return and complete at least one full academic year before re-qualifying for practical training (CPT or OPT) benefits
This last point is especially important for students who take a leave of absence close to the final semester of study. Please continue to stay in contact with your International Student Advisor to ensure the proper maintenance of your immigration status. Please also be mindful of your I-20 visa document. You will need this document to re-enter the U.S. If your visa document needs an updated travel signature, contact the International Center to make arrangements so we can assist you with this. Additionally, a new student visa may be needed to re-enter the United States.
LOA Effects on CPT/OPT/Academic Training
SEVP mandates that the International Center terminate a student's F-1 or J-1 status if they are on a non-study abroad LOA. If your F-1 or J-1 status is terminated, you must return to Tufts for two consecutive semesters in full-time status in order to be eligible for Post Completion Optional Practical Training, Curricular Practical Training, or Academic Training. If you are returning from a LOA during your last semester at Tufts, you need to be aware of the fact that you will lose your eligibility for post-completion Optional Practical Training or Academic Training.
Returning to Tufts after a LOA
When you are ready to return to Tufts after a LOA, please notify the International Center approximately 3 months prior to your intended return to request a new I-20 or DS-2019 visa document. Your International Center advisor will assist you with this process. You cannot return to the US with your previous I-20 or DS-2019 unless you receive written confirmation from the International Center that you may do so.
If you are an undergraduate student, you will need to obtain clearance from your Academic Dean prior to returning, unless you are returning from a study abroad experience. You must clear any registration holds and finish any incomplete courses before you will be eligible to receive a new Form I-20 or DS-2019 to return to campus.
Graduate students will need to obtain clearance from your department and the Graduate School.
To qualify for a new I-20 or DS-2019, the International Center will need:
Confirmation of approval from your Academic Dean or department that you are eligible to resume studies at Tufts
Updated financial documents showing that you have sufficient funds for at least one year of full-time tuition, fees, and living expenses (consult our Estimate of Expenses for the estimated funding requirements for your program)
SEVIS Record Reactivation Request
If your SEVIS record was terminated for “Authorized Early Withdrawal” and if you plan to return to the US within 5 months* of starting your leave of absence, you can request a “Reactivation” of your F-1 status. The Reactivation changes your F-1 status back to “Active.” Reactivation preserves your eligibility for OPT/CPT associated with any previously completed semesters. It also preserves your payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee so you will not need to pay a new I-901 fee if your SEVIS record is reactivated.
Approval for Reactivation is granted by SEVP, not by the International Center, so there is no guarantee of a successful Reactivation.
To be eligible for SEVIS Reactivation, you must meet the following criteria:
Maintained F-1 visa status prior to requesting an Authorized Early Withdrawal (AEW)
Was enrolled as a full-time student at the time of requesting an Authorized Early Withdrawal (AEW)
Departed the US no later than 15 days of the SEVIS termination for Authorized Early Withdrawal (AEW)
Seek readmission within five months of departure (*during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can attempt Reactivations even if you departed the US more than five months before returning)
Will begin courses within five months of attending courses the previous semester
Enrolled as a full-time student the semester of return
Submit a SEVIS Record Reactivation Request
Upon confirming your eligibility for a SEVIS Record Reactivation, use the Request Center on the International Center Portal to submit a SEVIS Record Reactivation Request and provide us with the following information:
Date you departed the US
Date of planned return to the US
Confirmation of full-time enrollment in upcoming semester
Confirmation of approval of return from leave from the appropriate office or staff person as applicable to your program
*Fletcher students must contact the Registrar
*Health Sciences Students must contact Student Affairs
Date you last attended class
Date you requested your Leave of Absence
You may submit your reactivation request at any time, but we are unable to request it through SEVP until at the earliest 60 days prior to the next semester start date.
If your Reactivation request is not approved, you will need to request a new I-20 and pay a new SEVIS I-901 fee.