Leave of Absence

J-1 VISA-HOLDERS, please contact the I-Center directly or your visa sponsor (eg. 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.
  • enrolled full-time for 3 consecutive quarters prior to the Leave
  • temporarily transferred to another U.S. school with intention to return to complete the program at Stanford

Students who do not meet any of these conditions for a Leave of Absence will violate their visa status if they remain in the U.S. on an F-1 visa without enrolling.

Note to dual/multiple degree students: 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.

Requesting a Leave of Absence

Students requesting a Leave of Absence will need to complete and submit a general university Leave of Absence petition (found on the Registrar's website) through the I-Center. 

The Leave of Absence petition requires a number of signatures, including one from an International Student Advisor.  All the other required signatures must be obtained prior to submitting it to the I-Center.

Upon receiving a completed petition from the student, an I-Center Advisor will sign and fax the form to the Registrar’s office.

Once a Leave of Absence petition is submitted and approved, students must depart the U.S. immediately.

Download forms from the Office of the University Registrar >>

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Returning from a Leave of Absence of Less than 5 Months

Students on a Leave of Absence for less than 5 months may re-enter the U.S. using their current I-20/DS-2019 with a valid travel signature. Students should obtain a travel signature before they leave Stanford.

Students who do not have a valid travel signature must send their I-20/DS-2019 to the I-Center to get their documents signed. Please mail your document to:  Bechtel I-Center, Attn: International Student Advisor, 584 Capistrano Way, Stanford, Ca 94305.

Make sure to include your return address, and allow enough time for the I-Center 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 at (Eship instructions)

F-1 Students on a Leave of Absence for less than 5 months must submit a request to the I-Center to reactivate their SEVIS record.  The I-Center can request SEVIS to reactivate a student's record up to 30 days prior to the start date of quarter.

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


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Returning from a Leave of Absence of 5 Months or More

  • Students on a Leave of Absence who will be out of the U.S. for 5 months or more are required to apply for a new I-20/DS-2019. Students may not use their last I-20/DS-2019 for re-entry, as it will no longer be valid.
  • Students are required to pay the SEVIS fee again. (Use the SEVIS number on the newly issued I-20/DS-2019 when paying the SEVIS fee.)
  • Students must apply for a new visa stamp in their passport even if they have an unexpired visa stamp. Immigration regulations state that students who have been out of the U.S. for more than 5 months automatically invalidate their visa stamp.
  • Students may enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days prior to the start date of the quarter for which they will re-enroll. The start date on new I-20/DS-2019's reflect the start of the quarter.
  • For 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 the I-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 mailed/faxed to the I-Center.


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Removing Your Enrollment Hold

Students on a leave of absence will have a registration hold placed on their record until their physical presence can be verified when they return to Stanford.

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 the I-Center.

See instructions on how to remove your enrollment hold->

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Extending a Leave of Absence

Students who need to extend their leave of absence must file another Leave of Absence petition before the current leave of absence ends. 

See instructions on how to apply for a leave of absence ->

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