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Maintaining your visa status.

Leave of Absence (LOA)

SDSU allows international degree-seeking students to take a Leave of Absence (LOA) for 1 or more semesters. However, as a student on an F or J visa, you cannot maintain your student visa status while taking an LOA because you are not meeting the enrollment requirements of your visa status.

So, while you can take an LOA, you should plan to leave the U.S. during the semester and return within 30 days before the start of the semester in which you want to re-enroll.

How to take a leave of absence

If you want to take a leave of absence, you must:

  1. Complete and submit the I-20/DS-2019/ Leave of Absence Form to the ISC:
    Important: Make an appointment to meet with one of the ISC Advisors to have it approved before you leave the U.S.
  2. Notify SDSU before you take a leave of absence.
    Students who fail to notify the ISC that they are taking a leave of absence will have their SEVIS record terminated, and their I-20 will become invalid.  
Besides taking care of the immigration side of a Leave of Absence, you should also request a Leave from the SDSU OFfice of the Registrar. Refer to the SDSU General Catalog or contact the Office of the Registrar to determine if you are eligible for a leave of absence.

Options for leave of absence: I-20 procedures

You have several options for taking a leave of absence, and they involve different I-20 procedures.

  • If you are leaving the U.S. for less than 5 months, you may use their same I-20 when returning to SDSU if:
    • You have an approved leave of absence from the ISC, and
    • The I-20 has been properly signed within the last year.
Re-entry: Before you may re-enter the U.S., the ISC will need to request that your SEVIS record be reactivated. This reactivation can only be requested within 60 days of the semester start date. Please keep this in mind, and inform the ISC ahead of time of your plans to return to SDSU.
  • If you are leaving the U.S. for more than 5 months, you will have your records completed in SEVIS, and you must be issued a new I-20 to return. You must submit a new financial statement to the ISC before you can get a new I-20 form.
    • CPT/OPT: Students returning from a leave of absence of more than 5 months will not be eligible for OPT and CPT until they have been enrolled for an additional academic year.
  • If you are on an approved study abroad program, you are considered to be enrolled at SDSU and may use your same I-20 when re-entering the U.S., as long as it has been signed within the last year.
    • CPT/OPT: If you are planning to graduate after your study abroad program, it is important that you discuss your OPT and CPT options with an ISC advisor before leaving the U.S.

Medical LOA

If you have a medical condition that prevents you from being able to take courses, you may apply for a Medical Leave of Absence, which would allow you to maintain your visa status and remain in the U.S. during the leave. Please consult with an international student advisor if you believe this applies to you.

 Tel: (619) 594-1982  |  Fax: 619-594-1973  |  Email: