What you need to know about withdrawing from all classes/not enrolling for a time:
Choosing not to enroll in classes for a period of time is known as a Leave of Absence. You must make an appointment with the International Student Advisor in order to do this. Please note: a Leave of Absence is not for students with medical conditions. Students wishing to take fewer classes or no classes entirely must apply for Medical Reduced Courseload.
IMPORTANT: International students may NOT take a time off during the regular semester and remain in the US. F-1 and J-1 students present in the US must be enrolled for a full course load or pre-approved reduced course load with appropriate documentation for one of the allowable reasons (medical or academic).
How to Request a Leave of Absence
First, carefully read the information on this page. Then you will complete the Leave of Absence Form and submit it to the International Center at least two weeks before you plan to leave. If you are enrolled in courses, you should submit the Cancellation/Withdrawal Form for the semester you plan to be absent.
How long do you plan to be outside of the United States?
If you are outside of the United States 5 months or fewer, it might be possible to return on the same SEVIS record. If you are gone more than 5 months, it is not possible to return on the same SEVIS record. You will need a new I-20 issued, a new I-901 fee paid, and you must enter the US as a new student on an initial SEVIS record. If you enter on a new SEVIS record, you will not be eligible for OPT or CPT for another year.
NOTE: If you complete the Spring semester, then summer break does NOT count toward your five month absence period because your SEVIS record will not be terminated until the start of the fall semester. The five month period begins the day your SEVIS record is terminated. If you leave before completing the Spring semester, then your SEVIS record will be terminated immediately and summer break will count toward your five months.
When do you plan to depart the US?
If you withdraw from classes (either before or after the semester starts), you must depart the US within 15 days. If you will leave during a breadk and have not yet registered for classes, you should depart within 15 days of the beginning of the next semester. You need to calculate your departure and return trips carefully if you wish to return on the same SEVIS record and I-20.
NOTE: If you withdraw from classes, please make sure you have consulted with the Registrar’s office as well as student accounts about your refund. You must withdraw early in order to get a full refund.
What happens to your SEVIS record/I-20 when you take a Leave of Absence
Any time an international student is not enrolled in a current term, the SEVIS record must be terminated. Termination is not always bad, it depends on the reason that you are terminated. If you consult with International Center before you take a semester off, there will be a reason of “Authorized Early Withdrawal.” This note makes it significantly easier for you to return to Active status and come back to the United States. If you do not consult with the International Center before you leave, your termination reason will be “Unauthorized Withdrawal.” This could make it more difficult for you to return to Active student status.
NOTE: If you withdraw from classes and are suspended from the University before action is taken on the SEVIS record, the reason for termination will be “Suspension” rather than “Authorized Early Withdrawal.” For this reason, if you are on probation, you must consider WF’s and their calculation towards your GPA. For more information about this, contact your academic advisor
When are you allowed to return to the US?
If you return to the US from a leave of absence (whether more or fewer than 5 months), you are not allowed to enter the US more than 30 days before classes begin, even if your visa is still valid.
NOTE: When calculating a return date to the US, you should also factor in the 5 month rule so as not to be gone more than 5 months if you wish to return on the same SEVIS record.
What you need to do for your I-20 to be valid again
Re-entry on New Record: If have been gone from the US for more than 5 months, you must return on a new SEVIS record with a new I-20. The process will be same as when you first applied for your visa. You will reapply to UND, receive a new I-20, and get a new visa. You will not be eligible for OPT or CPT for one full academic year when you return.
Reactivation of Old Record: If you are gone from the US for 5 months or fewer, you will need to email the International Center 60 days before you plan to return to the US with the following materials:
- A statement that the student plans to return to the US and on which date (may enter the U.S. 30 days prior to the start of classes.
- Copy of travel itinerary for re-entry: showing date and flight information in English
- Confirmation that the student has used the Registrar’s office website to request that transcripts be sent to the International Center.
This will not affect your OPT or CPT eligibility.
What you must do to enroll UND courses again
Contact the registrar’s office if you are an undergraduate or your academic department if you are a grad student. In most cases an absence of one semester will require you to reapply to the university.
Necessary Immigration Documents for Return
You will need the following to re-enter the US:
- Passport valid at least six months into the future
- Valid visa
- Most recent I-20 with a travel signature (on page 2) less than one year old
(the International Center can mail a new one to you if you do not have a valid travel signature, but you must pay for the shipping costs)
NOTE: If you will be gone fewer than five months and need to renew your visa before returning to the US, contact the International Center 30 days before your visa appointment. The International Center must submit a request to return you to “Active” status before the visa interview.
Possible Issues - Academic Standing
If you are on probation when you take a semester off, you will continue on probation during their first semester back. If you require a probation contract through the Provost’s Office, you will need to have a signed contract on file with the Provost’s Office before being allowed to re-enroll. If you have been suspended and return home, you must have an approved appeal on file before being re-admitted. Discuss this with your academic advisor before you decide to take a semester off.
NOTE: If you are currently on probation and want to withdraw after classes have started, you have to check the drop dates set by the Registrar’s Office. Don’t forget that a grade of “WF” is calculated as a 0.0 and affects your semester GPA as well as the conditions of your probationary status. Just because you withdraw from all classes doesn’t guarantee that you will not have a negative semester GPA. If your academic standing goes from “probation” to “suspended” after you withdraw and leave the US, you may not be allowed to return to the University without an appeal approved by the Academic Standards Committee.
Possible Issues - Finances
If you owe money, you will not be able enroll after a leave of absence until you have paid all tuition, fees, and loans. If a student leaves the US with an outstanding balance, you must have it paid off before your SEVIS record will be reactivated or a new I-20 issued.
NOTE : Remember that you may not be refunded 100% of their semester tuition and fees depending on the time of the semester that they withdraw. Students with extenuating circumstances may appeal for more of a refund than is standard by submitting the “Enrollment Fees Appeal Form” (https://apps.und.edu/forms/login.cfm) and any supporting documentation. Even students with an approved appeal or who withdraw before the semester starts may need to pay a portion of their student health insurance so that they are covered until they depart the US.
Possible Issues - Disciplinary, Behavioral, or Criminal Incidents
If you have a disciplinary action pending with the University (via the Dean of Student’s Office), you should be aware of the effect the action will have upon your return.
If you have a criminal record or possibly even an arrest record, you may have trouble entering the U.S. This includes MIPs (tickets for Minor in Possession) and any possible drug-related offenses, however minor, even if you never told the International Center about it. If you have ever had these issues or any kind of status violations may, you should carefully weigh the benefits and risks of taking a semester off. The International Center has no way of knowing exactly what government entities see or what the consequences will be for the student.