Taking a Semester Off
What you need to know about taking a semester off:
Choosing not to enroll in classes for a semester 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 semester off 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 can I take a semester off?
First, carefully read the information on this page. Then you will complete the Leave of Absence Form and submit it to the CIS office at least two weeks before you plan to leave.
You will also need to apply for an official Leave of Absence from the University. You can do so on the ‘Student’ Tab in Truview under ‘Registration.’ If you are taking a semester off for internships or study abroad, select ‘Planned Professional Leave.’ If you are taking semester off for personal reasons, select ‘Personal Leave.’
How long do you plan to be outside of the United States (more or fewer than 5 months)?
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, a new visa acquired, 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? Do you already have a ticket?
If you withdraw from classes (either before or after the semester starts), you must depart the US within 15 days. If you have not yet registered for classes and decide to take a semester off, you should depart within 15 days of the beginning of the 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.
When do you plan to return to the US? Do you already have a return ticket?
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 is your current academic standing? Are you on probation? Will you receive any grades that will negatively affect your GPA?
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.
What is your current financial status? Do you owe money or have any outstanding loans?
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” (http://registrar.truman.edu/forms/enrollmentfeeform201160.pdf) 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.
Do you have any other issues (disciplinary / behavioral / criminal/medical) that could prevent you from returning?
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 Center for International Students 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 Center for International Students has no way of knowing exactly what government entities see or what the consequences will be for the student.
What do you need to do to come back to Truman?
If will be gone for fewer than 5 months and return on the same SEVIS record and I-20 should log in to Truview and contact their advisor to make sure their account is up-to-date and that they are able to enroll in classes.
If you will be gone for more than five months and return on a new SEVIS record, you must re-apply to the University by submitting the following:
- Online application (click here to go to the online application page) with “Reapplicant” selected from the drop down menu next to “Applying As.”
- New Certificate of Financial Support (click here to access the certificate of financial support)
- New Bank Documents—originals or certified copies
- Official Transcripts of any course work completed during time away from Truman at another college or university (in the US or abroad)—if applicable
- Appeal letter to Academic Standards Committee—if applicable, email the Center for International Students for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What immigration documents do you need to come back?
You will need the following to re-enter the US:
- Passport valid at least six months into the future
- Valid visa (the SEVIS ID Number on your visa should match the one on your I-20. If your visa is for another school, that is fine a long as it the dates are valid and SEVIS numbers match)
- Most recent I-20 with a travel signature (on page 2) fewer than 6 months old
(the Center for International Students 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 Center for International Students 30 days before your visa appointment. The Center for International Students must submit a request to return you to“Active” status before the visa interview.
What will happen to the student’s SEVIS record upon departure (termination)?
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 Center for International Students before you take a semester of, 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 Center for International Students 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 a 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.
What will happen to your SEVIS record before re-entry?
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 Truman, 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 Center for International Students 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 Center for International Students.
This will not affect your OPT or CPT eligibility.
What will happen to your scholarship after a leave of absence?
If you return from a leave of absence and would like to have your scholarship again, you must submit an appeal to Regina Morin, the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at email@example.com. Scholarships are not held for students during a leave of absence and reinstatement of the scholarship (for students who otherwise meet the renewal criteria) is subject to the availability of scholarship funds at the time of the student’s return.