F-1 and J-1 students are required to maintain a full course load each semester in order to maintain legal immigration status. Therefore, the decision to take a leave of absence from the academic program directly impacts the student’s immigration status and requires consultation with an international student advisor in ISSS before the leave is officially recorded with the department/school.
The resulting changes to the student’s immigration record depend on the type of leave the student will pursue (medical v. non-medical) and the duration of time away from the program (less than five months v. five months or more). Please note: students who will pursue an approved study abroad program OR full-time graduate research abroad are considered to be maintaining status. These students should contact ISSS to confirm their plans but are not required to complete procedures for a leave of absence.
Medical Leave of Absence
If an F-1 or J-1 student will pursue a medical leave of absence, his or her international student advisor must receive a letter from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist which contains an explicit recommendation for a medical leave of absence. A student who will take a medical leave of absence may choose to remain in the United States to seek treatment or leave the country. If he or she remains in the United States, the immigration record is maintained. Please note: authorization to remain in the United States for treatment requires a request for a Reduced Course Load Authorization which, in the case of medical concerns, is limited to an aggregate period of 12 months.
If a student pursuing a medical leave of absence chooses to leave the United States, the international student advisor terminates the current SEVIS record and the student must leave the United States within 15 days of the termination. When the student wishes to return to the academic program at Emory, the International Student Advisor follows the procedures listed below to either reactivate the original record or create a new record, depending on the duration of the leave.
Non-medical Leave of Absence
If an F-1 or J-1 student will pursue a non-medical leave of absence, he or she may not remain in the United States during the leave period. After the student has confirmed the leave with his or her international student advisor, the advisor will terminate the current SEVIS record and the student must leave the United States within 15 days of the termination. When the student wishes to return to the academic program at Emory, the international student advisor follows the procedures listed below to either reactivate the original record or create a new record, depending on the duration of the leave.
Duration of Time Spent Outside the United States
As indicated above, if a student takes either a medical or non-medical leave of absence and spends less than five months outside the United States the international student advisor reactivates the SEVIS record following receipt of confirmation that the student has been readmitted to the academic program. Reactivation of the current immigration record means that an F-1 student retains any previous time accrued towards eligibility for practical training (i.e. OPT, CPT).
If a student who takes either a medical or non-medical leave of absence will spend five months or more outside the United States, the International Student Advisor must create a new immigration record when the student wishes to return. In order to do so, the advisor must receive new financial documentation from the student in addition to confirmation of the student’s readmission (see below). Creation of a new immigration record for an F-1 student also means that he or she loses any previous time accrued toward the one academic year requirement that precludes participation in practical training (OPT or CPT).
Please note: a student who has departed the United States for an approved leave of absence and wishes to enter the country during the leave for a short-term visit must use a different visa status (i.e. B-2) as the F-1 or J-1 status is not valid at that time.
Returning from a Leave of Absence/Readmission Procedure
When returning from a leave of absence, students must first be readmitted to the program through the dean of the school and then contact the international student advisor in ISSS regarding the necessary immigration paperwork. Following readmission, a student returning from a leave must ask the School to provide a copy of the readmission letter to ISSS along with an indication (via email or hard copy) of the new expected graduation date based on how many more semesters are needed to complete the degree requirements if enrolled full-time each fall and spring semester.
If a student has been absent from the United States for less than five months, ISSS needs only a copy of the readmission letter and confirmation of the new program end date to reactivate the SEVIS record and reissue an immigration document. If a student has been absent from the United States for more than five months, ISSS must also receive an updated financial certificate (available from the School) and a new letter from the financial sponsor's bank verifying that there are sufficient funds to cover educational expenses. Financial documents must be mailed via express mail to the following address:
International Student and Scholar Services
1784 North Decatur Road, Suite 130
Atlanta, GA 30322, USA
Once all required documents have been received, an international student advisor will issue the new I-20 or DS-2019 Form and send the document to the student via express mail. Students who have spent five months or more abroad must pay a new SEVIS fee online and may need to obtain a new F-1 or J-1 visa.
All students returning from a leave of absence must report to an international student advisor upon arrival so that he or she may review the immigration documents and report their presence to the U.S. government. ISSS strongly encourages returning students to attend the ISSS immigration session, which take place at the beginning of each fall and spring semester. Please consult our Pre-Arrival and Orientation Website for more information.
School Contact Information
Please refer to the list below for more information on school contacts for leave of absence and readmission requests:
Goizueta Business School:
Undergraduate BBA: Contact Libby Egnor
Graduate Programs: Contact Brian Mitchell (404.727.4824) Associate Dean of the Full-Time MBA Program, for information regarding leave of absence. If you are returning to GBS, contact Amy Doughney (404.727.5704), MBA Program Office
Candler School of Theology:
Contact Shelly Hart, director of academic administration and registrar
Laney Graduate School:
Contact your department’s Director of Graduate Studies and Dean Lisa Tedesco (404.727.2669). Additional information on withdrawals and leave of absence procedures are located on the Laney Graduate School website.
School of Law:
Contact Celeste Katz, Assistant Dean for Student Records (404.727.6832) for assistance on leave of absence requests and/or readmission.
School of Medicine:
Contact Marvell Nesmith, Associate Director of Registration and Student Affairs in the Office of Medical education and Student Affairs (404.712.9921)
Rollins School of Public Health:
Contact the Assistant Directors of Academic Programs for your program of study.
Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing:
Contact Sabrena Brown, associate director for student services (404.727.7980). The leave of absence request form and the readmission request form are located on their website.