Taking a Leave of Absence is a very personal decision. OISS will be here to support you and help you understand the immigration aspect of taking a Leave of Absence. You will want to consider your personal situation and think about what would be best for you.


What Is A Leave Of Absence?

A Leave of Absence is the process of voluntarily withdrawing from UCSB for one or more quarters, so that you can take a temporary leave. International students must be outside of the U.S. for the entirety of their Leave of Absence.

If you plan to continue seek medical attention inside the United States and would like to withdraw from your classes for medical reasons, then you will need to instead request a Medical Leave (Medical Reduced Course Load.) A Leave of Absence requires you to depart the U.S. and remain outside of the U.S. throughout your leave. Please click here to navigate to the Academic Requirements page where the Medical Reduced Course Load policy is explained.

IMPORTANT: Make sure to read our Leave of Absence Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) guide that we we reference several times throughout this page. Note: our FAQ guide is intended for F-1 students; if you are a J-1 student, please contact OISS for guidance.

Leave of Absence FAQ

What Happens To My Student Visa Status?

When you elect to take a Leave of Absence, your OISS advisor is required by immigration regulations to terminate your F-1 or J-1 status in SEVIS. This is because you are not eligible to maintain an active status if you do not have any registration at UCSB. Your I-20 or DS-2019 will no longer be valid.

Don't worry - having your status terminated is not a bad thing in this case. When an OISS advisor terminates your record, it is for the reason "Authorized Early Withdrawal," meaning that you were approved to take your Leave from the university. When you are ready to return from your Leave of Absence, OISS will provide you with a valid I-20 or DS-2019 so that you can return to the U.S. and UCSB.

When you elect to take a Leave of Absence, it is very important that you understand what it means for your F-1 or J-1 status. We have prepared a Leave of Absence Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document. Please make sure to read it entirely before requesting a Leave of Absence.

Leave of Absence FAQ

Why Do Students Take A Leave Of Absence?

International students temporarily withdraw from UCSB for a variety of reasons - it is very common, and all reasons are valid. Some example reasons include, but are not limited to:

  • Call for military duty
  • Homesickness
  • Family emergency
  • Medical procedures that must be done outside of the U.S.
  • Sometimes we just need to take a break from studying, and that's okay!

Taking a Leave of Absence does impact your student visa status. Be sure to read the next section carefully.


Leave Of Absence vs. Gap Quarter

Students often call a Leave of Absence of one quarter a "gap quarter." Note that a Leave of Absence of longer than one quarter is not called a gap quarter, and students are sometimes absent for longer than what they had originally planned. Therefore, at OISS, we call all types of absences "Leave of Absence" to avoid confusion.

Leave of Absence vs. Medical Reduced Course Load

The main difference between a Leave of Absence and a Medical Reduced Course Load (RCL) of zero units is whether or not you will be inside or outside of the U.S. If you are returning to your home country (or outside of the U.S.) to seek medical attention, then you must take a Leave of Absence. If you do not wish to the leave the U.S. because you are receiving legitimate medical treatment from a licensed U.S doctor (including doctor of psychology), then you should instead request a Medical Reduced Course Load of zero units.

How Do I Request A Leave of Absence?

Requesting a Leave of Absence through OISS is easy. Here are the steps:

1. Read this page and the Leave of Absence FAQ in its entirety.

2. Read the UCSB Withdrawal policy on the Office of the Registrar's website. If you are a graduate student, read the Graduate Division Leave of Absence policy page. Make note of their Readmission guidelines and deadlines.

3. Decide when will be your last day of taking classes at UCSB, and make arrangements to depart the United States within 15 days of that date.

4. Submit your Leave of Absence Request to OISS through the UCSBGlobal platform. You should also be submitting the necessary Withdrawal (undergraduate) or Leave of Absence (graduate) paperwork to campus.

5. When your Leave of Absence Request is approved, you'll receive a confirmation email from OISS with further instructions regarding your departure and future return. Please read the email carefully.

6. Read the Leave of Absence FAQ once more to ensure that you are following all of the instructions, and understand what will happen to your immigration status.

How Do I Return From A Leave of Absence?

1. Review the Leave of Absence FAQ and any other instructions provided to you by OISS when your Leave of Absence was approved. 

2. Submit your readmission paperwork to UCSB and register in a full course load during Pass 1 of your desired return quarter (pay attention to deadlines!) For undergraduate students, the readmission process is through the Office of the Registrar. For graduate students, the process is through the Graduate Division.

3. Submit the Returning from a Leave of Absence request to OISS through the UCSBGlobal platform.

4. An OISS advisor will work with you to help you obtain a valid I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) and SEVIS ID. Be prepared to submit your proof of readmission to UCSB, as well as proof of funding for your first year back at UCSB.

5. Book your return flight to the U.S. If your visa has expired, make sure to apply for a new visa using your new I-20 or DS-2019 and new SEVIS ID. If your visa did not expire during your Leave, you will not need to apply for a new one.

6. Follow any remaining instructions provided to you by OISS, including checking in to our office when you have successfully entered the U.S.