An international student’s immigration status is directly associated with and affected by his/her participation in an academic program on a full-time basis. If you intend to or are thinking about taking a leave or withdrawing from Penn , please discuss with an ISSS advisor as soon as possible.

Depending on the circumstances, a student’s SEVIS record may be terminated; s/he may have a limited time period for departure from the United States (0-15 days); s/he may be excluded from or restricted in future F-1/J-1 student employment benefits; and s/he may need to obtain new immigration documents for re-entry in the future.

  • Absence or Withdrawal Form
  • International students who are taking a leave of absence (whether personal, academic or medical) or withdrawing from Penn must read the instructions here and complete the Absence or Withdrawal Form at iPenn.

    *Do not use this eform if you will be outside the United States only during regular school breaks.

  • Time Period for Departure
  • A student’s ability to remain in the United States is dictated by the immigration status and reason for departure. Depending on the circumstances, the period for departure can be from 0-15 days and commences the day following the date of withdrawal or absence from Penn. Students may not work during this period.

    • F-1 students submit a notification to ISSS prior to an absence or withdrawal from Penn are permitted 15 days to prepare for departure and leave the United States. 
    • F-1 students who do not inform ISSS prior to taking a leave, do not have an additional period for departure and must leave the United States immediately.
    • F-1 students who are academically dropped or otherwise suspended do not have an additional period for departure and must leave the United States immediately.
    • J-1 students who take an absence or early withdrawal from a program do not have an additional period for departure and must leave the United States immediately.
  • Important Reminders
  • In general, if a student’s record is “terminated” (a DHS terminology) in SEVIS, then s/he must do the following before returning to Penn:

    • leave the United States within the time period for departure allowed, if any

    • obtain permission to return and have the Penn Student Records System (SRS) record updated by the academic department  before returning to Penn

    • ensure that there are no outstanding Penn bills, and no hold on the student’s SFS account

    • request a new I-20/DS-2019 from ISSS 3-4 months before returning

    • pay the SEVIS fee again

    • apply for a new student visa (stamp) - consult the nearest United States consulate

    • not enter the United States earlier than 30 days before the start of the semester to which s/he plans to return

    • immediately report to ISSS with his/her immigration documents upon return to Penn

    We strongly advise students to meet with an advisor at ISSS prior to making a decision about an absence or withdrawal, as it can greatly affect current immigration status and future plans.

Return from Absence Instructions

Below are the steps international students (F & J) should follow to facilitate their return to the U.S. in order to resume study at the University of Pennsylvania after an absence.

  • Outside the U.S. for less than five months with permission from ISSS
  • If you have been outside the U.S. for less than five months for personal or medical reasons and has obtained permission in writing from ISSS, upon returning to the U.S., you must provide ISSS with copies of passport with entry and departure stamps, either a valid I-94 printout, US entry/admission stamp or I-94 card, and airline tickets to prove that:

    • you left the U.S. before the course selection end date; and
    • the time spent outside the U.S. was less than five months.

    NOTE: you must resume full time study immediately upon returning to the U.S.

  • Other types of absence (requiring new I-20/DS-2019)
  • If you fall into one of the following categories, read the instructions below.

    • Have been outside the U.S. for less than five months, but left the US after the course selection end date;
    • Have been outside the U.S. for more than five months; or
    • Have been suspended

    A new I-20 or DS-2019 and visa stamp is required for re-entry into the United States (except for citizens of Canada and holders of Bermudian passports).

    IMPORTANT: Please commence the below process at least 3-4 months prior to your return.

    • Contact the appropriate person in your academic department or school (usually the academic advising unit) to update your records in the Penn Student Records System (SRS) to verify:
    • your return term/date (e.g., Fall semester 2013); and
    • your expected completion term/date (e.g., Spring 2014)
    • ISSS will use the expected completion date in the SRS to determine the end date on your new I-20 or DS-2019, so be sure to clarify the proper date with your department/school and make sure any necessary updates are made.
    • If you had been suspended, make sure that any holds on your SRS record have been lifted by the appropriate office.
    • Make sure you have no outstanding Penn bills to make sure you Student Financial Services (SFS) record has no holds.
    • After confirming that your SFS record is clear, your SRS record is clear, and your department has made the aforementioned updates in SRS:
    • Contact ISSS for the application for a new I-20 or DS-2019
      • http://global.upenn.edu/isss/admitting
      • You will need to submit an application for a new I-20 or DS-2019, as you did when you first came to Penn. Moreover, ISSS will need new financial documents certifying funds for your studies
      • Please allow at least 3 weeks processing time for a new I-20 or DS-2019
    • You must pay the SEVIS fee based on your new I-20 or DS-2019 with a new SEVIS ID number.   Instructions will be sent with your new I-20 or DS-2019.  Information can be found at www.fmjfee.com
    • Apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa stamp: http://www.usembassy.gov/
      • Check with the U.S. Embassy where you will apply to ensure you have the application materials and enough time to get your new entry visa stamp.
    • Return to the US
      • Keep in mind that you may not enter the U.S. more than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on the new I-20 or DS-2019.  If you encounter any delays in arriving by the start date indicated on the new I-20 or DS-2019, contact ISSS by e-mail at isss@pobox.upenn.edu prior to the new program start date.
    • You MUST report to ISSS and meet with an International Student and Scholar Advisor upon re-entry with your immigration documents – see our website for advising availability.

    For F-1 students only -- Since there has been a break in your F-1 immigration status, you will need to complete an academic year of full-time study prior to becoming eligible for certain F-1 benefits, such as off-campus employment authorization (CPT, OPT, etc.)

  • Reminders for all returning students
    • Visit the U.S. State Department Website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_2941.html
    • Be sure to check with all appropriate units at Penn, including your academic advising unit, Student Financial Services (to make sure any outstanding bills have been settled), on-campus housing, and/or student conduct, as sometimes bills and other important documents do not reach the student. Unsettled matters may impede you from registering for classes.

    If you are already in the US in another status and plan to apply for a change of status, please meet with an ISSS advisor as soon as possible. 

    For F-1 students only -- Since there has been a break in your F-1 immigration status, after returning from LOA, you will need to complete an academic year of full-time study prior to becoming eligible for certain F-1 benefits, such as off-campus employment authorization (CPT, OPT, etc.)

    For more information, contact ISSS at isss@pobox.upenn.edu.