How to Arrange an Absence or Departure from Penn

Your immigration status is directly associated with and affected by your full-time enrollment in an academic program. If you intend to, or are thinking about, taking a leave or withdrawing from Penn please discuss with ISSS as soon as possible.

Depending on the circumstances:

  • Your SEVIS record may be terminated
  • You may have limited time for departing from the US (0-15 days)
  • You may be excluded from or restricted in future F-1/J-1 student employment benefits
  • AND You may need to obtain new immigration documents for re-entry in the future.

If you plan to return to the US to study at Penn, please make sure to read the Return from Absence section below.

  • Absence Withdrawal Form
  • The Absence or Withdrawal Form is in iPenn (see below).

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

  • Time Periods for Departure
  • Your ability to remain in the US is dictated by your 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. You 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 must leave the US immediately.
    • F-1 students who are academically dropped or otherwise suspended must leave the US immediately.
    • J-1 students who take an absence or early withdrawal from a program must leave the US immediately.

How To Return from an Absence

Below are the procedures for F & J students to return to the US to resume study at Penn after an absence.

  • Outside the US for less than 5 months with permission from ISSS
  • This is the return procedure if you: have been outside the US for less than 5 months for personal or medical reasons and have obtained permission in writing from ISSS.

    If this is you, 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.

  • Absences That Require a New I-20/DS-2019
  • If you fall into one of the following categories: 

    • 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/DS-2019 & US Entry Visa is required for re-entry to the US.

    At least 3-4 months before your intended return, contact your academic department or school (usually the academic advising unit) and ask them 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. 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 and your Student Financial Services (SFS) record has no holds.

    After confirming that your SFS and SRS records are clear, and that the aforementioned updates have been made in SRS:

    • Contact ISSS for the application for a new I-20/DS-2019
      • 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/DS-2019 with a new SEVIS ID number.
      • Instructions will be sent with your new I-20/DS-2019.  Information can be found at here.
    • Apply for a new US Entry Visa:
      • For information on this process visit the Travel section of this site. 
      • Citizens of Canada and Bermuda EXEMPT
    • Return to the US
      • 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 prior to the new program start date.
    • You MUST report to ISSS and upon re-entry with your immigration documents

    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, please contact ISSS.

  • Reminders for all returning students
    • Visit the U.S. State Department
    • Sometimes bills and other important documents don't reach you. Check with all appropriate units at Penn, including:
      • your academic advising unit 
      • Student Financial Services
      • on-campus housing
      • and/or student conduct
    • 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 more information, please contact ISSS.