Many international students come to the United States on F-1 or M-1 student visas. These visas allow foreign nationals to remain in the country while enrolled as full-time students at an academic institution or exchange program. But what if you need to take time off from your studies?
Can you take a leave of absence or term off while on a student visa?
Rules for M-1 visas
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), students on an M-1 visa may take a temporary leave of absence from their academic program as long as they intend to return to school within 5 months. You must get authorization from your Designated School Official (DSO) prior to taking time off. Your DSO can grant you an authorized early withdrawal or leave of absence for up to 5 months.
During your leave of absence, you can remain in the U.S. on your M-1 visa as long as you plan to resume classes later. You cannot work in the U.S. during your leave unless you qualify for off-campus employment such as OPT.
Rules for F-1 visas
For students on an F-1 visa, you may take a leave of absence but it also requires approval from your program sponsor ahead of time. They can authorize suspensions for up to 12 months. Make sure to consult your specific program sponsor for their policies on taking time off from your F1 visa education program.
Carefully review the regulations and check with your DSO or program sponsor before making any changes to your enrollment status. With proper planning, you can successfully pause your studies while maintaining your valid student visa status.