A leave of absence is when a student wants to take a break from their studies (summer semester excluded - unless summer is the first or last semester of the degree program) or depart ISU permanently. Some common reasons for a leave of absence include medical leave, family emergency, military duty, etc. There is no time limit associated with a leave of absence. When a student plans to take a leave of absence, they need to notify ISSO of their plans through the "Absence from ISU" e-form in Cystart. 

Absence from ISU Application


By submitting the “Absence from ISU” e-form in Cystart, you are informing ISSO of your plans to temporarily or permanently leave ISU. This is an electronic process completed through Cystart. Log in to Cystart using ISU NetID and password. Once in Cystart, select F-1 Student Services and complete the "Absence from ISU" e-form.


Please notify before you plan to depart the U.S. “Absence from ISU” requests can be submitted no more than 21 days before departing the U.S.

Withdrawing from Classes

Students who are currently enrolled in classes and will not complete the semester due to a leave of absence need to complete a withdrawal form. Students should consult with their academic/faculty advisor regarding the withdrawal form and process.

Immigration Consequences

Within 10 days of submitting the “Absence from ISU” e-form, ISSO will terminate your F-1 SEVIS record (and any F-2 dependents) for an “Authorized Early Withdrawal." Following termination of the SEVIS record, the associated F-1 visa and I-20 are no longer valid. Students cannot reenter the United States with these immigration documents during a leave of absence.

Impact on Employment Authorization Eligibility

Students may lose eligibility to apply for CPT or OPT. When a student returns after a leave of absence, they will receive a new F-1 record. In order to qualify for off-campus work authorization, a student’s new F-1 record must be valid for one academic year prior to the start of CPT or OPT. Students who plan to apply for CPT or OPT after their leave of absence must complete at least two semesters of required courses before they are eligible for CPT or OPT.

Leaving the United States

Students are required to depart the United States within 15 days of the termination of the F-1 record. Students whose departure date or plans to depart the U.S. have changed should contact ISSO immediately, or their immigration record will be terminated as initially requested in the Absence from ISU e-form.

Steps before Departing U.S.

There are many tasks students must complete prior to departing the U.S. These tasks include:

  • Inform academic/faculty advisor of upcoming departure
  • If renting from private company, notify landlord
  • If living on campus, complete the "check out" procedures with Department of Residence
  • Cancel and pay final bills, such as university bill

Returning to ISU and the United States

To return to the U.S., a student will need to request a new I-20 from ISSO. Review the "Returning to ISU" page on the ISSO website and contact an International Student Advisor with further questions.

Disclaimer: This Frequently Asked Questions is intended for general information and guidance. As this information can quickly become outdated or may not apply to your situation, please consult with an International Student Advisor in the International Students and Scholars Office regarding your individual questions.