San Francisco BA-PIER

Bay Area Professional International Educators Roundtable

US Department of State (DoS)

Student Visa Validity Following a Break in Studies

Students who are away from classes for more than five months will have to apply for and receive a new F-1 student visa to return to school in the United States.  This pertains both to students who have fallen out of student status while in the United States and students who have spent more than five months outside the United States in an excused absence from school.

Students who depart the United States with valid student visas

Students who are enrolled in schools in the United States may take a break from studies and return home for a semester or more, with their school’s permission.  An F-1 student returning to the United States from a temporary absence of five months or less may be readmitted for study upon presentation of a valid I-20.   However, when a student has been out of the country for more than five months (and is not pursuing studies overseas) the student’s F-1 or M-1 visa is considered to be invalid, even though the actual visa may not have expired.  In this situation a new visa is required for re-entry into the United States.  Students who have the approval of their schools to take an extended break from study must have their SEVIS record terminated for Authorized Withdrawal. When the student is ready to resume study, the school will issue the student a new initial Form I-20 with a new SEVIS number. These students must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.

Students outside the United States for over five months, who are pursuing studies overseas

This guidance does not pertain to students who have spent more than five months outside the United States but who were still enrolled in classes at a U.S. institution, and were pursuing studies outside the United States under the auspices of their school.  In this case, schools are expected to maintain those students in an active SEVIS status.  Since these students continue to maintain their student status while overseas, their F-1 visas are not considered to be invalid after an absence of more than five months.

(June 2006)

Changes in Earliest Issuance and Admission Dates for F, M and J Visas:

R 092051Z FEB 06

Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts:

(Select by country or post)

We Don't Want to Lose Even One International Student

This editorial appeared in Volume 51, Issue 7, Page B10 of the Chronicle of Higher Education, published October 8, 2004


Legal Requirements for F-1 Foreign Students in Public Schools:


EducationUSA is produced by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Good source of predeparture and planning information for international students.

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

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The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) fosters mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through international educational and training programs. The bureau does so by promoting personal, professional, and institutional ties between private citizens and organizations in the United States and abroad, as well as by presenting U.S. history, society, art and culture in all of its diversity to overseas audiences.