Requesting & Returning from Medical Leave of Absence

Preparing for Medical Leave

If you are taking a leave of absence due to a medical reason, you are permitted to keep your F-1 or J-1 record active during your leave for up to 12 months (cumulative). During this medical leave of absence, you may remain in the US and/or travel internationally. The immigration authorization for a medical leave of absence can only be issued for one semester at a time, so a student taking a medical leave of absence must follow the below steps to apply for authorization separately for each semester of the leave:

  1. Discuss your leave of absence with you Class Dean and/or Scott Howard in Case Management to review the Semester Withdrawal Checklist and submit the Semester Withdrawal Request Form (this step is only necessary for the first semester of the leave). Your leave must be approved by the college before it can be reflected in your F-1 or J-1 record.
  2. Provide a completed and signed Medical Recommendation for Reduced Courseload form to the OIS.  This form must be completed by a licensed doctor, clinical psychologist, or osteopath, and sent to the OIS via email before your leave of absence from the College begins. Please note that electronic signatures will only be accepted if they are digital reproductions of an original signature.  This form does not require your provider to state an explicit diagnosis, but must confirm that the student is recommended to take a medical leave for a given semester due to temporary illness or medical condition. Forms received after your leave of absence begins can, unfortunately, not be accepted.
  3. Receive your updated I-20 or DS-2019. The OIS will issue this new immigration document and give it to you if you are still on campus, or ship it to your mailing address if you have left the US.
  4. If you need to apply to extend your medical leave of absence beyond a single semester, you must provide a newly signed Medical Recommendation for Reduced Courseload form for each semester being requested.  The form must be received by the OIS before the first day of classes of the semester for which the medical leave is being extended.  Keeping an F-1 record active with a medical reduced courseload authorization is permissible for no more than twelve months or three cumulative semesters (although a medical leave from the College can be longer). 

Returning from a Medical Leave of Absence with an Active F-1 Record

If and when you decide to return to Amherst College, you must take the following steps in advance of your return.  It is best to complete these steps at least 8 weeks before the semester begins, particularly if you need to obtain a new F-1 or J-1 visa.

  1. Contact Scott Howard in Case Management with any questions about readmission to the college, and see the Readmission page for more information.  
  2. If you left the US during your medical leave of absence, be sure to check that your I-20/DS-2019 travel signature is valid and dated within 12 months of your return to the US, and that your F-1/J-1 visa has not expired in the meantime. If your F-1/J-1 visa has expired, or if you were outside of the US for more than five months, you will need to obtain a new visa before returning to the US. 
  3. Enroll in courses for the semester of your return. You may choose to inform the OIS of your anticipated return, but this is not required. As long as you are enrolled at the start of the semester, you do not have to take any additional steps to maintain your F-1/J-1 status upon return.