Leave of Absence, Suspension, Dismissal & More
There are immigration implications for international students who leave Carnegie Mellon without completing their degree. This page provides information for several different situations in which students leave Carnegie Mellon before completing their program or experience a delay in their anticipated completion date.
It is important to discuss certain situations with your academic advisor or department head, and also to speak with your OIE advisor to completely understand all immigration implications.
International students on probation will be informed by their academic departments that if their QPA is not sufficient in the next semester, they will be suspended. F-1 or J-1 students who are dropped or suspended cannot legally remain in the U.S. on CMU documents. OIE can assist international students in getting assistance to help them succeed in their academic program. Contact OIE for referrals or further information.
Leave of Absence or Withdrawal
Students who choose to take time off from their academic programs must follow the process documented on The HUB website. Nonimmigrant students in F-1 or J-1 status are required to be enrolled as full-time students. Therefore, they cannot remain in the U.S. while on a leave of absence. Students in F-1 or J-1 immigration status must make their plans carefully and consult with an OIE advisor before withdrawing or taking a leave of absence.
Learn more about taking a leave of absence and immigration (pdf).
Current immigration regulations provide a 15-day grace period for F-1 students who discuss their intention to withdraw or take a leave of absence with an OIE advisor before withdrawing. Students who do not notify OIE in advance have zero grace period days.
The grace period is the duration of time that students are legally allowed to remain in the U.S. to prepare to depart the U.S., request a transfer to another school's immigration documents, or request a change to another immigration status. Early communication with an OIE advisor is crucial for the student to benefit from the 15-day grace period. Without that grace period, a student cannot legally transfer to another school or change to another immigration status but must instead immediately depart the U.S.
Students in J-1 status have a 30-day grace period and are also strongly encouraged to consult with an OIE advisor regarding their options. Students in J-1 status cannot transfer to another J program beyond the expiration date of their DS-2019. Early communication with OIE is important.
Termination of Program
At times a student will choose or be requested to leave a program. As in the cases mentioned above, notification to OIE in advance of the student's departure from the program preserves options for the student. For example, in some departments, students may have the option of being awarded a Master's degree even though they will not complete their Ph.D. program. In this case, if the appropriate changes are made by the department in SIO, OIE can issue an I-20 for the Master's program and can recommend Optional Practical Training (OPT) based on the Master's degree, provided that the OPT request is made by the student within 60 days of masters-level completion.
Desirable actions include:
- Early and clear notification of the student by faculty regarding a substandard or unacceptable level of work
- Re-coding in SIO to masters-level at the earliest possible time
- Application for OPT (if desired) before coursework completion and Master's degree certification
Suspension or Dismissal
When a student is suspended or dismissed, they cannot legally remain in the U.S. in F-1 status.
Colleges and universities are required to report student suspensions and dismissals to the U.S. Government resulting in termination of a student's F-1 SEVIS record. This report is made when a suspension or dismissal decision is finalized. OIE must be notified as promptly as possible for CMU to meet its legal obligation in terminating the student's SEVIS record.
Students will benefit from reaching out to their OIE advisor as early as possible if they suspect they may be subject to a suspension or dismissal in the future.
In general it is best for students in this circumstance to depart the U.S. after a suspension or dismissal decision is finalized; however, your OIE advisor can discuss available options.
Returning from a Leave or Suspension
Students may be able to return to CMU in the future. It is important to review the information detailed on The HUB website when preparing for a return and to contact your academic department. You must also contact OIE to understand and manage any immigration processes that will be required.
International students will need to obtain a new I-20 or DS-2019 from OIE to legally re-enter the U.S. after a leave of absence. In order to receive your immigration document, complete the "New Student Initial Document Request" e-form in the MyOIE Portal. International students must pay a new SEVIS (I-901 fee) associated with the new I-20/DS-2019 and may need to apply for a new U.S. visa stamp from a U.S. embassy or consulate. Contact OIE to determine if a new visa is necessary.
F and J students must carry a full course load the semester of return and MUST complete an immigration check-in with OIE. If the student returns for the summer term, the student must maintain at least 36 units throughout the summer.
Implications on off-campus work permission: To be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT) on a new I-20 after returning from a leave of absence, an F-1 student must be in valid status for at least one academic year (2 consecutive semesters). Therefore, students returning from the leave of absence and having only one semester remaining to complete their program will not be eligible for OPT or CPT.
In the best interest of the student, departments should direct the international student to contact OIE, and the student should contact OIE regarding the plan to withdraw and/or take a leave of absence before withdrawing or leaving.