In considering taking time away from Smith, it's important to consider how that time will affect a student's visa status.
Smith Program Abroad, Consortium Program, or Smith-Approved Program
If a student studies with one of Smith's approved programs, the ISSO will continue to sponsor their visa, since we know that the student will be in courses full-time and will be transferring credits back to Smith. During this time, the student will still pay Smith's home school fees.
If a student has not received approval to study abroad through the Office for International Study, then Smith will not be able to sponsor a student visa during the time away, since the student will no longer be making progress toward their Smith degree. When the leave is processed, ISSO will terminate the F-1 SEVIS record with the code "Authorized Early Withdrawal." This will signal that the student has voluntarily decided to pause their Smith program, and there is no negative result on the immigration record.
Smith-Affiliated Study Program
In programs like the Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Program and the Princeton-Smith Exchange for Engineering, Smith has an established agreement to oversee credits earned. When a student studies in one of these domestic programs, they will still pay Smith home school fees and be continuing to make progress toward their Smith degree. Therefore, Smith can continue to sponsor the student visa during participation. We request that a student consult with the ISSO ahead of the semester regarding any internships they undertake, or if they need to have on-campus employment while away.
Approved US Leave
If a student chooses to study at another university or college within the U.S., those credits may or may not transfer back to Smith. Though the student will be studying as a full-time student, Smith has no way to govern which courses they take. During this time away, the student will not pay Smith home school fees, but rather will pay the fees of the college/university they attend and will be officially considered a guest student of that institution during the time enrolled. As such, Smith cannot continue to sponsor the student's visa during an Approved US Leave.
Instead, the student needs to transfer their visa sponsorship to the new school for the time away. Please see our page on Visa Transfers for more detail about that process. When the student returns to Smith, they will work with the host institution to transfer the SEVIS record back to Smith prior to the start of classes. The student will become an active Smith student once again at the beginning of the new semester.
Studying away at another US institution can have significant effects on a student's ability to work during the summer. If a student studies away during the Fall semester, ISSO can only sponsor CPT for limited circumstances (i.e. IDP 100 - Academic Internship) in the summer before, though the student could still apply for Pre-Completion OPT. If a student studies away during the Spring semester, ISSO cannot sponsor CPT or OPT in the summer after, and the student would also not be eligible for on-campus programs such as SURF, Praxis, or on-campus jobs. We ask students to please consult with the ISSO ahead of a study away semester to discuss travel and work plans.
Leave of Absence
During a student's personal time away from the college, they may or may not be engaged in full-time study, and they will not make progress toward their Smith degree. As a result, Smith will not be able to support visa sponsorship during this time. The ISSO will instead terminate the student's visa during the time away, using the code "Authorized Early Withdrawal." This produces no negative results on the immigration record and allows 15 days for the student to depart the US.
Withdrawals can happen for a variety of reasons, whether medical, financial, or academic. During a student's time away, they may or may not be engaged in full-time study, and they may not make progress toward their Smith degree. As a result, Smith will not be able to support the student's visa sponsorship. The ISSO will terminate the F-1 SEVIS record when the student's withdrawal is processed. Depending on the reason for the withdrawal, the ISSO may use the "Authorized Early Withdrawal" code (which allows 15 days to exit the US), or other more severe codes (which would only allow 48 hours to exit the US).
Readmission/Return to Smith
When a student is ready to return to Smith, the ISSO will request new financial documentation to issue a new I-20. This new I-20 will correspond to a new SEVIS ID number, so the student will have to pay the $350 SEVIS I-901 fee once again. Payment can be made online at www.fmjfee.com.
If there is still validity on the student's F-1 entry visa, they may still be able to use that to enter the US. We recommend consulting with the nearest US Consulate in this case, letting them know that the F-1 visa is still valid by date, but that the student will have a new SEVIS ID number associated with the Smith record. In some cases, it can be fine to utilize that outdated (but still valid) visa. To be most safe and secure, it’s always best to apply for a new visa, which will match the school and SEVIS number from the new I-20. This will require a new DS-160 application and visa interview at the local US Consulate.