If you receive an I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility) from Mount Holyoke, you will apply for an F-1 Student Visa. You should keep and use the original copy of the I-20 form throughout your studies at Mount Holyoke, as page three of the form will gradually come to contain important information about school transfer and practical training. (If you lose your I-20, however, you can obtain a new one from the IGI Office with one week's notice.)
Travel and Re-Entry
Students on the F-1 visa may apply for a visa no more than 90 days prior to the start date listed on the Form I-20. After being issued the visa, students may enter the US up to 30 days prior to the start date on the I-20 form. The start date is always listed as the arrival day for international student orientation. F-1 students may travel abroad and re-enter the US throughout their studies here, provided that they have a valid passport, a valid F-1 visa, and a valid I-20 form endorsed on page three within the current or most recent semester by one of the advisers in the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives.
60-Day "Grace Period" After Completion of Studies
At the end of their period of study, or at the end of post-completion optional practical training, F-1 visa holders have a 60-day "grace period," during which they may travel within the US, visit friends, or prepare for their return home. If you wish to transfer to a graduate program after the completion of your studies here, you must complete all of the necessary paperwork to do so within 60 days after Commencement. If you wish to remain in the US as a tourist for more than 60 days after Commencement, you should apply for change of status to tourist; we can provide you with the appropriate form for this purpose, which you must file with USCIS prior to the end of the 60-day grace period.
Leave Of Absence from Mount Holyoke
A student on an F-1 visa may apply for an academic leave of absence to study at another college, or to study abroad, and the eligibility requirements for such study are the same for both international and American students. If you should receive permission to take such a leave, you would remain under the sponsorship of Mount Holyoke College. Because your F-1 visa requires you to maintain full-time student status, however, you may not take a non-academic leave of absence and stay in the United States unless the leave is for documented medical reasons.
Ordinarily, you may apply for a non-academic leave only to return home or to visit or study elsewhere outside of the United States. If you are on non academic leave, your SEVIS record will be terminated and we will need to issue you a new I-20 form when you are returning from leave. The new I-20 form will be for initial attendance meaning you must pay the $350 SEVIS fee again and you will need to be enrolled for one full academic year before you would be eligible for OPT or CPT permission. For more information about taking leave, please contact your Academic Dean.