Special Notes to International Students on F-1 Visas
If you will be outside the US for five months or more, you will need a new I-20 to re-enter the US at the end of your studies abroad, even if your current I-20 appears to still be valid. If you will be away for less than five months, we can sign your old I-20; send it to the Center for Global Initiatives at least a couple of months before you expect to return.
Students who are on academic leave of absence for study abroad maintain their eligibility for Optional Practical Training. However, applications for OPT can only be filed by students who are in the U.S., and processing takes two to three months; therefore, you should not expect to apply for OPT for the summer after a year or spring semester abroad. You are eligible, however, to take an unpaid internship in the US, or a paid position on campus, or a paid (or unpaid) internship abroad.
If you plan to make a brief visit to the US during your time abroad (during December break, for example), you may enter with your current I-20 and valid F-1 visa.
If you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa prior to your return here, please let us know so that we can write a letter of support in addition to signing your old I-20 or preparing a new one, as appropriate. In addition, we recommend that when you apply, bring with you an official copy of your Mount Holyoke transcript, a letter from your program confirming that you have been enrolled full-time, and evidence of your financial support.