You're Terminated: Withdrawing Early from School

Foreign students should carefully follow the rules for early program withdrawal, and understand implications.

If you are a student on an F-1 visa, there is no penalty to withdraw from your program of study, as long a certain requirements are met.

A designated school official (DSO) has the authority to permit "authorized early withdrawals" to a foreign student's F visa status in extenuating circumstances. This includes a temporary absence or withdrawal from school due to a family emergency, personal matter or another circumstance that calls for the student to leave the United States prior to their program’s completion. 

If an F student is granted authorized early withdrawal, or a permitted temporary absence from their course of study, they are permitted a 15-day grace period to depart the United States. F students who are granted an authorized early withdrawal, but do not depart the country within the 15-day grace period, are in violation of their student visa status. This could have negative implications on their ability to reenter the United States and apply for another visa. 

Once granted, a DSO will change the student's status in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to reflect, “Terminated for Authorized Early Withdrawal.” This should include remarks in SEVIS explaining the decision. This explanation may be helpful if the student decides to return to the United States.

If the student wishes to return to the United States to study, the student must contact the DSO to receive an updated I-20. Depending on how long the student is outside of the United States or out of status, some F students may need to repay the I-901 SEVIS fee and obtain a new SEVIS ID. 

However, if the foreign student withdraws or leaves the academic program without first receiving approval for an authorized early withdrawal, they will not be granted the 15-day grace period and will lose their status immediately upon leaving the academic program. In that situation, the DSO, will update SEVIS to reflect, “Terminated for Unauthorized Early Withdrawal.” This could impede the student’s ability to reenter the country, creating a new trio of circumstances where the penalty is faced.

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