As an international student in F-1 or J-1 status, if you receive permission from OGS for a Reduced Course Load (RCL) due to medical reasons, you are allowed to keep your F-1 or J-1 record active and remain legally in the US. Only twelve months (approximately 3 semesters) of medical leave or reduced course load is allowed, and OGS can only authorize this type of leave for one semester at at time. The deadline to request permission for medical leave or reduced course load is 1 week prior to the last day of the semester since OGS cannot grant permission retroactively.

Learn how to get permission for a medical leave or reduced course load:

Step 1

Apply for and get approval from your school

Contact your department directly to find out about how to get approval. We also recommend that you review NYU's policy on Leave of Absence and Term/Total Withdrawals.

Step 2

Apply for and get approval from OGS

Submit Your Reduced Course Load Permission Request to OGS with a medical letter meeting the following requirements:

  • on medical office letterhead and dated
  • states your name and NYU ID number or your date of birth
  • states that either reduced course load or zero course load is recommended for you for a specific semester due to a temporary illness or medical condition
  • signed by a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist
  • You can use this sample letter to provide to your healthcare practitioner. This medical letter must then be uploaded to the permission request e-form below.

Step 3

Receive your updated I-20 (J-1 students keep the same DS-2019)

Once your request is approved, students in F-1 status will get a new I-20 from our office. Students in J-1 status do not need a new DS-2019 to reflect the medical leave or reduced course load.  Please note:

  • If you will need more time to finish your degree because of your leave of absence or reduced course load, you will also need to apply for an extension before your I-20 or DS-2019 expires.
  • If you need to extend your medical leave of absence or reduced course load for another semester, you must submit a new permission request along with new supporting documents to OGS by the beginning of the next semester.
  • If you no longer need Medical RCL permission after you have been approved, then you must contact OGS immediately so that we may update your record to reflect your continued eligibility for the appropriate amount of Medical RCL at your degree level. 

Step 4

Get approval from your school to return

If you received approval from your school for a leave, then contact your department directly to find out about how to get approval to return to your program. 

If you are returning to the US from abroad, then you must use your most recent I-20 or DS-2019 to return to the US with a valid travel signature. If the signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 will be more than a year old by the time you reenter the US, you need to get a new signature before you travel.


Note on Traveling Internationally

If you intend to travel internationally and reenter the United States during or directly following an approved Medical Leave of Absence or Reduced Course Load, be prepared to answer any questions related to your leave. You must have all required travel documents (including a travel signature from the last 12 months). Depending on when you travel, please keep the following in mind.

Travel during Your Medical Reduced Course Load or Leave of Absence

You may be asked by a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official why you are traveling back into the United States if you are not registered for any courses for the current academic term. Remember that if you are entering the US as an F-1 or J-1 student, US CBP officials will anticipate that your reason for traveling to the US is related to your studies. US CBP ultimately provides the decision on whether to readmit you into the United States after an absence. Unless you are seeking medical treatment within the US during your leave or entering the US for a purpose connected to your academic program at NYU, it may be difficult for you to prove to the officer the rationale for your entry into the United States. Be prepared to justify your need to return to the United States if you are not currently enrolled in courses and your travel date is within an academic term. F-1 students must present your I-20 with Medical Reduced Course Load Authorization. Both F-1 and J-1 students should also carry a copy of your medical letter recommending you take a reduced course load/full leave due to your medical condition. Last, we recommend that you keep the NYU Campus Safety phone number (212-998-2222) with you so that you are able to contact NYU and OGS in an emergency situation.

Travel Directly Following Your Medical Reduced Course Load or Leave of Absence

As long as your travel documents are in order and you are enrolled full-time in the current term (if traveling in the midst of the academic term) or the future term (if traveling in between terms), you should be able to reenter the US. If your visa has expired, you must renew your student visa prior to returning to the US. US CBP ultimately provides the decision on whether to readmit you into the United States after an absence. We recommend that you keep the NYU Campus Safety phone number (212-998-2222) with you so that you are able to contact NYU and OGS in an emergency situation.