1. Administrative and Registration Considerations
    1. Graduate Students
    2. International Undergraduate Students
  2. Immigration Considerations
    1. If the student leaves Canada during their break
    2. If the student remains in Canada during their break
  3. How to Request a Leave of Absence
    1. International Graduate Students
    2. International Undergraduate Students
  4. No Work is Authorized During a Leave of Absence and Until Full-Time Studies are Resumed
  5. University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) Coverage During a Leave of Absence

University students may need or want to take a break from active studies for reasons that include illness or injury, pregnancy, parental leave, family emergency, a death in the family, academic suspension, or change of program.

An international student who is taking a break may require a Leave of Absence for university administration/registration reasons or for immigration reasons, or for both types of reasons.

This page provides information about:

Administrative and Registration Considerations

Graduate Students

Many Carleton international graduate students are required to maintain continuous registration. The exceptions are:

In other circumstances, international graduate students should request a Leave of Absence to ensure that they may return to their program after a break.

International Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students remain active students at Carleton throughout a break from studies that lasts for up to nine consecutive terms.

International students taking a break from studies are strongly advised to contact:

  • The Academic Advising Centre, or a departmental academic advisor, to discuss academic considerations.
  • Student Accounts, to ensure there are no fees owing to the University.
  • The ISSO, to learn if they should request a Leave of Absence for immigration reasons.

Immigration Considerations

Canada’s immigration regulations (IRPR 220.1(1)) require most international students to remain registered in classes while they are in Canada, except during school-designated break periods. There are exemptions that apply to some study permit holders.

Students who do not meet these requirements, and are not exempt, are non-compliant with the conditions of their temporary resident status in Canada. This can put both their study permit validity and their eligibility for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) at risk, even if they have a very good reason for taking a break.

If the student leaves Canada during their break

A Leave of Absence is not required for immigration purposes if the student doesn’t remain in Canada for the period when they are not registered in classes. This is because study permit holders who are outside of Canada are not subject to study permit compliance conditions.

If their study permit has not expired during their break, the student can continue their studies upon their return to Canada. If their study permit expires while the student is outside of Canada, the student cannot renew it, but they can apply to the visa office in their country of residence for a new study permit.

The student should keep proof of being outside of Canada for their break period, such as passport stamps or airline boarding passes. This proof may be needed for a future study permit or work permit application, to show there was no unauthorized break from studies.

If the student remains in Canada during their break

If a student remains in Canada during their break, in most cases they should seek a Leave of Absence (LOA) from Carleton University.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) considers a LOA given by the school to be an “authorized leave” from studies. Study permit validity and PGWP eligibility are not at risk during an authorized leave, provided:

  • The leave lasts no more than 150 days; and
  • The student does not work in Canada until they return to full-time studies.

If the student will take a break for more than one term (not including a regularly scheduled break term), then a LOA will not be an authorized leave for immigration purposes.

Learn more about authorized leaves from study at the IRCC website.

If the break is longer than one term and the student is not exempt from study permit compliance conditions, then the student is advised to either apply to IRCC to change their immigration status or else to leave Canada.

Changing status can be an option to maintain the validity of the study permit during a break from studies.

  • In most cases, students will request a change to visitor status. If the application is approved, the student may remain in Canada without studying or working for the approved length of time.
  • In some cases, students may be eligible for a work permit. They may check eligibility for a work permit using IRCC’s online assessment tool.

How to Request a Leave of Absence

International Graduate Students

Graduate students may request a Leave of Absence  by completing the Academic Registration Change Form and returning it to their graduate program administrator.

When the LOA is approved, the Office of Graduate Studies will send an email that may be used as confirmation of the LOA, should it be needed for future immigration applications. The ISSO will send a follow-up email with immigration and University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) information.

International graduate students may request LOAs for more than one term. However multi-term LOAs cannot be authorized breaks for immigration purposes. See “immigration considerations” above concerning breaks from study that are longer than 150 days. For more information, please contact immigration.advising@carleton.ca

International Undergraduate Students

International undergraduate students who are considering not registering or withdrawing from a Fall or Winter term should consult an immigration advisor at the ISSO. The advisor will discuss eligibility for a LOA, and advise the student on how to submit their request if that is the best option.

The accepted reasons for requesting a Leave of Absence and the required documentation for each type of reason are as follows.

  • Pregnancy or maternity/paternity leave: medical note confirming pregnancy and expected due date.
  • Medical injury or illness: medical note confirming incapacitation and anticipated recovery date.
  • Family emergency: documentation will depend on the nature of the emergency.
  • Death or serious illness of a family member: death certificate or medical note and attestation of the familial relationship.
  • Change of program at Carleton University: information about the new program, proof of admission and start date.
  • Dismissal or suspension: Carleton University sanction letter.

The request for a Leave of Absence must include the student’s plan for returning to studies in the term following the leave (excluding the summer).

When the LOA is approved, the student will receive a Certificate of Enrolment confirming the LOA from the Registrar’s Office. This Certificate may be used as confirmation of the LOA, should it be needed for future immigration applications.  The student will also receive a follow-up email from the ISSO with immigration and UHIP information.

No Work is Authorized During a Leave of Absence and Until Full-Time Studies are Resumed

Study permit holders are not authorized to work in Canada, either on campus or off campus, while they are on a Leave of Absence. A co-op work permit does not authorize work for a student who is on a Leave of Absence.

Students are also not authorized to work during any school break period immediately following the LOA.

The student may begin working again as authorized by their study permit on the first day of the next term in which they are registered as a full-time student at Carleton.

University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) Coverage During a Leave of Absence

The student must advise the ISSO whether they are planning to remain in Canada or will be outside of Canada during their Leave of Absence (LOA). If they will remain in Canada, their student account will be charged for UHIP coverage during their LOA.

Questions may be directed to uhip@carleton.ca.