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Foreign Workers: Can I Take a Sabbatical From Work? Thumbnail

Foreign Workers: Can I Take a Sabbatical From Work?


Have you asked yourself, "Can I take a sabbatical from work? Will it affect my employment or green card status?" 

You can take a sabbatical without negative consequences if you go about it correctly. 

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What Is a Sabbatical? 

A sabbatical is an extended break from work that usually lasts one to six months but can last two years. There can be both paid sabbatical or unpaid sabbatical leave. Please note that career breaks like sabbaticals aren't available at every workplace. 

Difference Between Sabbatical, Vacation, and Career Break

Vacations usually last one to four weeks, depending on the company's policy. A career break occurs when you quit the job and don't intend to return to it. 

When you take a break that's longer than most vacations, and you intend to go back to the same job at the end, that's a sabbatical. 

Benefits of Taking a Sabbatical  

A sabbatical is a good option if you need a certain period of time away from work for a longer period than vacation time allows. A sabbatical offers many benefits:

  • Feel better about the job when you return
  • Achieve personal goals you've put off
  • Maintain a work-life balance and avoid being a workaholic
  • Handle personal issues without your job performance suffering
  • Learn new skills

How to Pitch Your Sabbatical to Your Employer 

Before you approach your employer with a sabbatical request, make a plan that benefits both you and your employer for the few months you will be away. Include a reason for your sabbatical, a few ideas about how they can cover your job while you're gone, and why it will make you a better employee. 

Stress the sabbatical benefit to the company in terms of both personal and professional growth from a rejuvenated employee. Mention if you're furthering your education or participating in professional development during the sabbatical. 

Ask for a meeting time to discuss it, and plan to request it as far in advance as the length of the sabbatical you want. If you want six months off, try to ask six months in advance to let them make appropriate arrangements. Four-week sabbatical? Plan on meeting at least a month beforehand.

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Sabbatical Ideas

Use these ideas as a starting point for how to spend your time. 

  1. Start a Side Hustle or Personal Project
    Whether you want to start a YouTube channel to grow it into a side income or paint your apartment, a sabbatical is a great time to get it done.
  2. Seek Next-Level Education
    A sabbatical is a great time to take courses and increase your education. Better education makes you a more valuable employee, and it's personally enriching to continue learning. 

  3. Volunteer/Spend Time With Family 
    Spending time with family and volunteering can make sabbatical time extra fulfilling. 

  4. Travel the World
    Many people use sabbaticals to travel. Whether it's a trip to Disney World or a backpacking vacation in a country you've never visited, you'll have more time for the journey and to settle in once you get back.

  5. Relax and Rejuvenate 
    Extended leave from work can boost your creativity, make you happier and more productive, provide the opportunity to take on new challenges, work on your bucket list, and offer a new perspective on your current position and work-life balance.

    Even a short vacation improves mood and productivity on the job. You don't have to spend all your extended leave time on a schedule, so make time for relaxing. Extended time off is just what the doctor ordered!

How to Plan Your Sabbatical the Smart Way

Planning your time off will ensure that you get the most out of the break.

Work Notice - If You Are Employed, an Advance Work Notice Is Important

Let your manager in on your idea as soon as you start to consider a sabbatical. There might be times when it will be more difficult for them, so you can work together to plan the timing and duration early on.

What Is the Goal for Your Sabbatical?

Your goal might be to travel through Europe or rebuild a car, but goals like rest, personal time, and professional growth opportunities are valid, too. 

How Long Will It Last?

When asking, "Can I take a sabbatical from work?" consider how long you need and how long your employer might need to delegate your work. 

Finance Implications – Housing, Phone Bills, Utilities  

Do you have enough money saved to cover your time off if the sabbatical is unpaid? Make sure to save money well enough in advance to make sure you can live comfortably.

Insurance Coverage 

Ensure that your health insurance remains in effect, especially if you're taking a long, unpaid sabbatical. 

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Effect of Sabbatical on Your Career? 

A sabbatical can help you recharge and return to work more productive and refreshed. In addition, using the time to further your education can impress your employers and broaden your career prospects. For employers, this can help with employee retention as it shows that the company invests in the well-being of their employees.

You also might find that time away makes you realize you're unhappy in your job and require a career change. If this happens, you can focus on shifting your career and looking for other employment after going back to work or planning for different work after achieving green card status. 

Taking a Sabbatical as a Foreigner or Expatriate

Can I take a sabbatical from work as a foreigner or expatriate? You can. If you feel hesitant about participating in your company's sabbatical program, you shouldn't. A company's formal sabbatical policy will apply to all employees, regardless of immigration status. 

Temporary Immigrant Employees (H-1B) Visa Holder

The H-1B visa is a work visa requiring you to work and get paid. If you need time off and your employer grants a sabbatical, you should get, in writing, proof of this approval and your employment status to avoid any risks. 

During a sabbatical, staying in the US could risk your visa status, so plan to spend up to 30 days, the limit for H-1B visa holders, abroad. Remember to have the proper paperwork for re-entry.

You should also ensure that your sabbatical isn't close to the visa's renewal date to avoid possible issues when your employer applies. 

Green Card Holder 

If you take a sabbatical and stay in the US, the process for a legal permanent resident (LPR) is the same as a citizen. However, if you plan to stay outside the US for more than a year, you'll need to get a re-entry permit to show your intention to remain a resident. 

If you need furniture storage because you'll come back and find different housing, be sure it will be paid each month automatically or pay for the time in advance. 

Related Article | The Complete Guide on the H1B to Green Card Process


Think about the answers to these frequently asked questions before considering a sabbatical or asking your employer for one.

How Long Should a Sabbatical Be? 

Sabbaticals can be one month or two years, but they're common around six months long. If your employer pays for sabbatical time, you may only be able to take a month. They also might limit the maximum time, even if it's unpaid. 

Can I Ask My Employer for a Sabbatical?

You can ask your employer for a sabbatical, but many companies only offer sick leave, personal leave, and vacation time. Look into your company's sabbatical policy before you ask. 

Can You Take a Sabbatical From Any Job?

You can take a sabbatical from any job as long as the employer offers sabbatical leave. Not all do. If you approach the company with a plan for handling your tasks while you're gone, your approval odds go up. 

Can a Company Refuse a Sabbatical?

Yes. A company can refuse a sabbatical, though many firms will grant them if you outline clear plans and reasoning for the time off. 

Who Is Eligible for Sabbatical Leave?

While anyone can ask for a sabbatical, long-term employees who've worked with a company for at least two years have a better chance. 

Can You Be Paid During a Sabbatical? 

Each company handles this differently, but some offer paid sabbaticals. A paid sabbatical can pay full or partial salaries during at least some sabbatical leave time. This may be different for those taking a six-week sabbatical as opposed to two years, for example. Not that many companies offer sabbaticals, and the payment policy varies among those who do. 

How Long Should I Work Before Asking for a Sabbatical?

A good rule of thumb is at least two years, but the longer you've been an employee at the company, the higher the chance you'll be granted a sabbatical. 

Is Sabbatical Leave Paid or Unpaid?

This answer depends on the policy of the company. Be aware that benefits like pension accumulation could be frozen for the duration of your sabbatical whether they pay or not.

Final Thoughts

So, can I take a sabbatical from work? Yes, you can! 

Make sure you understand any effects on your benefits and any special requirements for immigration paperwork you might need, especially if you leave the country, to prevent an unpleasant surprise at the end of your much-needed break.