Can a (graduate) student studying in the US on an F-1 visa study abroad for a semester or a year, maintaning their F-1 status in the US university? (Assuming there is no formal exhcange agreement between the universities, but the accepting university is able to provide official transcript to transfer credits to the US university.) If so, how is it implemented? Do they have to register for some "blank courses"? Do they have to pay tuition while studying abroad? Or does it vary from university to university?

This article says:

According to the Department of Homeland Security, those who remain outside the U.S. for more than five months and aren’t part of an authorized study abroad program could lose their visa.

What is "an authorized study abroad program"? If the US university is aware that the student is studying abroad and the student have taken the necessary actions to maintain their status (e.g. registering for the "blank course" mentioned above), is this considered "an authorized study abroad program"?

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    Best answer will probably be from the visa issuers... – Solar Mike Jul 24 '19 at 20:15
  • I think that you should assume it is impossible unless you have definite, written, information from an official source. The US has been weird about visas lately. – Buffy Jul 24 '19 at 20:19
  • @Buffy What does it have to do with visas? If a student has a 3-year or 5-year F-1 visa and if they are studying aborad maintaining their F-1 status, they don't need a new F-1 visa to return from the overseas university to the US university. – user94794 Jul 24 '19 at 20:27
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    @user94794 - well, the point is that the visa and surrounding rules are your question. I would suggest talking with your institution’s appropriate office to see what has been done successfully in the past. – Jon Custer Jul 24 '19 at 23:24
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    I believe "an authorized study abroad program" literally is a study abroad program that your university (i.e. DSO or International Office) has signed off on beforehand. It's quite possible that different universities will have different requirements or ways to handle it. – Anyon Jul 25 '19 at 2:02