Travel Out and Re-Entry to the U.S.

During your studies at Georgetown University, you may wish to travel outside of the United States from time to time. In order to return to the United States after a temporary absence, F-1 students must present specific documents to the immigration inspector at the port of entry: 

  • an I-20 Form with a travel signature on page 3 within the last year (for continuing students) or within six months (for students on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training [OPT]);  
  • a valid passport (valid six months into the future);  
  • a valid F-1 visa stamp (certain exceptions apply); 
  • original financial documentation;  
  • a copy of their unofficial academic transcript (available from MyAccess);  
  • copy of SEVIS Fee Payment ( and  
  • an EAD and letter from the current employer (for students on OPT).

What Happens at the Port of Entry?   

  • At the port of entry, the immigration inspector should inspect the I-20 Form and return it to the student.  
  • The inspector should also inspect the passport with the F-1 visa (if applicable), issue an admission stamp, write "F-1/DS", and return the passport to the student. 
  • The inspector may or may not request to see the other documents listed above.

After entry, verify that the entry was properly recorded as F1/DS at, and print a copy of the I-94 for your records.

Obtaining a Travel Signature

To obtain a travel signature, bring the original I-20 Form to Graduate Programs during walk-in hours or leave the form at the front desk for a three day processing time.  Students on OPT can arrange to have a new I-20 with travel signature mailed via FedEx; please email to arrange this.

Valid F-1 Visa

Some students will need to renew their passports during the course of their studies or post-completion training period. If the visa is still valid at this time, there is no need to apply for a visa renewal. Students in this circumstance should travel with both passports: the expired passport containing the valid U.S. visa, and the valid passport, which does not contain a visa stamp.

If the F-1 entry visa stamp in your passport has expired and you plan to travel outside the United States, you must go to a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad to obtain a new F-1 visa. F-1 visas may never be renewed inside the United States. Students should generally allow 2-8 weeks for processing. Students engaged in post-completion OPT should be aware that it can sometimes be more difficult to renew an F-1 visa during OPT. Contact the consulate for an appointment prior to finalizing travel plans.

Some students will also be subject to Security Advisory Opinions because of their countries of national origin, citizenship, fields of study, or at the discretion of the Consular Officer. Security Advisory Opinions commonly take one month, but may require as long as 4-6 months in rare cases.

Entry/Exit Border Procedures

During entry procedures, students should answer all questions clearly. Omission or misrepresentation of information can result in denial of entry. If you encounter any serious difficulty, please call the Office of Graduate Programs at (202) 662-9036 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday - Friday, or the Public Safety at (202) 662-9325 after hours or on weekends. Public Safety will contact a staff member to assist you.

Automatic Visa Revalidation and Travel to Canada, Mexico, and Neighboring Islands

Travel to Canada, Mexico and neighboring islands (except Cuba) is handled somewhat differently than travel to other countries.  There is a special provision called automatic visa revalidation which allows those whose U.S. entry visa has expired to briefly visit Canada, Mexico, Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering the Caribbean Sea (except Cuba) and return to the United States without applying for a new visa at a U.S. consulate. The following rules apply to automatic visa revalidation for F-1 students:    

  • The time outside the United States must not exceed 30 days and may be spent only in Canada and Mexico or adjacent islands.  
  • You must not be a citizen of a country that the Department of State has determined to be a sponsor of terrorism. Currently this includes Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba.  
  • You must have a Form DS-2019 with valid travel signature.  
  • You must have a valid passport (valid six months into the future).  
  • You must have maintained status while in the United States and intend to resume that status when you return to the United States.  
  • You must present your I-94 card (if you have a paper I-94 card) or a printed copy of the electronic Form I-94 from your most recent entry (available at upon re-entry to the United States. 

Many students will need tourist visas to enter Canada, Mexico and neighboring islands. Contact the embassy of the country to which you intend to travel and check on entry visa requirements before making travel arrangements. F-1 visa holders will need a valid travel signature on the I-20 before applying for the visa to enter these countries.   

NOTE: Federal regulations prohibit those who have been denied a visa at one of the U.S. consulates in Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands from returning to the United States. Those whose visa applications are denied must return to their home country and apply for a new visa at the U.S. consulate in the home country prior to returning to the United States.