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

Taking a trip abroad? In order to return to the U.S. after a temporary absence, F-1 students will need to have these documents:

  • an I-20 Form with a valid travel signature on page 2.   For current students: travel signature should be less than 12 months old.  For students on OPT: travel signature should be less than 6 months old.
  • a valid/unexpired passport (valid six months into the future);
  • a valid/unexpired F-1 visa stamp (certain exceptions apply);
  • Proof of financial support;
  • a copy of unofficial academic transcript (available from MyAccess);
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt
  • an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and letter from current employer (for students on OPT). Travel is not recommended for students who applied for post-completion OPT until after the OPT is approved by USCIS and you have received the EAD card.

After entry, verify that the entry was properly recorded as F1/DS, 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.  Students on OPT can arrange to have a new I-20 with travel signature mailed via FedEx; please email us to arrange this.

Valid F-1 Visa

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.

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 – except Cuba
  • 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 the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).
  • You must have a Form I-20 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 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.